Amy J. Markstahler lives with her husband and two children, near the banks of the Salt Fork River, just outside Urbana, Illinois. In 2016, she was the 3rd Place recipient in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence, and in 2018, she won First Prize in the Breakthrough Novel Awards, both for Life Happens on the Stairs, her first novel.
If she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, you can probably find her on the porch with one of her many cats.
Visit Amy at www.amyjmarkstahler.com
On Twitter: @Ajmarkstahler
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ajmarkstahler
Life Happens on the Stairsby Amy J. MarkstahlerPublish: Sep 01, 2018New Adult Romance Romance Literary Fiction Teen & Young Adult
I always wanted to live in the city, but when it came down to it, I’m a country girl. I loved to write just to find an escape and it’s still the same today. Living through my characters lets me go anywhere I imagine.Why did you choose to live outside Urbana, Illinois on a couple of acres near the Salt Fork River? Have your kids and husband read any of your books?
We found this property in 2004 and fell in love with the area. I grew up near here but surrounded by corn and bean fields. I love that we have the woodlands around us, it doesn’t feel like we’re in farm country so much. My daughter has read LHOTS many, many times. She is a great encourager and helps keep me motivated to continue. Being that she’s always one of my first readers, she’s an angel. We all know those beginning drafts are painful to read!What makes you a huge Illini fan? How much do you enjoy following the Cubs baseball games throughout the season?
Being an Illini fan is as hard as being a Cubs fan up until 2016. I love the Illini because they are a part of our local culture. The University of Illinois is a staple institution to the area and we love to support the orange and blue. As for the Cubs, it became a way to stay connect with my husband of 20 years. He bleeds Cubbie blue. And I do enjoy the games very much. We listen to them on the radio mostly. We love Pat Hughes! And nothing’s better than a quick road-trip to Wrigley Field to enjoy the game and the city.What did you learn from your first book signing? What were some fears that you had?
I learned not to order your books at full retail price, hoping to help Amazon stats. Big mistake, but note taken! I feared that no one would show, but was humbled by almost 50 people coming to give their support and love for Life Happens on the Stairs. The local community have been truly amazing during my debut novel and I’m beyond grateful for their support.Do you remember any of the hand-written stories that you wrote to kill the long days? Why did you stop writing for a long time?
I don’t really remember any, only that they were dark teenage tales. I still have the pages and need to look at them again. Maybe I’ll do that soon! I stopped writing because I guess I was shy about the hobby. I’ve always kept a journal, so that helped me have an outlet, but when I reread pages from the past, I was constantly saying how much I wanted to write. Why I waited so long, I’ll never know.How was your experience of working in the marketing department for one of the largest hobby distributors in the country?
This is a very good question. It actually has prepared me extensively for this journey. My degree is in graphic design, but design isn’t my strength. I was a typesetter back in the day. Today, I believe they’re called formatters. However, I also worked with editors, printing companies and at trade shows. I learned how to market products to get the most attention and how devastating it is when a mistake comes back. Proofreading is important! Understanding the printing process helps, as well. There’s a huge difference between web-ready and print- ready. I became a pro at Photoshop, but if you can believe it or not, we were working with images on 365 mg Macintosh hard drives! I’m showing my age, haha!Would you thank the author of Twilight Saga for flooding back all the old feelings of how you loved to pen words? What inspired you to sit down and start writing your first book?
Of course, I would thank her! I mean it with all respect that I was surprised at the simplicity in the writing. It showed me we don’t have to be Ray Bradbury with our words, we just need to sit down and tell the story. I was inspired by boredom, I suppose. I’d been a stay at home mom for years and both kids were in school. I’m a painter and artist with other mediums and I’d gotten discouraged by the fact that it would only be a hobby. I wanted to do something for real, meaning something that I could share with others, not just hang on my wall for my own pleasure. And honestly, I’m much better with words than the paintbrush.What lessons did you learn on the way to publishing your book, "Life Happens on the Stairs?" Did you expect to win 3rd place in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence in 2016 for this book?
Biggest lesson, make sure if you are signing with a publisher that’s in your best interest, not just theirs. They need to be as invested in you and your work, as you are. I learned this the hard way. I paid a good chunk of cash to get my rights back for LHOTS, but it was worth every cent. Indie has to be handled professionally or your product will suffer. Even with my background, I wasn’t about to design my own cover and never will. You must have thick skin and be ready for rejections. The query process is a painful necessity and I’ve learned a lot about how to pitch. Patience, persistence and believing in yourself are keys to all of the above.
I didn’t expect to win 3 rd in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence and was grateful for the boost of encouragement. When you enter contests like that, the hope is one of the agents judging them will acquire your book. That didn’t happen, but I am grateful I can wear the bronze! What really launched Life Happens on the Stairs was winning the Breakthrough Novel Awards. The beauty of LHOTS cover, formatting and feel all comes from winning that award and The Book Khaleesi, Eeva Lancaster. I’m forever grateful for that opportunity and very pleased with the results.What inspired the story of an orphaned teenager forced to live with his uncle who is the President of a 1% motorcycle club?
The inspiration for A Precarious Lead came from the idea of being stuck with people who bring you down and you can’t find a way to get out. This can happen on many different levels for people, schools, parents, churches, community, etc. I find motorcycle clubs as fascinating as the five families in The Godfather—It’s big business and no joke. This story is taking on a new life, too, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.Which is one of your favorite places in "Life Happens on the Stairs" that you have described in the book?
Oh! This one’s hard! Only one? I love describing the whole area in Tennessee. The book is split between Hardin County and McNary County; Morris Chapel, Savannah, Shiloh National Military Park. I can say with only having taken a few liberties, anyone can go there and see for real where Elsie and Tyler hang out. I did change one road name because I didn’t want to be intrusive since it’s not a main highway.What sort of advice do you have to offer to anyone that might be struggling in their workplace?
Can someone give me advice? Just kidding! I don’t know if I’m qualified for advice, I’ve been struggling to get the next project completed. However, we have to keep moving forward. I watched a movie the other day and one of the characters said in frustration to another, “Quit waiting for something to happen!” So, I guess that’s my advice. Make something happen. One of my mottos is: If you don’t do the work, the work doesn’t exist. We’re creators, no matter what medium you love. If you need to create, then do it. Stop thinking about it. It doesn’t exist if you don’t make it. And how sad for the rest of us to lose out if you don’t.How did you come up with the character name, Elsie Richardson? In what ways do you relate to her?
I liked that Elsie can be used as a nickname for Elizabeth. I also have an inclination toward names that have the long e sound at the end. Not sure why, I even named my kids that way!
I relate to her through her love of art, losing her dad, her feelings about cleaning and how she admires her mom. I was able to experience some things through Elsie that I wish would’ve happened for me, as well. She helped me find closure on some levels.Do you ever get messages or letters from your fans? What is one of the most encouraging things a fan has ever said to you?
I have received a few notes along the way and many messages on social media. Every time someone reaches out to tell me how they feel about the book is a shot of adrenaline for me. It really does inspire me to keep writing.
“Amy’s a brilliant writer.” I am beyond humbled to see my name and the word brilliant in the same sentence. I certainly don’t feel that way, but if my words touch another person’s heart I’m so grateful that God gave me the opportunity and gifts to do so.What other projects are brewing on the computer and always racing in your mind? When can we expect the next book?
My characters are constantly fighting for attention! I have another story for Tyler and Elsie brewing and plan to have a short Christmas story late in the year. I’m currently writing a short story that has to stay under 1500 words and I love the challenge. Believe me, I use every word! Carter Winslow is taping his fingers on my desk, begging to come to life. I wrote a short story about him last year that was published on Spillwords Press. My goal is to have A Precarious Lead done this summer. I’m rewriting it in third person and can’t wait to improve upon it.
** Make sure that you have read the book at least once.**
by:Free with KU