The Word Nerds are excited to welcome debut author Amy Gail Hansen to the blog today. Bethany happened to stumble into Amy’s signing line at ALA a few weeks ago, glad to discover this new writer.
Her first book, “The Butterfly Sister” hits shelves yesterday and she’s helping kick things off here. You can find out more about Amy at her website.
Word Nerds: Where did you come up with the idea for “The Butterfly Sister?”
Amy: In 2004, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Italy. Moments before I checked my luggage, I realized the tag on my suitcase bore someone else’s name and address. That’s because I’d lent it five years prior to a college acquaintance and hadn’t used it since. Removing her leather tag at the last minute and replacing it with one of those flimsy paper ones the airlines give out, I thought, “What if my bag had gotten lost? Would it have gone to her instead of me? And isn’t that a good idea for a story?” Thus, The Butterfly Sister starts with the delivery of a mysterious suitcase and goes on to tell the story of Ruby Rousseau, a story inspired by that jumping off point.
Word Nerds: What was the hardest part of getting a novel written?
Amy: The hardest part was not writing the novel, but rewriting it during revision. The first draft of The Butterfly Sister took me only a year and a half to complete, while the revision process took twice as long, three plus years. During that time, I completely rewrote the book, changing point of view and much of the plot. It’s easier to write a book the first time through because it’s new and fun and fresh and you have on-the-spot invention. But revising is tough. It requires a lot of thinking and rethinking and writing and rewriting to get a truly polished product.
Word Nerds: How did teaching English help you in becoming a writer?
Amy: Teaching English in middle school, high school and community college gave me a really strong understanding of language and grammar, which helps when it comes to copy-editing your own work before submitting to an agent or publisher. It also broadened my horizons in regards to the books I taught. I read so many wonderful books while I was teaching—from A Separate Peace by John Knowles to The Giver by Lois Lowry—and reading well is one of the biggest components of writing well.
Word Nerds: What’s your favorite word and why?
Amy: I absolutely love this question. And I love the word cognizant. I use it all the time, probably too much. First, it’s just a fun word to say, with all those consonant sounds. But it’s also a very encompassing word and a useful way to describe being conscious or knowledgeable of something.
Word Nerds: What’s your current “pusher” book — the one you try to push on other book lovers? Why do you love it?
Amy: Right now, that’s Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn because it is the perfect blend of the literary and commercial genres. Flynn is masterful with words and while reading, I often paused to reflect on a specific passage of her prose. At the same time, I was rushing through pages to find out what happened. It’s an extremely well-written book with a truly gripping plot. It’s also got one of those untidy endings that either people love or hate, which always incites discussion.
Word Nerds: What’s next for you as a writer?
Amy: Book two, of course! It is not a sequel to The Butterfly Sister but is similar in theme, especially in regards to how the past impacts the future. The major difference is that book two’s heroine is a good ten years older than Ruby, which reflects my maturity. I essentially created Ruby in my twenties, and now that I am in my thirties, I am writing characters in that demographic. It’s also going to require more research, since the book is largely about memory—how it works, and how it can deceive us. So stay tuned!