Wintry treats today everyone! I’m very pleased to present an interview with debut picture book author Amy Lundebrek. Amy is beginning a blog tour to promote her book, Under the Night Sky, and I’m her first stop! In fact, the theme of our interview is “firsts.” Welcome Amy!
Just to get everyone in the right mood, take a look at two of the many beautiful illustrations in Amy’s book, by illustrator Anna Rich:
Stunning, yes? Let’s get started with the interview.
Describe when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer.
In seventh grade, my English teacher made a big assignment of writing a short story. I think it may have been a weeklong event, the class reading model short stories, talking about characters, plot, and setting, and then each of us being assigned to write our own. I loved school and was eager to please my teachers at the time, so I jumped right into it. I had never before understood what it truly meant that someone had gone through a process of writing all those books we were reading. It was a frustrating assignment for me because I desperately wanted my story to be good…well, to be the best. I think I worked on it in all of my spare time that week.
I was very unhappy with what I turned in (I still have it, and it has to be the worst short story I’ve ever seen in my life), but I fell in love with the process of writing it. That first experience with writing fiction unlocked something inside me and after that, I was always working on some little writing project of my own. It was as if the teacher had given me permission to do this activity that I could do all on my own using only my mind, a pen and some paper. To a child growing up without much money, discovering writing was a liberating experience.
What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to write?
This is a tough question because I’m still in a haphazard writing stage. I work full time at a job that takes a lot of my mental and physical energy. So, at this present minute, I don’t “sit down to write” unless I have a scene burning my skull out and I have to write (kind of like sitting down to eat when you’re hungry). So, when I sit down, I just write. Usually the first time I put a scene down, I sit curled up on my couch and write longhand into a notebook with a blue gel pen. When I’m on the couch, I’m allowed to write whatever I want, no matter how silly or how long or how many adverbs I have to use or how unrelated it is to the scene I’m actually working on. Then usually the same day, I take what I’ve written and sit at my desk and type it into a computer document. That’s when the biggest edit seems to happen for me… from the notebook to the computer because I’m in sort of a different mindset.
I need to get back into at least a couple set times where I purposefully sit down to write. What has worked for me in the past was to dedicate Saturday mornings until noon and then one evening after work to writing. A person can get an amazing amount of work done that way.
Tell us a bit about what first gave you the idea for “Under the Night Sky.” Did you imagine the characters before anything else, or did a particular scene come to your mind initially?
Several experiences that came together for me to create Under the Night Sky. The primary one was coming home to my apartment after a second shift in the winter (just like the mom in the story except I was working in a call center), so it was about 10:30 at night and I looked up, and the northern lights were out. They were taking up the whole sky, in the city! I’d never seen that before. (You never get a good idea about the size of a space, i.e. the sky, until there is some object in the space like the northern lights). So, being a sort of “stop and smell the roses” kind of person, I got out of my car and got up on the hood with my back against the windshield and watched them for a long time. (Maybe an hour, which in a Minnesota winter, is a very long time). Several other people came home from work while I was out there, and seeing me looking up, they looked up too. We never spoke, but I did share a smile with several people I’d never met. I knew there could have been more of a connection if it weren’t for people’s fears (my own included), so I put that into my story as sort of “this is the way it could be.” Another thought I had while I was out there was “if I had a child, I would go get him or her right now so they could see this.” My thought immediately after that was since I don’t have a child (yet), maybe I could preserve the experience as a picture book and read it to my child later. I had no idea this would actually work out.
Another experience that I drew into the story, is when I was a child, my mom was a second shift nurse. So she came home after 11:00pm each night. I was a little older than the child in the story, and I took care of my two younger brothers while she was at work. We were supposed to be in bed sleeping before she got home, but I remember that I could never fall asleep until I heard her keys in the door. I knew the exact sound of her keys, vs anybody else’s keys, and I knew the sound of her sigh and her boots. In sort of a role reversal, I needed to know she was home safe before I could fall asleep each night. Continue reading