When I was nineteen, I lost a job that I thought I'd have forever and was totally crushed about it. I went to the library hoping to comfort myself with a big stack of books. When one of the books didn't end how I felt certain it would, it was like a light switch went off in my head. I realized for the first time that I was capable of writing my own story… It all came on very suddenly and out of nowhere, but it also felt very right.
Ever since she was little, Amy Lukavics was intrigued by horror books and movies. Yet it wasn't until an unexpected job loss that she realized that she could write her own stories. Now with a string of books, and literary award nominations, to her name she talks to us about the rollercoaster ride of publishing, including a catastrophic book rewrite that ended up being the being the biggest learning curve of her career.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I live in Northern Arizona and wrote the horror novels Daughters unto Devils, The Women in the Walls, The Ravenous (which was nominated for a Bram Stoker award!), and Nightingale, which releases this September.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
While I've always loved reading and writing, I never thought about becoming an author for real as a child, because I'd felt like it was a factually impossible dream. For a while in middle and high school, I played with the idea of becoming an editor or journalist for one of my favorite girls' magazines, but I never pursued the scholarships that would have been needed to make it happen when push came to shove. I wrote a few short stories as a kid for fun, but I didn't think of it as anything beyond something to pass the time with. In school, creative writing assignments were by far my favorite, but those only came along so often, and I once got a D on a short story because it was “too dark.” Still, I was always a really voracious reader, and have read for comfort for as long as I can remember. I think that's where the real foundation was built for my future as a writer.
Then, when I was nineteen, I lost a job that I thought I'd have forever and was totally crushed about it. I went to the library for the first time in a long time, hoping to comfort myself with a big stack of books. When one of the books didn't end how I felt certain it would, it was like a light switch went off in my head. I realized for the first time that I was capable of writing my own story, and I could even use the ending I'd thought of. I spent the entire next day at my kitchen table outlining my first novel. It all came on very suddenly and out of nowhere, but it also felt very right.
What inspires you to write?
Just living. I'm a very expressive person who is also very observant, which makes writing super fun and creatively fulfilling.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
Before I was published, I had the opportunity from a big publishing house editor to rewrite one of my books (the fourth I'd ever written,) into something completely different than what it originally was, in order to hopefully sell it once the revision was complete. As soon as I saw the drastic edit suggestions, I knew in my gut that I wasn't creatively behind or gelling with any of them. But I lied to the editor and pretended to be anyway because it felt like a dream editor at a dream house was giving me this amazing opportunity to break in, and I would have been damned to pass that up. So, I decided to write the book they were looking for, instead of the book I'd originally set out to write—and that was perfectly fine with me because it's not like my story idea was the last one I'd ever have. I could easily manage to give this one up if it meant getting my foot in the door.
But it was catastrophic. I struggled to outline and draft the new version every step of the way. All of the heart that had made the first version special enough to catch an editor's eye was completely drained, and unsurprisingly, the editor declined to buy it once I turned it in. It was a very long road that ended in devastation, but to this day I am so happy that it happened to me because it was one of the most vital learning experiences I have ever had as far as handling edit suggestions go. If I had been more communicative and open to admitting I had no idea how to make the proposed notes work, as well as stuck up for the specific elements I considered necessary to the story, I could have saved us both a lot of time and effort.
Plus, the story ends in a happy way—I ended up getting a second chance, this time with another house, to revise the original version of the story into something strong enough to sell. The new edits not only clicked, but excited me, and working on it was a completely different experience than the one I'd just had. The finished story sold and became my debut novel, Daughters unto Devils.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read for joy as often as you possibly can.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
I think the biggest challenge is understanding how little control you have over marketing on the publisher's side of things. Outside of that, there's only so much you can do for it on a personal level, especially if you have limited finances, so be okay with the idea of continuing on without your preferred level of marketing and keeping at it.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
Being proud and promoting your book in a natural, intriguing, and easy-to-digest way for your audience. I think just using social media how it was intended as opposed to a place strictly for pushing sales goes a long way too. If your followers like you and are interested in your updates, they're more likely to respond to the more sales-y posts.
What struggles did you face in the writing/ publishing process?
At first, I struggled most with learning how to properly edit and implement changes into my drafts. It was really difficult for me, but over time and through multiple books, I was finally able to feel like I was starting to get a grip on it. The next big struggle was my production level: I am constantly wanting to write significantly more per month than I do, as well as work on multiple projects at once. Working on that right now actually, by using a paper planner for the first time, and it's been working wonders so far!
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Cry some, vent some, comfort myself, then let go and move on. Rejections have been making me cry for the past ten years, and I'm sure they'll continue to do so as long as I'm in this industry! Which is good, considering that each one thickens my skin a little bit. I just try to remember that the intensity of the low after an especially hard rejection absolutely matches the intensity of elation when you finally land it.
How do you deal with isolation, as writing is an inherently private exercise?
I actually like isolation, and do quite well with it. I am secretly thrilled when I'm on a hard deadline and quite literally have to put on my headphones, open my document, and ignore everything else in the entire world. I also naturally enjoy being and working at home. That said, whenever I'm neck deep in a project and feel like I'm suffocating, a night out with my girlfriends does absolute wonders.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
I especially loved this Richard Bach quote when I was first starting out: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.” It's true as hell but can be so easy to forget when you've been working hard for years without reaching your goal.