Today we sit down for an interview with Amber Foxx. Amber describes her books as not conforming to any genre but a blend of paranormal mystery, paranormal suspense, and general fiction. Read more about her and her books at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
When I was eight. I wrote a little book, a mystery inspired by Nancy Drew, in red ink on bright yellow paper, and stapled the pages together. I mailed it to my grandfather, a poet and English professor. He encouraged me to keep writing and didn’t even mention my color scheme.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I’m not really sure. I didn’t measure the years. I know I started my blog in January 2011, thinking my first book would be ready by the end of that year, and I didn’t decide it was ready until December 2013. So it took at least three years from the point that I made the commitment to that book, but it had been in progress longer.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Indie. I blend genres and break conventions, so that seemed like the best choice.
Where do you write?
In my home office. Sometimes at the breakfast table, too.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence. Music makes me want to dance, or gets me so wrapped up in it I can’t do anything else. I like to brainstorm to music, but I don’t write while I do it, I just let my mind flow the way it does while I’m running.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My protagonist Mae Martin is based on a good friend. As you might guess, my friend’s life has paralleled Mae’s—and not always in the sequence one might expect.
Sometimes after I wrote certain things, my friend would have those events occur in her life. She knows the character was inspired by her, but these things would happen in my unpublished books she hadn't read yet, and then they would happen to her..
My experiences provide material for my books, but I avoid using myself as a character. The course Dr. Bernadette Pena teaches in the Calling is like one I really taught. I met the friend Mae is based on through our shared interest in fitness. We’ve both worked in that field professionally, and I wanted my protagonist to have a normal, down-to-earth occupation that I could write about realistically. I’ve studied a little energy healing, and I do have some psychic ability, but it’s not the same as Mae’s. I’m more conventional. I dream the future. Mae sees the past and the present.
Describe your process for naming your character?
They name themselves. I accept the introduction and work with them. I sometimes change the names of secondary characters to avoid sound-alikes, but my major characters, Mae Martin and Jamie Ellerbee, showed up with those names. I then had to research Jamie’s Aboriginal skin name, his middle name that’s sort of like a clan name, and make sure I had the Warlpiri spelling for it. He uses that name, Jangarrai, as a performer. To get authentic last names for my characters from various New Mexico Indian tribes—that’s more for future books than the currently published ones—I take note of common names when I’m visiting that reservation, but the characters usually arrive with their first names. The most colorful name in Snake Face, that of country music star Joe Wayne Brazos, simply came with the character. I had to go back and figure out how he chose it as his stage name.
Real settings or fictional towns?
All the settings are places I know inside out: Norfolk, Virginia, and Santa Fe and Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and the small North Carolina towns in The Calling and in Snake Face, which are based on real places with the names changed. Every street and house in Tylerton is real; only the name is fictional. I did that as a courtesy because Mae doesn’t like the town, even though I did.
Snake Face is a road trip, so it has to go through places a musician would play on a short tour of the south and southwest, I know the roads Jamie travels in Snake Face. I’ve done a lot of long solo road trips across the country. All the cities are real but I invented the bars and other small concert spaces where Jamie plays. Another good friend is a musician, and I got some ideas from knowing her, but her tours were not as disaster-prone as Jamie’s.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Jamie has so many I’m not sure what’s the quirkiest. Traveling with his stuffed toy that he had when he was three? Obsessing on making sure he’s brushed his hair and his teeth? Checking the sheets for spiders before he gets into bed? He’s prone to quirkiness in general. Maybe the defining quirk is not realizing quite how eccentric he really is.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I can’t stand to wear regular shoes and socks. I wear five-fingers or flip-slops. My socks all have toes. When I have to endure a closed-up normal boot in cold weather, I can’t wait to liberate my toes again, and I go barefoot in my office. My students have come to expect it. They come in for advising meetings and I’m shoeless. Fortunately, teaching yoga is a major part of my job. I get to do it barefoot.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Dorothy Bryant’s The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. I would be proud to have achieved such originality in world-building, integration of mysticism and suspense, complexity in characters and conflicts, and such an extraordinary ending. It’s a one-of-a-kind book.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wouldn’t have started on my Ph.D. I realized too late that I didn’t aspire to being a tenured professor after all, and that lecturer or instructor status with two Master’s degrees was sufficient. I can’t really regret it, though, except for the loans. It’s not as if I didn’t learn anything valuable. In fact, during a difficult time in my life, my classes kept me grounded and focused. Everything that I regret in one way, I’m grateful for in another. My life is a seamless whole, a story where each part develops the next part. When my father was dying, he said he had no regrets, and I understood that. He knew that his mistakes led him, sometimes the hard way, to his subsequent better choices and to his insights.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I have no interesting or original ones except perhaps the sound of the word peeve. It sounds whiny. I can’t make a pet out of it. I’ll share a minor thing that bothers me that also makes me laugh: students who e-mail me when they’ve missed a class and ask, “Did I miss anything?” They’re in college. What do they think? I’m tempted to tell them, “No, we had milk and cookies and took naps. You didn’t miss a thing.”
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
I’ll assume the island has fruits and nuts and greens and fresh water, so my necessities will be for my mental and spiritual happiness. I’d run barefoot and do yoga on the beach, so I’d be fine, basically. But I’d want my netbook, a solar panel, and a way to connect the two. That way I could keep writing until I was rescued, and I have a lot of books on the Nook on my netbook, so it would serve a two-in-one happiness function. I’d want to be rescued by the time I ran out of reading material, though.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
It’s a tie between being the assistant director of a fitness center (at a college that shall remain nameless) where my boss knew nothing about fitness, and a fitness and management job at an exclusive spa where the working conditions were so bizarre it would take a book to do them justice. I hope to do a Lucky Jim sort of thing with it—turn the things that drove me crazy about the job into humor and a good plot, if only readers will believe that such a place could exist. It was up on a mountain and had no employee parking except for upper management. The rest of us had to ride a gondola up the mountain from a parking lot in the town below—making what would have been a fifteen-minute commute into a forty-five-minute one. That’s just one snippet of the weirdness.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats. I’ve read many books I’ve loved, so it was hard to choose the single best one, but I’ve read and re-read Yeats’s poetry for decades. I can’t say that about any other book.
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains. The only possible New Mexico answer. You have to love rocks and dirt to live here.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City. My favorites: Santa Fe, of course, and I loved Norfolk when I lived there.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Mountains. And the fourth book in the Mae Martin series, Soul Loss, set in Santa Fe. It’s finished, and will be coming out this summer. I’ve also started a new book blog, Indies Who Publish Everywhere, dedicated to helping readers with e-pub e-readers discover authors who publish on all platforms.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Thanks for asking. Of course. I love to talk about my books:
Shaman’s Blues received the B.R.A.G. medallion, an award recognizing the best in indie fiction.
My humorous paranormal short-short story Clairalience, featuring winners in the Santa Fe Reporter’s 2014 writing contest, can be read here.
The series prequel, The Outlaw Women, is free.
Snake Face, the third Mae Martin Psychic Mystery
No murder, just mystery. Every life hides a secret, and love is the deepest mystery of all.
Trying to revive his career, singer Jamie Ellerbee is on his first tour. Mae Martin is venturing into her first relationship since her divorce. Bad judgment and worse luck force Jamie to ask for Mae’s psychic aid. His unrequited love for her makes it an awkward request, but she can’t refuse to help a friend. The more she looks into the problem, the more frightening it becomes and the wider its web expands—not only into Jamie’s past, but also a bad-boy celebrity’s private life, and even her new boyfriend’s history.