Interview with Amy Butcher

You’ve never written a book before. What gave you the audacity to think that you could?
Well, I honed my craft by writing a lot of erotic short fiction, a discipline I highly recommend. I hoped that writing a book would be very much like that, only requiring more paper. Honestly, I had no idea if I could write a book. Who does, really, unless filled with hubris? Without the support of NaNoWriMo (see below), I’m not sure I would even have tried. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to write a murder mystery. It’s my favorite thing to read. It felt cozy and familiar like a bunch of friends hoisting a pint together. In my imagination, it also set the bar low—especially in other people’s eyes—so that I was free to just try. Whether I tripped over that bar or soared over with room to spare, you’ll be the judge, but either way, I’m damn proud of the effort.
What surprised you most about the NaNoWriMo process?
Pretty much everything about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was a surprise—how crazy and fun it was, that a person really can write 50,000 words in 30 days, that so many other foolish people are trying to do the same thing at the same time. One of the NaNoWriMo mottos is ‘quantity over quality.’ This freaked me out until I discovered that firing the inner critic could liberate some very creative ideas. I am so grateful to the mad scientists at NaNoWriMo for making an arduous task feel not just fun, but down right heroic.
How did the role of neighbor become so important to you?
When I was 11, I moved from a neighborhood where I was the leader of a gang of kids to one with no kids at all. It was a lonely shock. I’ve paid attention to the relationships we take for granted, the ones that are just the background, ever since. I moved to San Francisco in 2004 and didn’t know a single person when I arrived. Neighbors were very important in helping me to feel at home.
What was the strangest thing about writing a novel?
You know how they say that characters take on a life of their own? Well they really do. And they can be recalcitrant too if they don’t get their way.
What was the hardest thing about writing a novel?
Keeping track of it all! I had to come up with a system for organizing the details of names, ages, apartment locations, decorations, etc. It just wouldn’t do for Skittles to be a Boston Terrier in one scene then a Great Dane in the next. People notice these kind of things. In the end, I built a spreadsheet for it all.
Are your characters based on real people?
Legally, my answer is no. In reality, the folks around me definitely inspired the characters. There is probably also some of myself in all of them. The only character who is almost completely fictional is Allen. Maybe that’s why he dies.
How do you describe the theme of this book?
First and foremost, it’s a murder mystery and so must follow the conventions of that genre; however, I was definitely trying to explore something more. I’m interested in the various connections that I see all around me—my neighbors, my neighborhood, and the different social strata existing simultaneously in space and time and yet often functioning as if they were in completely separate worlds. I was curious about what would happen when thing got a little leaky at the boundaries between worlds, how one might impact the other—for good or for evil. Without being heavy handed, I wanted to point out that we’re all in this together.
Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?
Dick Francis, Ruth Rendell, Sandra Scoppettone, Cara Black, and Laurie King for starters.
What do you want readers to get out of this book?
I hope it’s a story they enjoy, that they meet some characters who stick with them, that there are some laughs and surprises along the way. I hope that they are curious about the world I see, at least for a moment. To me, I know I’m in the thralls of a good book when I can’t wait to climb into bed and read. So I really hope this book and its readers get some good pillow time together.
Describe the process for illustrations and design of your book.
I’m a graphic artist and have done book production, so I had some ideas of where to begin. I looked at other mystery novels and stole liberally from the work of Cara Black’s designer. It’s really about visual clarity and creating a hierarchy so the reader knows where they are. For example, you might notice that each day is a whole new chapter, each scene starts at the top of the page with a header (in Cracked and right justified) and the first four words of the paragraph in small caps, while each change of vantage point within a scene is marked by an extra space between paragraphs and then the first two words of the next paragraph in small caps. Like theatrical lighting changes, these help the reader stay located in space and time. The illustrations were done either from memory or based on photos. I tried to make sure there was a dog in almost every picture, even if I had to add one. Usually, I sketch in pencil first, then ink in using a Rapidograph (if the ink hasn’t dried up) or Pigma Micron to get a nice fine line, then do the shading with Faber-Castell’s awesome PITT artist pens. They’re like a using a paintbrush without all the cleanup. Then comes the right brain part of the process—I start wrangling scanners, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to pull it all together. The flipbook illustrations were done with the aid of the super helpful Anime Studio Pro.
Where did you come up with Tintin the name of the restaurant?
I used to work as a bicycle tour guide in France, leading gay and lesbian tourists through Provence. Tough job, but someone had to do it. My fellow guide Andrew was a big fan of Tintin and he introduced me to the books. Somehow they just stuck in my imagination. Guess they stuck in Steven Spielberg’s too—since he made the animated feature Tintin in 2011—but I’m pretty sure he was never on one of our homo tours.
Where is the best place for you to write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I love writing in coffee shops, especially the real Maxfield’s. When I’m having a particularly tough bout of writer’s block, I wear my underwear inside out. I find that helps.
Your book is love child of Agatha Christie and Rita Mae Brown wouldn’t you say?
Perhaps. Or maybe just an immaculate conception, mothered by Dick Francis . . . that is if he’d been an American growing up watching Lassie reruns rather than a Brit learning to be a jockey.
Which media personality do you want to interview you?
Ellen, of course.
Published 2013-10-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Sex Still Spoken Here
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 73,170. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2014 by Center for Sex & Culture Press. Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Erotica Anthologies, Nonfiction » Reference » Writing skills
(5.00)
From the Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex & Culture comes the new award-winning anthology Sex Still Spoken Here. Containing a diverse collection of stories from 27 authors, a how-to guide to start your own erotic reading circle, plus essays on why it matters to read erotic works in community.
Paws for Consideration
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 65,780. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay
Like Tales of the City but with more dogs, Amy Butcher’s murder mystery Paws for Consideration takes you on an intimate tour of gay San Francisco.