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How Sweet the Sound: An interview with Amy K. Sorrells

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.40.18 PMAs promised earlier this week, today I have an interview with the lovely and talented Amy K. Sorrells.

As an added bonus, by leaving a comment on this post, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win an autographed copy of Amy’s debut novel, How Sweet the Sound from David C. Cook Publishing AND a yummy combo tin of pecans, including Milk Chocolate/Dark Chocolate/White Chocolate/Honey Toasted/Praline/Roasted & Salted/Creamy White fresh from the B&B Pecan Farm in Fairhope, Alabama. (If you don’t like pecans, I’m willing to have them shipped directly to my house and take them off your hands. (I’m generous like that.)

I came across Amy’s blog four years ago and was immediately drawn to her lyrical and honest writing. We sort of hit it off right away, and I’ve been a fan ever since. There are many good writers I’ve stumbled upon through blogging, but if you asked me to choose my absolute favorites, she’d be right up there at the top of the list, even in light of her continuous overuse of emoticons in correspondence, done just to annoy me.

Amy is the winner of the 2011 Women of Faith writing contest, former weekly newspaper columnist, RN, and a member of the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau. She lives with her husband, three boys and a gaggle of golden retrievers in central Indiana.

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Now, on with the Q&A:

Katdish: The first thing I ever read from you (besides a blog post) way back in 2010 was a non-fiction manuscript about dealing with brokenness. What lead you to make the leap to fiction? Do you imagine yourself writing non-fiction in the future?

Amy: How Sweet the Sound did begin as a non-fiction work which centered around finding hope and joy in the midst of brokenness. As I delved further into the publishing industry, I began to realize that my chances of a publishing house picking up my non-fiction story were pretty dismal, considering most non-fiction works are either by or about someone who is already famous. In industry terms, I didn’t have a “platform.”

Still, I believed in the message of that manuscript, that it is possible to find not only hope, but joy, in the midst of pain and brokenness. I also knew that fiction has a lot better chance of being picked up by publishing houses, and that if a story is well written, platform doesn’t matter nearly as much. So, I set about studying the craft of fiction. I’d already been studying it for my non-fiction, because even those books need well-told stories, even plots, to make them engaging. I read books on the craft, stalked fiction author blogs (including Billy Coffey’s), read piles of novels in the genre I hoped to write. Soon I had a new goal: turn my nonfiction into a novel.

Now that I’m finishing up my second novel (as yet untitled, and scheduled for spring, 2015 publication), I don’t know that I’ll ever turn back to nonfiction. Anything is possible of course. After all, I never thought I could write a novel. But fiction writing is an adventure all its own, and the imagination, the sculpting, the creation involved in novel writing is one I doubt I’ll turn away from, as long as my brain keeps working well enough for me to keep writing. 🙂

Katdish: Well, as a big fan of novels, I’m glad you made the move to fiction. It’s funny that you mention Billy Coffey, because his first published work was submitted as a memoir, but his publisher asked if he would be willing to make it into a work of fiction. He was extremely hesitant about it at first, but I pleaded with him to take their advice and insisted that the only way it would have been a better idea is if I had thought of it first. The rest, as they say, is history. He’s now a bonafide novelist. (That’s not really a question. I just wanted to put that out there.) Moving on…

I fell in love with the characters in How Sweet the Sound, particularly Anniston. Any plans to revisit her and her family in later novels? (Say yes.)

Amy: I’m sorry to say, at this point (never say never), I have no plans to write a sequel or follow-up novel about any of the characters in How Sweet the Sound. The story is so strong, I don’t think any subsequent book would do any of them justice. I also feel like the story needs to rest where it ends, that part of the longing readers may have for a sequel can be best met with the readers own imaginings of “what happens next.” 🙂

Katdish: That’s disappointing news. Perhaps it’s the fact that the story is so strong, the characters so compelling that I’m just not ready to say goodbye to them yet. Which is why I’m planning to start a How Sweet the Sound fan fiction site, where quality of story or characters won’t be an issue. You’re welcome.

And speaking of non-traditional publishing routes, in a publishing world awash with self-published authors, what made you hold out for a contract from a traditional publisher? Any advice to fellow writers about the pros and cons of either route?

Amy: I live to disappoint you, Katdish.

You’re welcome.

Here’s the thing about traditional publishing. Waiting for an agent and getting through all those dozens of rejections is excruciating. Waiting for an editor is a veritable thorn in the side. Landing a contract is thrilling, but the editorial process that follows that is heart-rending. In the midst of all the rejections and waiting and heart-rending, friends and family begin to tire of your laments. They want to know when–IF–your doggone book is ever going to be out. They even wonder if you’re lying about ever having written one. After all, no one has seen it. And inevitably, eventually, they ask:

“Why don’t you just self publish?”

I imagine everyone who works toward traditional publication has a different answer. Mine are twofold for choosing that path: 1) I wanted my book to have the greatest reach, the widest sales opportunities, the biggest chance to bless the most amount of people as possible. This can’t happen–unless you have tons of money to hire publicists on your own–without the force of a team of people at a publishing house behind your work. 2) I wanted my book to be the best. I could not make it the best on my own. I needed editors. I needed proofreaders. I needed input from industry professionals who know–and know well–how to turn a manuscript into something excellent. Going solo is great, but I needed and wanted the critiques from seasoned professionals who would work with me to make sure what I’m offering to readers is not only good, but excellent.

As far as advice, I would say if you can’t handle–nor even welcome–critique gracefully, then you should self publish. If you have thousands of dollars to spend on editors on your own, and then thousands more to spend on marketing and promotional services, then you should self-publish. If you are a professional looking to get a non-fiction book involving your business into the hands of your customers quickly, then self-publishing might also be for you. But if you work well with teams; if you can take constructive critique, heed it, and use it to improve your work; and if you have patience for the years it takes for a manuscript to reach bookstore shelves, traditional publishing is worth it.

Neither method is perfect. Neither is right or wrong. Every writer has unique needs and expectations for their art. But for me, traditional publication has been the most difficult, yet rewarding path of my life.

Katdish: So what you’re saying is that while the traditional publishing route is much more difficult, the quality of the finished product is worth the blood, sweat and tears associated with it? I admire you for sticking with it. Having read an early version of How Sweet the Sound, I will say that it was a solid, well written story before the editing process. But I will also say that editors are the unsung heroes of the publishing process, and whomever it was that convinced you NOT to kill off one of my favorite characters early in the book did you a big favor, because I was pretty mad at you for doing that. Having read the finished novel, you are now officially off my crap list. (You were only on there in pencil, not the usual black Sharpie. All is forgiven.)

Thanks for taking the time for this little Q&A, Amy. I’ll close with the most important question. Where can folks pick up one or 50 copies of How Sweet the Sound?

Amy: How Sweet the Sound is available nationwide at brick-and-mortar and internet stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in e-book format, too!


You can catch up with Award-winning author of How Sweet the Sound: A Novel Amy Sorrells at her website, Amy K. Sorrells
Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of How Sweet the Sound and a tin-ful of deliciousness from B&B Pecan Farms. I will end the drawing at midnight next Thursday, March 20, 2014 and notify the winner by email. But if I were you, I’d play it safe and go ahead and pick up a copy or two of the book today.

In like a lion

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.18.28 PMThis month is chock full of book releases. Among these books are authors whom I also consider friends. Virtual friends, but friends none the less.

I’ve been at this blogging thing for just shy of six years.

Six years.

What began as simply a way to transfer my long, annoying comments from other people’s websites onto one of my own has turned into so much more. Blogging has introduced me to so many amazing, wonderful people and has changed my life in ways I never expected.

If you were to suggest to me that I would be involved, even in a small way, in the career trajectory of people who actually make money from writing, I would have laughed and told you to get your prescriptions refilled. Who knew that this lifelong lover of stories would morph into a lover of storytellers and an immense respect for their craft?

Writing is easy. Writing well is an art form.

The list of favorites is long and varied, but this month I’d like to highlight some of my favorites.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.17.06 PMToday is Billy Coffey’s day. His fourth novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly is released to public today. It is by far my favorite book he’s published to date, and I’ve probably read everything he’s published, usually multiple times. To read a story of 90,000+ words and not tire of it or its author just goes to show the immense talent of said author. It’s a talent I recognized (along with many others who visited and continue to visit his website) over 5 years ago, and it is a talent that still surprises me on a fairly regular basis.

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Later this week, I’ll introduce you to another favorite: the lovely and talented Amy K. Sorrells and offer you the opportunity to win an autographed copy of her debut novel, How Sweet the Sound along with some delicious southern goodies. Stay tuned.

But for now, I’ll ask you to hop on over to Billy’s place and find out where you can pick up his latest and greatest. (I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of his book as well, but you’ll have to wait until next week for that.)

On a personal note, I want to thank you for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere, either for the first time or the hundredth.  I don’t say it often enough, but I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to do so.

The Honest Stain of Truth (by Amy Sorrells)

Last month I introduced you to Amy Sorrells. If you missed that post, you can find it here. In case any of you are still wondering, “What’s so special about Amy Sorrells?”, I invite you to read the following post from her and see for yourselves:

Professor Moore* looked like Jabba the Hut, jowls of flesh hanging over the collar of his shirt. He watched, smirking, as other co-eds and I jockeyed for seats around the long conference table, Professor’s preferred room arrangement for this, our first college creative writing class.

Until I met Professor, I could always count on my writing pleasing teachers and professors. But assignment after assignment came back with haphazard red-pen scratches. I imagined Professor held my paper for a brief moment before tossing aside.

Professor enjoyed two things: making students cry and picking favorites. I landed in the first group, and was left out of the second like a scrawny girl in a middle school dodge ball game during gym class.

The class favorites wrote about sex, of course, and they wrote about it often. Though I lamented my mediocre scores, I refused to write about something so sacred just for him.

One fateful morning, my alarm clock malfunctioned and I was late for Professor’s class. When I arrived, he stopped class and laid into me with a barrage of insults. On and on he spat about how lazy, irresponsible and stupid I was, daring to enter his class late. Too hurt to hold back tears but to proud to leave, I stayed for the whole class.

My notebook was a soggy mess.

That day, I resolved to please Professor–if not shock the hell out of him–with my writing.

And I did.

I wrote a short story full of violence and deceit, sex and betrayal, blood and fine champagne.

The story disgusted me.

Professor loved it.

I hated Professor for a long time after that.

Years later, I realized my sordid short story paralleled scars of abuse from my childhood. The rage I felt toward Professor was a pivotal breakthrough from flowery, Pollyannic prose, and the beginning of my journey of writing hard, writing real and learning to write well.

I can’t say I agree with Professors tactics.

But I might understand, now, what he was trying to do.

See, good writing involves daring to go to deep and frightening places. Like John Coffey–the man who breathed light and life into dead things in The Green Mile–hearts come alive when we breathe into still and long-forgotten places.

Words become life when writers allow the pen to pull them places no one else wants to go.

Like leper colonies, places in the soul exist where fear hangs like shadows, veiling what we don’t understand and shielding us from disease and pain. And yet, the only way to be real and alive is to allow the pen to touch diseased and painful places.

It is the unsought job of the writer to burst through the gates of leper colonies . . . to run to those who are bandaged and losing limbs . . . to embrace those who smell like rotting flesh . . . and to caress touch-starved hearts until they stop trembling and maybe, just maybe, believe in life again.

Good writers learn to distinguish the honest stain of truth from pencil scratches on paper.

Good writers learn the events in life which enslave us are the ones which set us free.

Good writers endure hours–even days–of depression that come when the pen finds fragile, tender places.

Good writers touch ugly, diseased places, in order to touch ugly, diseased places of others.

Good writers allow the pen to pull them.

To set even one person free.

*This name has been changed for obvious reasons, although I do believe this professor is dead, and has been for quite some time.


To read more from Amy you can visit her website: Amy K. Sorrells

on twitter: @amysorrells

and Facebook: Amy K. Sorrells

There’s somone I’d like you to meet…

image courtesy of

I have often heard the prompting from the Holy Spirit described as “the small, still voice within.” And while I have no doubt this is the case for countless people, that small, still voice within me has too often been drowned out by a brain that is typically going in at least ten different directions. Fast.

So when I do hear that voice, I listen carefully. Ten months ago, after reading a post (and leaving a snarky yet adorable comment) on a little blog called “What I Learned Today”, that voice was clear and persistent. He said, “Offer to help this writer. His words will encourage others and will draw them to Me.” And that’s what I did. It’s what I continue to do.

I have used this blog to share stories, random silliness and the occasional rant, but one of my favorite things about HLAC is that it affords me the opportunity to share space with other voices – better voices – many of them accomplished or aspiring authors.

I have “met” some great people through this blog; cultivated wonderful, real friendships and have been blessed to read the words of some amazing writers. I have done my best to be an encourager (albeit a sarcastic one) to those whose paths I’ve crossed. I’m fairly certain this is part of what I’m supposed to be doing here. (Or so the small, still voice keeps telling me.)

But until a few weeks ago, I haven’t heard that persistent, clear voice quite so loudly. So when I did, I paid attention. Again. This time He said, “Her story needs to be told. It’s important, and I want you to help make sure that happens. Help her, too.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m paying attention and I’m being obedient.

For those of you who are not yet familiar with Amy Sorrells, it is my pleasure to introduce you to her.

She’s an absolute doll, and an incredibly gifted writer to boot. And no, Amy, I’m not just saying that because I have an affinity for hillbillies. Although, I gotta say, it doesn’t hurt!

Amy got “The Call” recently from literary agent Rachelle Gardner (Who just happens to be Billy Coffey’s agent. Which is awesome because now I can bug her even more.) and is currently working on her first “non-fiction narrative” which is not at all boring even though “non-fiction narrative” sounds kinda boring to me…But it’s not. Because I read the proposal and it’s excellent.

You will be hearing much more from Amy Sorrells in the near future. In the meantime, you can follow her story at

her website: Amy K. Sorrells

on twitter: @amysorrells

and Facebook: Amy K. Sorrells

Now go say “Hi” for me, will you?