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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.

Compassion for a passion

From Merriam Webster:

(4b) intense, driving or overmastering feeling or conviction
(5b) a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object or concept

sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it

Some of you probably know the story of how I happened to stumble across a blog called What I Learned Today a little over a year ago. You may even know how an offer from me of a weekly guest post developed into a working partnership between Billy Coffey and me. What you may not know, or fully understand, is why I offered to help Billy. In a nutshell, it’s because I have compassion for his passion: writing.

If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend reading his post today: Compassion in the Cold. It give a glimpse into just how long he’s been pursuing this almost lifelong passion of his. It is a story of one of the many crossroads in his writing career. Our chance meeting through the blogosphere (if you want to call it that–I don’t believe it was) is another.

Shortly after he started guest posting for me, he mentioned to me via email that he had a manuscript he was trying to get published. He had had several rejection letters from agents and publishers, many of them telling him the same thing: You need to build a platform. What I Learned Today was that platform. Again, many of you may already know this part of the story.

Now here’s the part you may not know. By the time I offered the weekly guest spot on my blog, Billy Coffey was once again ready to give up his dreams of ever being published. Billy is a strong, determined person, but rejection and obscurity after years of trying can wear down even the best of us. Having read his manuscript, there was no way I was going to let that happen if I could help it.

So help I did, and continue to do so. Because it was the right thing to do. Because a world without his stories would be a little bit darker and a little less hopeful.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what I was doing when I first agreed to help him. It’s been a learning experience for both of us. But I know one thing for certain: that small, still voice telling me to offer my help was not my intuition, it was God’s voice, and I have seen His hand over and over this past year:  Billy signed with well known literary agent Rachelle Gardner, signed a two book deal with FaithWords, and has received generous praise for his debut novel, Snow Day, including the following from his childhood hero:

“Everybody needs a snow day! To slow down and take a breath of what is really important.” (Don Mattingly, 1985 American League MVP)

The latest bit of exciting news came last week. Billy sent me a link to FaithWords Fall/Winter catalog, which just so happens to have the cover art from Snow Day gracing its cover. Here’s the link:FaithWords Fall 2010/Winter 2011 catalog.

If you scroll through the entire catalog, you will find on page nine a description of first time author Billy Coffey’s novel Snow Day nestled between football legend James Brown’s new book and New York Times best selling author Philip Yancey latest offering. I’d say those guys are in very good company!

This is not a post about what I did to help out a struggling writer. Billy Coffey’s work is well deserving of all the attention it has received and will continue to receive. I write this because I want to challenge you. If you know someone who has a dream, and can’t seem to get over the hump by him or herself, offer to help them. If you believe in what they are doing, have compassion for their passion. You may just find, as I did, that helping others is a passion of your own.

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” ~ Rusty Berkus

This post is part of the blog carnival on Compassion, hosted by Bridget Chumbley. To read more, please visit her site.

Reading Backwards

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days going through, line by line, the final page proofs of a novel which will be released later this year.

All told, I have read this book ten times. The first time I read it as it was being sent to me in parts – chapter by chapter – from a then un-agented writer with dreams of publication. What a difference a year makes.

I’ve lost count of how many edits it’s been through, but the stack of paper sitting in front of me represents countless hours of hard work and attention to detail.

When I received an email from the author asking if I would help with the final proofreading, I was a bit surprised this would be necessary. As I’ve said, I have read and re-read this book several times, and I’m not the only one. People who actually know what they’re doing – people like published authors, agents and professional editors have read through it as well.

But this was it. The last chance to catch any errors before it goes to press. So, I tried a novel approach (pun intended). I read the book backwards.

It was near perfect. A few very minor typos somehow missed in all the previous readings. I think reading it backwards forced me to read the words rather than the story.

Because when a wonderful story is written, we tend to get caught up in it. We see what we want to see. We’re mesmerized and taken away from the day to day. That’s what a good story should do. Reading it backwards forced me to take a more critical eye to the details, the imperfections I missed while I was following the story.

But it also did something else. It made me see the beauty of the small moments, which when strung together by the pen of a great storyteller combine to make the whole of the book more meaningful and compelling.

Such is life.

Each day we have the opportunity to turn the page. We can look back, recognize the flaws and try to correct them, Remembering our lives are made up of small moments, of different chapters. We can learn to live in the moments as the story unfolds. It’s best not to skip ahead or attempt to find out what lies ahead.

Because our stories are still being written. And the Master Storyteller has already assured me of my Happily Ever After.


Speaking of writers, Part Two of Billy Coffey’s interview by Linda Yezak will be posted on Author Culture today. Y’all should check it out.

God Work (by Billy Coffey)

Hey y’all! For those of you coming here expecting to read a post by Billy Coffey, I won’t disappoint you. Below you will find Billy’s first “official” regular Monday guest spot for Hey Look a Chicken originally posted on May 4, 2009. Much has happened with Billy’s writing career since I first stumbled on his blog almost a year ago. To read more about that, check out Part One of Billy’s interview with Linda Yezak today over at Author Culture In the meantime, here’s Billy Coffey circa May 2009:

I’m sitting at work, keys in hand, watching the clock. In nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds, I can go home and call it a day. Though what sort of day remains in question.

My life is no longer defined solely by job and spouse. Other things have been added to the mix over the years, things like children and blogs and columns, query letters and book proposals and deadlines. And as I was recently ambushed by a few college students who bound, gagged, and drug me into the modern world of Facebook, I now have something new to add to the list of What I Need To Keep Up With.

Keeps me busy, yes. But busy in a good way. Because I am doing what God wants me to do. God Work, I call it.

My job affords me the luxury of letting me roam about in relative freedom over fifty acres of a college campus and putting me in touch with a constant stream of people who are more than happy to share what’s going on in their lives. God has blessed me with three wonderful things: a loving family, the ability to hit a curveball, and a bartender’s ear. That middle one isn’t really relevant anymore, but the first and the last come in pretty handy. Writer’s block is something I’ve fought before, but rarely now. If I’m starving for something to write, I just stop what I’m doing and look around. Something or someone is bound to happen along.

Today that someone was katdish, who emailed me and said, “Hey, since you’re so lawesome and frigintastic, could you fill in on my blog occasionally so I can go live my life? Monkey sex pornographic cheese butler.”

Well, maybe she didn’t say that. I don’t remember.

But I do remember giving her an unqualified yes. Because katdish is pretty frigintastic herself.

Even more than that, though, was the fact that I saw this as more God Work. I want to write books, you see. And these days a publisher will pooh-pooh you away with a snorty guffaw if you don’t already have a pretty substantial audience. And since my own blog traffic is just a couple steps above sucktacular, I was looking for a way to attract more readers. To me, this was God saying Alrighty then, here you go. Don’t screw this one up.

The problem was that I had to sit down today and write something semi-coherent and quasi-brilliant. Which meant I didn’t have time to mess around with anyone. No talking, no visiting. I had more important things to take care of.

I had God Work to do.

So when the nice lady on the other side of campus began talking about what it was like cleaning out the closet of her recently deceased husband, I rushed through the conversation as politely as I could and said I’d pray for her.

And when one of the groundskeepers confessed that he was feeling terrible about a fight with his wife this morning over how much milk to put in his cereal, I said a quick it’ll-be-alright and left.

And when the phone rang and a friend began talking about his wife’s pregnancy, I said I’d call him back later.

Because I was busy.

Doing God Work.

Another quick glance at the clock. Four minutes and ten seconds to go.

My post is all typed up and ready to go. Mission accomplished. And it’s decent, if not good. I should feel great about getting all of that done. But I don’t. Not even a little.

Because I’ve just realized that I haven’t accomplished anything. Not the things that mattered, at least. Living a day isn’t simply a matter of crossing things off a To Do list. It’s more than that. I’ve bumbled my day by doing the thing I thought God wanted me to do rather than the things I knew He wanted me to do.

Those lofty ambitions we have, those dreams of things we believe will make us more suitable for God’s use than we are now, really don’t matter as much to Him as they do to us. Because while we’re busying ourselves by getting ready to do some good eventually, God’s tapping his foot because He knows we can do some good now. And it doesn’t have to be as moving as writing a bestseller or speaking to thousands. God’s more into little movements: bending an ear or lending a hand or lifting a burden.

That’s what He wanted me to do today. Pounding away on a keyboard wasn’t as important to Him as listening and helping and encouraging.

That’s God Work.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have to say, I think reading my blog has richly enhanced Mr. Coffey’s vocabulary. So I just wanted to say, “You’re welcome.”

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?