Interview with Amy L. Peterson

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Author Amy L Peterson with Purrkins

Meet this week’s guest, Amy L. Peterson. Amy is a happily married wife, stepmother, author, amateur photographer, outdoorswoman, and keeper of numerous spoiled fuzzy animals. Her writing is diverse, her photography of animals and wildlife unique, and her pets have trained her how to get what they want.

How long have you been a writer?

ALP: If you count writing diaries to document important things like “Brent smiled at me” in 4th grade, I’ve been writing for a long time.  If you’re more likely to count an essay contest, well, I entered a Law Day contest in 7th grade and won a trip to meet a grumpy judge and witness two law students practicing the art of debating.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why? 

ALP:I love writing about my pets, the critters that show up in my backyard (most recently, a chubby groundhog), and funny things that happen to me. Gosh, I’ve never thought about why.  I guess I write about what I love.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre? 

ALP: I blog about nature, pets and life at, and wherever possible, try to include relevant (if not super cute) photos. For magazines, I’ve written a few articles about trips and other adventures my husband and I went on, one of which was called “The Old Men and the Me,” about marlin fishing in Mexico. When it comes to books, I’ve written two humorous, touching memoirs, one—From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds–about becoming a stepmother to four kids ages 3,5, 13 and 15, and the other—Something Furry Underfoot–about raising a whole bunch of pets my husband kept bringing home.  My memoirs include tips, which make them useful in addition to fun reads.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

ALP: Not since middle school. How sad is that?

What inspired you to write your first book?

ALP: When I became a stepmother, the books about stepmother hood were as uplifting as anvils, so I decided to document my experience, much of which was humorous since I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not? 

ALP: From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is an honest reflection of what I experienced and the tips included are useful to stepmothers and women contemplating becoming stepmothers.  Many other books on the same topic are either depressing or written by self-help “professionals.” What Something Furry Underfoot offers is a useful, fun read with tips about all sorts of pets.  Anyone thinking about bringing a pet into their home will benefit from reading this book.


What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? 

ALP: Probably the first draft.  The editing process can be sooo tedious.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you? 

ALP: My stepkids motivated me to complete the first book.  And my pets—well, one look at any of my pets and they  make me want to write about them and photograph them.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you? 

ALP: Erma Bombeck was my favorite author—I loved her sense of humor.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time? 

ALP: I work full-time for the state of Michigan, so writing and spoiling animals is only a part-time job.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing? 

ALP: Doing just about anything outside—running our 6-month-old puppies, hunkering down in the woods with my ghillie to see what wildlife walks by for a photograph, fishing, kayaking, pretty much anything outside.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase? 

ALP: Writing and marketing can feel overwhelming at times, and there are times I wonder if I should be spending the time and money I do marketing my book.  So not too long ago, I put the words “No doubt” on my laptop, so that when I open it up to work on something, I’m reminded not to doubt myself.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

ALP: Anywhere I can go tangle with a fish, especially ones that put up a good fight.  My favorite so far is fishing the Amazon River for peacock bass because they smack at a lure like no other fish.  And, of course, you can’t beat being on the Amazon.

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

ALP: I live in Mid-Michigan on a man-made impoundment that helps attract wildlife.  I write at the kitchen table where I am inspired—and also often distracted—by the critters outside my bay window, and by my husband and my pets.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite? Why? 

ALP: I have written From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, about blundering and falling into becoming a stepmom, and Something Furry Underfoot, about figuring out how to care for and spoil a bunch of different pets.  My first book is mostly for stepmothers and has a limited audience; my second book will really help anyone debating getting a pet.  So I’d give the “favorite” nod to Something Furry Underfoot.  Just don’t tell my stepkids!

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

ALP: Unfortunately, my routine is limited by my schedule: I work until 4 p.m. Monday – Friday, attend to pets and exercise needs, do dinner, and finally, at about 7 or so, I might get to sit down to write.  But soon, Winston, one of my puppies, walks by with an item in his mouth that isn’t supposed to be there—twigs being one thing he loves to sneak in from outdoors—so I have to tend to that. And after dealing with him, I need to make sure the other dog, Snickers, isn’t also into trouble. I’ll sit down for a while longer, before Purrkins, the cat, wanders by with a pitiful meooooww  to remind me I haven’t refilled her dinner plate.  My husband, meanwhile, will try to fill me in on the latest fishing lure he’s found online and what lake he thinks it’ll work best on.  And so it goes.  I call it my Interrupted-Often Routine.


In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

ALP: The message in Something Furry Underfoot is that every animal has a story and I think our job as pet owners is to make that story as good as possible.  I think my book helps people make good decisions before they buy a pet and also how to care for certain pets.  Hopefully,  readers will realize that even two similar looking critters—like two hamsters or two birds—have different personalities and needs.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

ALP: Figuring out how to deal with the fact that pets die.  I didn’t want to gloss over that and I didn’t want to bum people out.  As a result, my book is mostly humorous in nature, but there are some very touching moments.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

ALP: By the time I got done editing it, gave it to a professional editor, and gave it to some friends to edit, I had re-lived the touching moments (e.g. sad parts) quite a few times.  And of course, the more I had to revisit something, the more I worried I’d edit too much…or not enough.

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

ALP: In Something Furry Underfoot I try to describe what it’s like living in a house where the only thing my spouse had to do is bat his puppy-dog eyes and he got to bring another pet into the house. I also try to convey what it’s like from my perspective having to deal with all the critters he brought home, most of which I knew nothing about.  Yet the thing is, neither of us really do anything special except try to make the best possible life for our pets.


Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

ALP: If marketing counts as writing, I write every day.  And if it doesn’t count, well, I personally think it should.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

ALP: I’ve never had that as a goal.  I’m more driven to complete the story I’m trying to tell. So, if it’s a blog posting, I try to get it done before the end of the weekend.  If it’s marketing, I try to get the interview finished so I’m higher up in the queue with the book blogger.  If it’s a book, I suppose it’s done when I’m exhausted with editing.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

ALP: Because I’ve written memoirs thus far, my books pretty much are told in chronological order.  The tips I include help break up the chapters so the book can be read in chunks, which I think adds to its appeal.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book? 

ALP: 2 years.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

ALP: Yes. While I haven’t run out of things to write about because I have been blessed with a great husband, great stepkids, great pets and great experiences in life, I have to say that when it comes to writing things like sympathy cards, I can get writer’s block pretty easily. I think because I’m a writer I feel some pressure to come up with something outstanding on sympathy cards and never come up with anything except “You’re in my thoughts.”  Which, granted, is probably better than, “Hang in there!”

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

ALP: Here are my tips:

  • Before writing, put the words “No Doubt” on your computer screen or keyboard. That will help remove any doubt that what you are writing will be important somewhere, sometime to somebody.  Hopefully, LOTS of somebodies.
  • Sit down, write down the first thing that comes to mind about your subject and don’t stop writing until three of your body parts are completely cramped up—your two hands and your back, perhaps.
  • Go for a brisk walk to un-cramp all your body parts.  Follow this by jumping into a cold shower or a pool of freezing cold water.  Doing that will definitely give you something to write about. (In fact, perhaps you’ll be so kind as to write me a note to let me know if it worked for you, as I’ve never tried it).
  • Don’t try to capture everything.  I’ve known several people working on Master’s theses and they think they need to “get it all down on paper” because it might be their last paper on the subject.  Narrow it down to something workable.  In its earliest draft, Something Furry Underfoot included a lot of wildlife interactions—those all came out of my book so now I remain focused on indoor pets.
  • Repeat steps 2-4 as needed.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

ALP: I usually do my own editing first, then I hire a professional editor for at least the first 60 pages or so, then pass it off to a friend editor who learns from the professional editor’s changes, then I have friends read my book, then I do one last edit.  Then I hope for the best.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

ALP: I hired G. Miki Hayden to edit the first 60 pages or so, then a secretary friend of mine, then I asked five friends to review an early draft.  Every single one found something that needed fixing.

Tell us about your book covers.

ALP:  I found my graphic designer, Patricia Adams, through a friend at work who hired her to work on a web site. For From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, I sent Patricia a photo of my wedding cake and she recreated that for the cover of the book. It’s a great replication of my cake:  a bride and groom and four kids on top in a fishing boat, with the bride’s fishing pole connected to a bigger fish than the groom’s.  My web page graphic artist then put Patricia’s creation onto a nifty background.


For Something Furry Underfoot, I wanted to include a bunch of my pets but I had no clue how to present them.  I sent Patricia photos of some of my pets and she created the bright, colorful cover of a woman looking a bit overwhelmed with her menagerie of critters, while her husband is all smiles.



How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each? 

ALP: I’d love to have an agent and for that agent to help me break in with a publishing company.  I tried that route about 10 years ago and was assigned a rookie agent whose query letter to publishers made it sound like she’d not read my book; the draft letter had typos.  When my contract with that literary agency came up for renewal, I didn’t renew.  The advantage of self-publishing is that anybody can get something published. The down-side is that the author has to spend a LOT of time marketing. Since August of 2013, I’ve spent every available hour in the evening doing social marketing to obtain contacts for reviews, interviews and guest blog postings. I’ve had a lot of good exposure, but I’ve also sent copies of my book to people who’ve not responded one way or another with a review, and not even a “Thanks, got your book, but not interested, so I’m going to donate to the library.”  So, it’s tough being a self-published author.  Which goes back to having the words “No doubt” on my laptop.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together? 

ALP: I hired the same person to do my e-book and paperback conversions because I have no patience for that type of nitty-gritty detail.  I had the book converter do the e-book version first, then the paperback.  The paperback also required paying my web page graphic artist to help with the back cover and spine so it matched the specifications and matched the front cover.

How did you decide to price your e-book relative to your hardcopy?

ALP: I priced the e-book at $2.99 which is a pretty good price for a helpful book, I think. I priced the paperback at 50 cents over cost.  I think I priced them at a reasonable price to sell.  But I guess we’ll all find out, huh?

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage?

ALP: Authors that self-publish need to take every advantage possible of social networking opportunities. Through networking sites I’ve found book reviewers, opportunities for written and speaking interviews, and bloggers who’ll post a guest spot.  Every Twitter lead I get, I check out the person’s web site to see if I can make any tie to my book.  I got a sci-fi writer to read my book because his Twitter photo has him posing with his dog.  I also just sent a book to a bunch of moms to review my book because my book will help moms decide what pet to get.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website? 

ALP: GoodReads and BookBlog.ning have been my go-to sites until about October 2013, when I discovered MARSocial site, which has opportunities for authors, too, including contests.

What other ways have you marketed your books? 

ALP: Since Something Furry Underfoot is about pets, I am marketing my book on professional sites like PetPav and BlogPaws.  I’ve also found some sites where people blog about their own pets and in some cases, they have some affordable advertising rates. If they review my book and like it—which they all have so far–I explore advertising on their site.

I’ve also developed a video about the domestic duck we raised, and am working on another video featuring all sorts of different pets, with the overall message similar to my book.  My hope is that one of the pet blogging sites will want to add their logo to the second video and also help get the word out.  It’ll be like a book trailer, with supporters.

duck in sink

Where and how are your books sold?

ALP: and  Amazon offers the Kindle e-book version and paperbacks; Smashwords has every other type of e-book format imaginable.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

ALP: If I wrote another book and had a relatively large budget to spend, I’d hire a publicist, because they know the ins and outs of social networking sites, and the good publicists have contacts that can really get the word out quickly.  If that’s not an option, then the author will be like me and need to look for every opportunity on their own.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books? 

ALP: Since I didn’t think my market for From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds would be very large, I only spent a few months marketing that book, primarily through a book blog tour.  Because I think Something Furry Underfoot has a broader audience, once I finished the print version in July, marketing is really all I’ve done.  I will continue Something Furry Underfoot until I have no more marketing thoughts, or until I get the bug to work on my next book. Or until my husband or pets say, “Pay more attention to me!”

What do you do to get book reviews?

ALP: I’m always on the look-out for more reviews and constantly track down new requests via social networking sites.  Most pan out, but some do not.  I also found participating in a book blog tour is a pretty good way to get book reviews.  Now, while I refuse to pay a lot of money for book reviews, people with big budgets should consider doing so because reviews do help sell books.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future? 

ALP: I spent money on two big-ticket items:  one, something called Review Direct, which gets your book included in a listing of books librarians can consider; and secondly, on a press release. Sales from libraries were minimal, so my next move is to make direct contacts with librarians in my area to see if they can “talk up” my book via their network of librarians. Sales from the press release were minimal because important people—the press and others you might want to reach–get too many press releases and many go unread.  Of the three press people that asked for my book after seeing the press release, one month later, none had contacted me for a follow-up story or interview.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

ALP: I would think trailers would be pretty effective if you’ve got the right distribution channel established and adequate resources to create one.  Marketing really comes down to where it’s best to spend your time and money, and thus far, I’m no expert on that.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

ALP: Unfortunately, I think self-published authors have to give away some books for free to get reviews from people, whether or not the person actually finishes the review they promised. As far as giving away e-books to a mass audience, that’s a tough one.  I did that for one day with my first book and gave away more copies than I’ve sold.  I did not do a give-away for Something Furry Underfoot because I think that any e-book that makes you laugh out loud and maybe also cry, is a bargain for $2.99.

In Conclusion:

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

ALP: I hope that people that read Something Furry Underfoot will laugh, and maybe cry, and that they come to agree that our job as pet owners is to make our pets’ lives as good as possible . . . even if it is a work in progress (says Purrkins, the cat, anyway).  Best of all, some proceeds from Something Furry Underfoot will benefit animal rescue organizations.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

ALP: For me, it’s waiting:  waiting for editors, waiting for book converter people, waiting for things to go live, waiting for people to discover my book, waiting for an interview to post, waiting to become a well-known author.  Other than that, there’s no waiting at all and I’m a very patient person.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

ALP: The easiest thing is the social marketing because I’m meeting a bunch of great people I’d otherwise never have met.  I’ve met a mom in the UK who went out of her way to tweet about my book, and a woman in Nigeria who was part of my book blog tour.  People all over the world are out there looking for books and willing to help authors out.  It’s been quite amazing.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

ALP:  Put the words “No Doubt” on my computer when I was 20.

How can readers discover more about you and your work? 

ALP: It’s best to go to and from there, you can click on the cover for Something Furry Underfoot to see a chapter-by-chapter summary and photos of some of my pets. On my web site you will also see an “About Me” page that is mostly truthful, my videos, and my blog, which is mostly about pets, including several 10 Ten Things You Should Know Before You Get a [fill in the pet] series.