I managed to score an interview with Catholic author Amy M. Bennett, who specializes in mystery novels. In a day and age where our media is often full of profanity, sex, and condemnation of the Catholic Church, Ms. Bennett’s books are a refreshing ray of sunshine.
What are your books about?
I write what are known as “cozy mysteries”–mystery novels set in familiar, home-style settings, like small towns. Because I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, I chose to write mysteries (yes, murder mysteries) set in a small, New Mexico town where most of the characters have lived all their lives and have a strong Catholic culture. Any resemblance to my own life is strictly coincidental!
Where do you get the ideas for your books?
I joke that, working in retail, it’s easy to find villains and victims for murder stories, but the truth is that I’m a shameless eavesdropper (thanks to the advent of cell phones, no conversation is private anymore… remember that the next time you’re carrying on a “private” conversation in a public place!) and I pick up ideas from news stories. Radio news gives great teasers–”A long-buried secret surfaces just before the mayoral election.” “Feuding families come together for a child’s last wish.” I don’t even want to hear what the real story is… I’m busy coming up with my own!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I have always enjoyed creative writing (yeah, I was THAT kid in your English class!) since I was old enough to write complete sentences. I would read a lot and read at a level far above my age and grade. I was reading Agatha Christie mysteries in sixth grade and coming up with my own characters and storylines. I didn’t really start writing a novel until I was in my twenties, married, with a baby. I started reading Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines and wrote a couple of novels which I squirreled away from anyone’s eyes. Only my husband read them—I doubt that even the editors and agents I submitted them to ever really read them before sending me a form rejection letter. When I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2008, which is a nation-wide writing challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I decided to take the challenge. In 2009, I got down about 30,000 words of what would become “End of the Road”, my first mystery novel. I broke my own rule about not letting anyone see my unfinished work. Both my husband and his sister read it and said, “You have to finish this.” I have to give them the credit for launching my series!
How do you incorporate your Catholic faith into your writing?
It’s about the same as I incorporate my work habits, eating habits, and the like. It’s a part of me, so it’s a part of my characters. I don’t write novels that try to teach or preach; I just write about every day people who happen to be Catholic and live the Faith. They go to Mass, they pray, they attend the parish fiesta, they try to avoid sin and the near occasion of. One of my main characters, Sheriff Rick Sutton, is divorced and, while he is very much in love with another main character, Corrie Black, he knows (and so does she) that a relationship is out of the question. It makes the “love triangle” so much more realistic.
How did you come up with the main characters for your series?
I got tired of certain stock characters I kept finding in so many other books. I got tired of emotional issues being resolved in graphic detail with “no-strings” sex. I got tired of characters who were not like anyone I knew or could relate to. I wanted strong, but sensitive and vulnerable characters who had real reasons for their actions. I wanted to write characters that I would want for friends. I think I succeeded!
Do your characters seem to “take over” when you write?
Oh, all the time! Except Rick. If you look in the dictionary under “taciturn”, his picture would be there! I write my story from Corrie’s point of view and also from J.D. Wilder’s point of view (since Rick refuses to let me in on his thoughts) and several times, they have strayed from the “script”, so to speak, and come up with situations and plot twists that evolved naturally from their characters. I like to give them free rein as much as possible, even if it means having to do a lot of heavy editing later on!
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? Why would you choose that person?
I think many women would expect me to say Rick or J.D.–and why not?–but I would love to spend time with Corrie, who is the type of best friend anyone would like to have. But I also have a special place in my heart for RaeLynn, Corrie’s friend whose life has been anything but easy, who is timid and shy, but has a fierce desire to better herself and rise above her situation. She would be my hero.
Which of your books is your favorite? Why?
I can say my son is my favorite child because he’s the only one I have, but my books? Each one is so different from the others and I’d like to think that each one is a step in my writing journey. But if I had to pick one, I think my favorite would be “No Lifeguard on Duty”, the second book in the series. I think it’s where I got comfortable with my characters, knew them well enough to really invest a lot of feeling and emotion with them. The subsequent books open up a lot of information about them, but “No Lifeguard” is the book where my characters went from being acquaintances to being friends.
Amy M. Bennett is the author of the award-winning Black Horse Campground mystery series, published by Oak Tree Press. She works full time as a cake decorator at Walmart in Alamogordo, New Mexico and part time as a “vino slinger” for Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso, New Mexico. She lives in Bent, New Mexico with her husband and son. The fifth book in the series is currently awaiting publication while she works on her sixth book.
Links to purchase books online:
Oak Tree Press: http://oaktreebooks.com/AuthorRoster/bennetamy.html
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/bennett%2C+amy+m?_requestid=787349