Author Amy FitzHenry gives writing advice and geeks out with us over her first novel
I read Cold Feet in nearly one sitting. I greedily devoured the story, the characters. I read pages and passages with speed and accuracy I didn’t even know I could muster. Now that the book is out, I can officially tell all of you that you need to get your paws on a copy. It’s a can’t-put-it-down reading experience. Promise.
Cold Feet is the story of Emma Moon, a talented lawyer who is no stranger to self-doubt and anxiety, even as things in her life appear to be going rather well. Though she has met her dream man who she plans to marry, she was also raised to believe that happily-ever-afters just weren’t for her — and the meeting of her philosophy and reality are throwing her for a serious loop. Add onto that, a mystery surrounding her long-lost father; a mystery that only grows more complicated as her wedding date approaches. With all of this swirling in her mind, Emma decides to take a last-minute road trip to clear her head and put her family issues to rest before she ties the knot. She takes her best friend Liv on the journey with her and the road trip is where the story really kicks into gear.
After reading the book I had the opportunity to chat with the author Amy FitzHenry — talented, gracious, and all about her female readers. (She’s also a practicing lawyer, so girl is certainly packing a lot into her days!) I’m into your book Amy! And I’m here to sing its praises. Check out my conversation with Amy below.
HelloGiggles (HG): First of all, this is your first book, so HUGE CONGRATULATIONS! Have you always wanted to write a novel?
Amy FitzHenry (AF): Thank you! I actually had no idea I wanted to write a novel until I got the idea for Cold Feet. I am a huge reader, it’s always been my favorite thing to do, but one day I woke up and realized I had an idea I had to get out there. It was pretty out of nowhere. I originally thought of it as a movie idea, but I didn’t really get how to write a screenplay or how Hollywood worked, and I read a lot of books, so a novel seemed like it made more sense.
HG: How long did you have the specific idea for Cold Feet floating around in your head? Did it come to you all at once in a flash or did it take you a while to sort through your thoughts?
AF: The basic idea came to me in a flash. I wondered what would happen if your life turned upside down, or you started questioning the big things, right before your wedding. Would you go through with it because of your history or your commitment? Or would this make it clear that you shouldn’t, because you shouldn’t be having doubts so close to the event? The details of Emma’s family background came to me slowly, but the week before the wedding last-minute trip with your best friend thing – that was all at once.
HG: I know you wrote this on top of working a full-time job – which is incredibly impressive, by the way – so what would you say to any aspiring novelists out there with full-time jobs? Any advice, tips, suggestions as to how to get it all done?
AF: I would say two things – no piece of writing is ever a waste, and don’t stress if it takes longer than you think. I remember being initially really hard on myself if I had to start a chapter over, or scrap everything I’d written that day. But then I realized that all of that writing built on itself. Even if I wrote 10 pages that didn’t go anywhere, that I had to lose, it was all making me a better writer. After I met my literary agent, who was incredible and took a huge chance on me, I got so many notes that I didn’t think I could do it. I’ll never forget her note when she said: “show Emma’s emotional journey.” I was like, um, didn’t I do that? But all that time that I’d spent writing up until then made it way easier when I had to start pages or ideas fresh. I guess it’s like building any kind of muscle: No practice is ever a waste.
HG: How much of YOU is in Emma? What about Liv?
AF: I am definitely Emma in the first chapter. She’s a lawyer who lives in Venice, California, but once the story starts and the relationships develop, that is all fiction. I guess my set of knowledge is the same as Emma’s because we have some similar characteristics (and, well, I wrote her thoughts) but she is definitely her own person, and all of the things that happen to her are made up. Liv is closest to the coolest version of myself when I’m around my best friend. Which I think is all of our favorite version of ourselves. That being said, Liv is 100% her own person as well. I’m actually kind of obsessed with her and would really like to hang out with her in person. Is that weird?
HG: Ha! Not at all. And me too! Going back to something we touched on a little bit before, I’m wondering, as a lawyer, how did this help your writing? Or were there any ways this actually hurt your writing or your process? And how on Earth did you find the time to devote yourself to being a lawyer and an author? It really is so impressive you were able to do this on top of another career!
AF: Thank you Annie! I really think anyone could do it – I mean that. To go back to the advice above that I kind of skimmed over, don’t be worried if things take longer than you think. Every deadline I have ever given myself has been a million miles from the reality. Being a lawyer I think is the only way I was able to do this because I had so much practice writing. Legal briefs are obviously really different, but they made me write. Then I went home and did it some more. Not too much, a few hours a night. I think that everyone is doing something besides their day job, whether it is cooking, raising kids (which is like seven jobs in one), or playing music. My thing is just reading and writing, trust me, I’m not good at anything else.
HG: I doubt that! But is there a world in which you’d want to be a writer full-time or do you think you’ll always practice law in some form or another?
AF: I think I’ll always want to be a lawyer. I’m currently the in-house legal counsel for the men’s health charity The Movember Foundation (yes, the moustache one). It’s such an incredible job and I get to work with my friends every day, I can’t imagine ever not wanting to come to work. That being said, when I worked at a law firm, part of my inspiration for writing was definitely trying to do something else besides law. So if I were still billing hours, that would be a different story. All lawyers, go in-house! It’s the best.
HG: Anything you’d do differently if you could go back and start writing this book again?
AF: Great question. I would love to write it all over again, to be honest. Because I think I am a much better writer now (by sheer virtue of practice). I think the end of the book is better written than the beginning (because, um, YEARS had passed at that point). But I love Emma, and maybe I’ll just tell myself that the book matures as she does throughout the book.
HG: What books and authors inspired and continue to inspire you?
AF: I think that Emily Giffin inspires me most as a writer. Her books are so addictive and you connect with the characters immediately. This is especially because she actually went to my law school (UVA). I remember reading her author bio and thinking yes, it is possible to write fiction even if it wasn’t the career you started with. As a reader, I love all fiction, but novels by J. Courtney Sullivan and Curtis Sittenfeld are probably my perfect books. My favorite book ever is A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz. Everyone read it, now. It will change your life.
HG: What gives you cold feet? And what advice would you give to other women who may have cold feet – whether it’s about a wedding or just making big decisions?
AF: Dude, I have no idea about weddings. I have never even lived with a boy – scary! But I would say when it comes to other stuff, like writing or going after your dream, don’t be embarrassed about anything. Just remember that everyone is always just being self-conscious about themselves, not wasting time judging you. This also applies to when you drank too much and danced on a table the night before. Just go for everything that feels right to you.
HG: Overall, how was the novel-writing experience? Do you have plans to write another one? Do you want to give us any hints as to what that next one might be about?
AF: The novel-writing process is really important to me at this point, it gives me a feeling of release and calmness that feels like meditation or yoga. Getting all of my feelings out and all that jazz. I am working on another one! It’s harder than the first, because oops, I put all of my good ideas into Cold Feet. But it’s been awhile since I started the last one, so I am a different person with new experiences, which is helpful. It’s about a break-up, the end of a relationship and finding out things about yourself in that process. I think whatever I write will always have common themes of self-discovery, family and not taking life too seriously. Those are the things that interest me most about the world. And of course: friendship. Girlfriends are everything to me, and I think, probably the most interesting and important relationship of them all. Emma and Liv’s real and meaningful friendship is definitely the thing I am most proud of from Cold Feet.
Ready to read? Thought so. Here’s the Cold Feet link.
[Images via Amy FitzHenry and Amazon]