Monday, December 29, 2014

A Conversation with Suspense Novelist Amy Schisler

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Amy Schisler
with Amy Schisler

We are delighted to welcome author Amy Schisler to Omnimystery News today.

Earlier this year we featured an excerpt from Amy's new suspense novel A Place To Call Home (Sarah Book Publishing; August 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and more recently we had the opportunity to catch up with her to talk more about her books.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead characters of A Place To Call Home. What is it about them that appeals to you as a writer?

Amy Schisler
Photo provided courtesy of
Amy Schisler

Amy Schisler: In A Place to Call Home, readers meet Susan O'Neil, an enterprising computer networker, and her childhood friend, Jim Russell, a detective with their small town police department. Though they haven't seen or spoken to each other since high school, they are brought together by the mysterious appearance of two little girls, Cassie and Ellie, who have run away from home after witnessing a murder and are discovered eating out of Susan's trash can.

Much of Susan's background, her habits, and even her computer knowledge are all things that are a part of me. I like to think of her as the smarter, savvier version of myself! Jim is a hometown hero, liked by all of the girls, but haunted by demons in his own past that he will encounter and have to overcome as the secrets about his family and those of others in their town are uncovered during their investigation into the lives of Cassie and Ellie.

OMN: Did you consider writing the book as the first of a series?

AS: Though I didn't write A Place to Call Home as part of a series, I have had many people write to me and ask if the characters will be back in upcoming novels. While I don't intend to create a series out of these characters, all of my novels take place in Maryland, and it's a small state, so I have a feeling some of the characters will definitely be seen again. I never considered myself a serial mystery author, but as the stories have developed, there are definitely characters who have presented themselves as potential lead characters in future books. Writing serials is a little scary to me because those characters' lives go on and on; they get messy and entangled in real life situations that might be hard to deal with. Could I have Susan attending her mother's funeral in a later book? How sad that would be! Could I sustain their story over time? Would readers tire of them? Those are scary questions!

My next book, Picture Me, takes place on Maryland's Eastern Shore with an entirely new set of characters, but I can certainly see some possible crossovers in the future. One of the characters, in particular, may have a bright new future on the Eastern Shore. I am currently working on a third novel that I believe could be the start of a series. We'll have to see where the story takes us!

OMN: Into which fiction genre would you place your books?

AS: I classify my books as classic mystery stories, but I think they really contain elements of more than one mystery genre. There's suspense, romance, and police drama. Labeling them as a specific type of mystery genre doesn't really seem to fit. I have been a huge fan of Mary Higgins Clark my entire life. She first introduced me to modern-day mysteries when I was in middle school. I believe my characters and storylines are very similar to hers. Though I am also crazy about James Patterson, and the novel I'm currently writing has a lot of his influence in it. My goal isn't to fit into a certain genre; it's simply to keep the reader turning page after page in anticipation of what is going to happen next.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?

AS: Many of the characters in my books are based on myself or on the people in my life. One thing that I like to do is have four or five people read the first several chapters of a new book as I'm creating it. I ask that they give me their honest feedback about the characters, the developing plot, and whether or not the story is intriguing. In return, all of those people are woven into the storyline. While, in some cases, they are merely mentioned here or there, at times, they become an integral part of the story. In Picture Me, my good friend, Mindy, is introduced as a police officer in one scene. Little did I know that by the end of the novel, she would play a significant role in bringing down the villain. Her character truly took on a life of her own, one that is quite the opposite of the Mindy I know in real life! In A Place to Call Home, Susan's mother is based loosely on my mother; and, in my mind, the Mayor of Baltimore resembles a former Baltimore Mayor who shall remain nameless!

OMN: You mentioned that your books take place in Maryland. How true are you to the settings of your stories?

AS: All of my novels blend real places with fictional towns. In A Place to Call Home, Lakespring is fictional but resembles many of the small towns around the state. It is close to Baltimore, where the climax takes place, and not too far from the famed resort towns of Ocean City, MD and Chincoteague, VA, which are also featured in the plot. I created the fictional town so that I could invent my own people, schools, and businesses while still maintaining the authenticity of the actual places to which they travel within the novel. In the upcoming novel, Picture Me, most of the action takes place in St. Brendan, Maryland, a stand-in for the tourist town of St. Michaels just a few miles from my own home. Changing the name allowed me to create my own local stores and invent my own history while still weaving in the history and annual events of the surrounding towns of Easton, Oxford, and Tilghman Island. Many locals are actually in the story, but most of the names have been changed slightly.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

AS: Outside of writing, I have many varied interests. I am just as content to sit at home and read as I am to travel the world. My three daughters are life-long Girl Scouts, so we've done our share of camping, hiking, and all sorts of outdoor activities. We live near the water, and my husband has a commercial crabbing license, so we spend a lot of time on his workboat crabbing, fishing, tubing, or just cruising around. It's not anything fancy, but we love the tranquility of just being on the water. My husband travels quite extensively for his job, and we've been very lucky to visit several countries and three other continents. Many of the places we've been have influenced my writing. While the basic storyline of my books take place in Maryland, the characters are taken to places near and far in their quest to find the truth, or in some cases, to escape it.

OMN: What's next for you?

AS: I have a new novel, Picture Me, coming out later this winter that takes place on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Julie Lawson is on the run from an unknown assailant, a professional killer she has managed to elude three times with the help of fate. After almost two years on a cross-country journey, she yearns to be back on Maryland soil, but returning to her home state will put her in grave danger as secrets are revealed that she may wish would have remained buried forever.

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Amy MacWilliams Schisler of Bozman, Maryland has been writing all of her life for fun and as a freelance writer. A graduate of University of Maryland College Park with a Masters of Library and Information Science, Amy has resided in Talbot County for 21 years. She was employed as a school library media specialist at White Marsh Elementary and Chapel District Elementary and a reference librarian at Chesapeake College. For the past seven years, she has operated her own computer tutoring service working primarily with senior citizens while spending as much time as possible writing.

No stranger to politics, Amy is the wife of former State Delegate Ken Schisler. They have brought up three daughters on the Eastern Shore and are very involved in their local community. Amy is the leader of Girl Scout Troop 453, Director of Summer Roundup Girl Scout Camp, part of the Liturgical Ministry for Saints Peter and Paul Parish, leader of the Women of Faith Prayer Group, and volunteers at Saints Peter and Paul Elementary and High Schools.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at AmySchislerAuthor.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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A Place To Call Home by Amy Schisler

A Place To Call Home
Amy Schisler
A Novel of Suspense

Susan O'Neil, young, single entrepreneur and owner of her own computer consulting business, is shocked to discover runaways Cassie and Ellie eating out of her trash. Thus begins a dangerous journey, both figuratively and literally, for Susan, the children, and childhood friend and undercover FBI agent, Jim Russell.

Racing against the clock to find the true paternity of the supposed orphans pits Susan and Jim against a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to protect his empire. From the Baltimore City Government to the Caribbean Islands and the Las Vegas Casinos, the unearthed secrets about Cassie and Ellie's past threaten all of their futures.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format

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