Aug. 8, 2021

Amy Vansant

Amy Vansant

How did circus and cruise settings end up with ties to Pineapple Port?


In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Amy Vansant about her two upcoming releases. Find out what "Meat Bingo" is and what it has to do with Pineapple Cruise, and how Pineapple Circus came to have a circus setting.

USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy Vansant has written over 20 books, including the fun, thrilling Shee McQueen series, the rollicking, twisty Pineapple Port Mysteries, and the action-packed Kilty urban fantasies. Throw in a couple romances and a YA fantasy for her nieces... Amy specializes in fun, exciting reads with plenty of laughs and action -- she tried to write serious books, but they always ended up full of jokes, so she gave up.

Amy lives in Jupiter, Florida with her muse/husband and a goony Bordoodle named Archer.

Visit Amy at www.AmyVansant.com to sign up for her newsletter and find out more about her books.

If you're a reader who loves free or discounted books or an author who wants to reach avid readers, visit www.AuthorsXP.com.

Get to know Amy - The Tart Words Baker's Dozen:

1.   Plotter or Pantser? Combo?

100% Pantser. Rarely have any idea where I’m going when I start...

2.   Tea or Coffee?

Coffee, but tea is a close second.

3.   Beer, Wine, or Cocktails?

Yes please. Oh, you mean which do I prefer… Wine and cocktails. Not a beer fan.

4.   Snacks: Sweet or Savory?

If I could eat anything any time without worrying about weight or health, I would eat donuts from dawn to dusk.

5.   Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid?

Indie.

6.   Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No

I try to do it every day but nothing terribly strict about it.

7.    Strictly Computer or Mix It Up?

There are people who handwrite books?? I’m not even sure I remember how to use a pen.

8.    Daily Goal: Yes or No

Yes and no. I try to write one chapter and edit another, but try not to make myself miserable sticking to it.

9.    Formal Track Progress: Yes or no

No. The only thing formal about me was my jr. prom. I even got chickenpox for the senior one and couldn’t go.

10.  Special Writing Spot?

My desk in front of a 65” television I use as my monitor so I don’t have to wear reading glasses..

11.   Writer’s Block?

Occasionally get stuck on a plot point or a direction to go, but a good shower will usually shake it loose.

12.   File of Ideas: Yes or No

I got an iwatch to keep notes that pop into my head because I kept forgetting them. I transcribe them to Trello and paw through them when I need an idea.

13.   Favorite Author(s)?

It’s been so long since I actually had time to read I don’t even know anymore. I’ve gone through Vonnegut phases, Carl Hiaasen, Michael Chabon, Julie Smith, Laura Lippman, a lot of nonfiction -- I like to feel like I’m learning something or growing as a writer when I do get a chance to read. Though the last thing I read was “written” by the cartoon character “Archer” --- so maybe not trying to learn EVERY time...

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Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors.

Episode 341 - Amy Vansant

14:08 Linda 00:00

Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words.

Today I'm talking with Amy Vansant. USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy Vansant has written over 20 books, including the fun, thrilling Shee McQueen series, the rollicking, twisty Pineapple Port Mysteries, and the action-packed Kilty urban fantasies. Throw in a couple romances and a YA fantasy for her nieces. Amy specializes in fun, exciting reads with plenty of laughs and action – she tried to write serious books, but they always ended up full of jokes, so she gave up.

Amy lives in Jupiter, Florida with her muse/husband and a goony Bordoodle named Archer.

Visit her at www.AmyVansant.com to sign up for her newsletter and find out more about her books. 

Pineapple Circus and Pineapple Cruise are both available now to preorder before their fall 2021 releases. Click the link in the Show Notes or visit your preferred retailer.

Hi, Amy, welcome to the podcast. I'm looking forward to talking with you today. 

Amy 01:29

Looking forward to talking to you. 

Linda 01:31

Tell me about your latest book.

Amy 01:34

It's part of the Pineapple Port mystery series. I have Pineapple Circus and Pineapple Cruise both in progress here, both pre-orders at the moment. In Pineapple Circus my heroine Charlotte ends up embroiled in the murders that are happening at another retirement community that is filled with ex-circus performers. And then the cruise one is obviously murders on a cruise.

Linda 01:59

There is something about a locked-room mystery when you're on a cruise ship, where there's in theory plenty of room to move around, but lots of people and nowhere to go. 

Amy 02:11

Yeah, it's kind of an And Then There Was None situation. 

Linda 02:14

Tell me a little bit about your Pineapple Port series.

Amy 02:17

Pineapple Port was inspired by my mother-in-law's community over on the west coast of Florida, because the first time we visited her there was just so many wacky characters that I thought to myself, this would almost make a great book, you know, you just have to give it some sort of plot like a mystery. And the next thing you know, that's what I was doing. The lead character is a[n] orphan who ended up living there with her grandmother. Her grandmother died and then the community sort of banded together to make sure she could stay in the house rather than go to an orphanage or wherever, basically raised her, so she's the chick in the hen house.

Linda 02:53

How old was she when she was orphaned?

Amy 02:56

I think she was orphaned when she was more like nine and then when her grandmother died she was 11. I don't really get too much into the details of that. I don't want too many people saying Well, you know what, I don't think they should have done that. She lived with a neighbor across the street, Mariska, a lot in the beginning and then kind of went and stayed in her own house when she was old enough.

Linda 03:17

And how old is your main character when the series starts.

Amy

27. 

Linda

So we have a little bit of a young adult/late 20s type of scenario going on, living in a retirement community.

Amy 03:32

One day, she finds bones in her backyard. And it turns out to be the mother of – this isn't giving away a secret. It happens pretty early in the book. It's the mother of the kind of hot pawnbroker guy in town. And she just gets obsessed trying to figure out what happened to her. And the next thing you know, she's on to the next case and the next case and then she officially becomes an actual private detective because she decides that was her calling.

Linda 03:59

That's interesting. A lot of private detectives have the backstory of coming out of the military, you know, military police or something or coming out of law enforcement. So this is a different backstory for a private investigator.

Amy 04:12

In my head, she was a little lost because she didn't spend a lot of time with people her own age, and she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life. And then when this happened, it all kind of came into focus.

Linda 04:23

Most 20-somethings are probably spending time with people their own age and here she is, spending time with people who have…not finished their active lives but they've finished their active working lives, so their focus on their lives is a little bit different than hers would be.

Amy 04:38

And she also picks up a lot of their slang – like she calls the refrigerator the ice box, and things that older people do.

Linda 04:44

Well, I remember that growing up, you know, my dad would refer to it as the icebox sometimes even though I’m fairly certain that it was not an actual icebox during his lifetime, but he grew up in Guatemala and Ecuador. His father worked for United Fruit as an accountant. So they very well may have been using it since it was the late [19]30s, early [19]40s.

Amy 05:05

My Nanny called it that; she actually did have an icebox when you know when she was younger, but I think my mother got into the habit of doing it because she did it. And then I got into the habit of doing it because of my mother.

Linda 05:16

That's just how you refer to that big cold box in the kitchen. 

Amy

Right? It's actually got less syllables than refrigerator. 

Linda

It does. Where did the idea for your latest two books come from, with the cruise and the circus?

Amy 05:30

I actually did a poll with my newsletter readers and said, what topics do you like cozy mysteries to be about? And then I counted them all up and circus and cruise were two of the top picks.

Linda 05:42

I've been on a cruise and I've been to the circus and I think both – not because the participants are itinerant, but both the circus staff and the cruise staff travel around a lot. Do you like the idea of wanderlust?

Amy 05:56

Yeah, definitely. My other mystery series is actually Charlotte's mother that she didn't realize she still had but she's on the east coast of Florida. She's been traveling pretty much her whole life for a lot of different reasons. I like being able to add those things in to another character because it's kind of hard to make sure a little world traveler when she's been such a homebody.

Linda 06:16

Yeah, I like the juxtaposition of – particularly with the cruise or the circus – that you have things that travel around and he or she is definitely more of a homebody. Is she on the cruise? Is that how she gets involved with it? Or is a friend of hers on the cruise?

Amy 06:28

Her adoptive mother Mariska and Mariska’s friend who lives couple houses down Darla – they are the comedic relief for the series for the most part, and they win three tickets for a cruise playing Meat Bingo, which I got from my brother-in-law who just moved to Florida and the bar that they go to sometimes actually has Meat Bingo, or you just play bingo and you win sides of beef and whatnot.

Linda 06:55

That's different. Hope your icebox is big enough to accommodate a side of beef!

 Amy 07:00

And Mariska wins a brisket. And then a lady comes over and says I'll trade you three cruise tickets for it. And it breaks her heart but she does it.

Linda 07:08

Do you have a writing routine or schedule?

Amy 07:12

Not really. I try and get up early and get something done. But I often get distracted by work. So I just try and do at least a couple hours a day wherever I can fit it.

Linda 07:21

And when you say you get up early, I think you get up very early, don't you? 

Amy

Yeah, usually around four. that definitely qualifies as very early.

Linda 07:29

That definitely qualifies as very early. Have you always been a lark? Or is this something that's changed over time? 

Amy 07:36

No, I’ve always been a morning person. And as soon as it gets dark outside my eyes just close. 

Linda

Do you outline? 

Amy 

No, not at all. In fact, I generally have no idea at all what the books gonna be about before I start, I kind of write them in them. I just try and think of fun scenes. And then once I can kind of come up with a couple scenes, then I generally know where it's headed. And then the scenes I think of after that are you know more related towards solving the mystery.

Linda 08:03

How long are your books? Generally I know for the Happy Homicides [cozy mystery anthology series], you did short novellas or short stories, but how long are your Pineapple Port cozy mysteries?

Amy 08:13

They're usually around 65,000 words,

Linda 08:16

How long does it take you to write that?

Amy 08:19

Unless something's going on which something always is I can generally finish them in two and a half months, including the editorial time, I actually probably get them done the actual writing and more like month and a half. Those are two months.

Linda 08:33

I find when I'm writing that staying with the story gets it done faster. And not just because you're staying with the story, but also because I dream about it. And I'll wake up and I'll know where I'm going. I tend to write maybe a four-page single spaced outline for a 20,000 word novella. So for a full length book, it's more like eight to 10 pages, but it's just the broad brushes. And for me, I'm more comfortable starting with the title, who dies and why. And a couple other little things, things always deviate. But one of the things I do with my outline is look at how I've got the days laid out so that I'm not having workday things happening on a weekend.

Amy 09:13

Yeah, if you're totally immersed, you definitely like you said, you start to dream about it like you're in that or it helps move things along.

Linda 09:21

It really does. Things will come up that you wouldn't necessarily have thought of if you were just trying to think of it but when you're immersed in the story, it definitely bubbles up to the top of your conscious mind.

Amy 09:33

Also, if I'm working on the book, so say I write for an hour or two when I'm done, I'll try and do something like get a shower because then my mind wanders while I'm washing my hair and I tend to figure out things that that maybe had me stuck

Linda 09:49

Driving does the same thing for me. I can drive from where I live in Vero Beach, I can drive west on 60 and once you're past 95 there's a lot of orange groves or citrus groves where there's not a lot of traffic that I have to pay attention to. I mean, obviously, I'm still paying attention to my driving. But there's something about the wide open space, and just the soothing quality of driving that helps me figure out things more times than I care to think about.

Amy 10:16

It turns out it's a thing. I kind of thought maybe it was just something that happened to me. But it's like a scientific thing that if you can just do things by rote, it literally clears up your brain to linger in the direction you originally pointed it.

Linda 10:29

And water is another sort of recurring thing, washing dishes or taking a shower or taking a bath. The hard part when you're in the middle of a shower is jumping out fast enough to grab a pencil and paper to jot down your notes. Because I found that no matter how brilliant I think something is, if I don't capture the thought in the moment, I'll forget about it.

Amy 10:48

Yeah, I got an iWatch just for that, because I can just tap it and then talk into it and save that note.

Linda 10:54

Perfect. And then does it transcribe for you also? Or do you just listen to the recording and transcribe it yourself? 

Amy 10:58

I listen to it and just type it up. 

Linda 11:03

When you're typing it do you keep going sometimes? Does that spark an idea that you can run with?

Amy 11:08

Yeah, because lots of times the time that I think to type up what my note was, is when I'm sitting down to write and I'm stuck, so then I'll just go through all the notes I left and maybe that jiggle something loose.

Linda 11:20

That's a nice little system. 

Amy 11:23

Yeah, I used to lose a lot of stuff. 

Linda 11:26

I'm just dropping off to sleep. And I think about something I'm like, Oh, that's perfect. And if I don't write it down…

Amy 11:31

It seems so obvious. Like how can I possibly forget this and then you wake up and it’s forgotten.

Linda 11:36

I remember having had the thought, but I don't remember what the thought was. My husband had gotten me a voice-activated tape recorder. I woke him up one night, he kept hearing clicking of my pen, as I was jotting things down. I don't know why he thought the pen clicking was going to be louder than my talking. But [it’s] the thought that counts. Do you have a creative outlet or something that you do to take your mind off writing or is taking a shower, the thing that sort of gives you a break from the writing?

Amy 12:02

Well the whole rest of my life gives me a break because I still run Authors XP, the book site, so that takes up a lot of my time. So I basically never have any free time.

Linda 12:14

Tell the listeners a little bit about Authors XP. I know I've participated in it. But you have a lot of readers who are looking at different authors for all kinds of genres.

Amy 12:26

It's like BookBub, some of those other promotion sites where from the reader’s side, you can go and see what books are being promoted for free or 99 cents. What makes Authors XP different is you can also do a lot of other things. You can be a beta reader for authors or a typo finder. Some readers love looking for typos. And so you can do that. For authors, you get to work with the authors directly.

Linda 12:51

And you've been doing this for a number of years, haven't you?

Amy 12:54

Yeah, it's probably something like getting close to five. Now I'd imagine I have a horrible memory for dates.

Linda 13:00

It used to be a little fluid for me anyway, but I used to be able to anchor it based on something that had happened. And after last year, I just feel like my sense of time is totally off. Groundhog Day. This has been terrific talking with you, Amy. I will have the links to your websites, both for your books and for your author's XP in the show notes. And I look forward to talking with you again. 

Amy

Thank you. This great, I really appreciate it. 

Linda

You're welcome. 

Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart341. Before you go, Follow or Subscribe for free to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for Bakers, Readers, and/or Writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.

Amy Vansant

Author

USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy Vansant has written over 20 books, including the fun, thrilling Shee McQueen series, the rollicking, twisty Pineapple Port Mysteries, and the action-packed Kilty urban fantasies. Throw in a couple romances and a YA fantasy for her nieces... Amy specializes in fun, exciting reads with plenty of laughs and action -- she tried to write serious books, but they always ended up full of jokes, so she gave up.

Amy lives in Jupiter, Florida with her muse/husband and a goony Bordoodle named Archer.

Visit her at www.AmyVansant.com to sign up for her newsletter and find out more about her books.

Pineapple Circus and Pineapple Cruise are both available now to preorder before their fall 2021 releases.