Q&A With Aimie K. Runyan
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Q&A With Aimie K. Runyan
This morning’s Q&A is with Aimie K. Runyan who writes fiction both historical fiction and women’s fiction. Aimie’s novels are Promised to the Crown, Duty to the Crown, Daughters Of The Night Sky, Girls On The Line, Across the Winding River, The School for German Brides, and A Bakery in Paris. Coming soon is her latest novel which is her first women’s fiction novel The Memory of Lavender and Sage.
Q: Aimie what do you like most about writing historical fiction and women’s fiction? What do you like least about writing in both genres?
A: I started with Historical Fiction because that’s what I gravitated towards as a reader (which I coincidentally think is sound advice for anyone toying with writing a novel: write what you want to read. Chasing the market rarely works). I love the research and immersing myself in bygone eras and finding unsung heroines to celebrate on the page. With my women’s fiction, it’s more about diving further into emotional truths and exploring interpersonal dramas, which is immensely satisfying. It’s a great deal of fun to use modern vernacular and not having to research minutiae, so in some ways my contemporary books help me recharge my batteries for research-heavy historicals. The challenge with historicals can be when specific details are hard to track down and I am forced to choose between spending hours down research rabbit holes and throwing up my hands in defeat, making something up, and writing a mea culpa in the author’s note. Neither feels great. Except if you find that pesky detail, then it’s awesome. And it makes those two sentences in Chapter fourteen shine. For contemporary women’s fiction, I found that I missed the comfort of the structure history provides. In most of my books, there’s a real-life historical timeline that I have to respect and it’s nice to have that support to weave into the story. The other real challenge, especially when compared to my war-era novels, is that I don’t have the extrinsic dangers to help ramp up the tension. I have to make that happen from within the characters entirely, and it was a new bag of tricks for me to learn.
Q: What made you realize that writing was what you wanted to do with your life?
A: I played with writing little stories and poems from the time I was in third grade. I always loved it, but all the adults around me emphasized how hard it is to make a living in fiction. They aren’t wrong, but I think they hit that message a bit too hard. They probably should have encouraged me to take more writing courses, but to pair them with marketing, or some such thing. But when did it become a real career aspiration? Well, I had an idea sitting in a drawer for ten years, and after reading a bad book, I decided I could give myself permission to try and finish it. I couldn’t do worse. As the process went on with that first book, I got more and more serious about writing no longer being a pipe dream and someday being a viable profession. I invested in going to a regional writer’s conference after my book was drafted, which was immensely helpful. I was fortunate enough to land an agent and a book deal with my first book, and it took about three books to make a full-time career. It’s not been entirely smooth sailing, but I am *darn* lucky.
Q: What advice do you give to anyone wanting to write wonderful historical fiction and women’s fiction?
A: Read a lot. Read widely in your genre. Read outside your genre, too. Read intelligently. Read what’s selling and try to parse out why it resonates with people (even if it doesn’t resonate with you). Read bad books and learn from their mistakes (and what about the book encouraged an editor to take a chance). Read with the eye of an editor.
Also, give yourself permission to write. I won’t be prescriptive and say how many words, but do set word goals. Increase those goals over time. Try to give yourself an hour or two every day. Try to find the most productive time you have available and guard that time jealously. It may be 5AM to 7AM before your day job or 10PM to Midnight. Find what works for you and treat that time with the same respect you would a dentist appointment.
Q: Which historical fiction novel was your favorite to write so far?
A: It’s a tie between Girls on the Line and A Bakery in Paris. The heroines came to me fully formed and the research for both was fascinating. A lot of fortuitous coincidences and good timing with the research of Girls on the Line and the history behind both timelines of A Bakery in Paris was incredibly compelling. I LOVED these books.
Q: What is your advice to new writers on how to deal with negative feedback whether its reviews, online trolls, and friends and family who are not supportive in their writing goals?
A: The most important tools in a writer’s arsenal are thick skin and humility. With mean-spirited trolling, put on that thick skin like armor. People sit down to write mean reviews that have personal gripes that have nothing to do with you and your work. And as we know, trolls feed off attention, so ignore them.
But when it comes to bad reviews that come from genuine observation and good intentions, it’s hard, but listen and try to internalize their critique for next time. They’re your public and it’s always smart to consider what they’re saying. That doesn’t mean you change what you’re doing necessarily, but listen. That said? If you get 100 reviews, there’s a chance you’ll get 20 people claiming your pacing was too slow and 20 more who wished you’d take your time. Neither are necessarily wrong, but you can’t please everyone.
Friends and family are harder. Most of the time, what seems like (or is) unsupportive behavior stems from not knowing the industry. Do what you can to clue them in, but don’t belabor the point. This becomes exponentially harder when it’s close family, friends, or worst of all—a partner. I’m at a point where most everyone is supportive now, but here are certain people I didn’t talk about my work with for a long time. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes silence and redirection is necessary. The best antidote is to make sure you have a supportive group of writer friends who can lift you up in ways those who aren’t part of the industry simply can’t.
Q: Since you’ve transitioned from writing historical fiction and now writing women’s fiction, would you ever try writing mystery thriller novels in the future?
A: Perhaps! It would likely be a historical mystery with a rich setting à la Agatha Christie. It’s not something I have on my radar for the immediate future, but it would be a compelling challenge. I consider myself to be about as mysterious as a bucket, so constructing a complicated web of a mystery could be great fun.
Q: If you’re writing a new novel right now, are you allowed to reveal any details?
A: My current project is called Mademoiselle Eiffel and is the story of Gustave Eiffel’s (yes, the guy who built the tower) oldest daughter Claire. She spent her life as his personal assistant from the age of fourteen when her mother died, and her story is a very compelling one, coming to you from William Morrow in 2024, probably.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?
A: Sadly, no. If anyone from Hollywood is reading this, feel free to have your people call my people.