Interview with writer, Amy Chavez
Hi Amy, thank you so much for taking some time to do this interview. Let’s jump right in with the question everyone is always curious to know.
How did you become an author?
I started out as a columnist for the Japan Times and that naturally led to book writing as readers were always asking me if I had a book out. I then sent out manuscript ideas to publishers. I have always had publishers interested in my work, however, I find it is rare to find a publisher who shares my vision. This has led to plenty of book contracts, but most of which I don’t end up signing. I am very particular about what I think a book should be.
Many publishers will like an idea but want me to change my idea to suit their needs, which are usually commercially-oriented. I’m not so interested in writing what sells as much as writing something meaningful. I see the “dumbing down” of society via books and movies, and don’t want to be a part of that. I want to be the person who makes a difference in people’s lives and helps them overcome adversity.
What was your first job when you began writing?
The Japan Times was the first paying job I had. I’ve been writing for them since 1997.
How many books have you written?
What are the names of the books you wrote?
“Japan, Funny Side Up,” and “Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage: 900 Miles to Enlightenment.”
What inspired you to write, Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage?
I was at a crossroads in life and had just been let go from my university teaching job. I had no idea what to do next so I decided to go on an adventure. I made up my mind that I was going to run 900 miles around the southern island of Kyushu in Japan. It took me 5 weeks, running almost a marathon a day.
What is your latest book about?
It’s about many things but mainly it’s about keeping an open mind and learning how to influence your fate. It’s about finding happiness within. It’s about changing your focus from your own little world to the bigger outside world, which is where you can really make a difference.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Over a year, writing 8 hours a day and also maintaining my professional writing gigs. Writing well takes an enormous amount of time.
Where can readers find your book?
It’s available on Amazon, of course, but also in bookstores. You can order it from your library or any bookstore that doesn’t have it on their shelves.
Any plans for another book?
Many plans for many more books! I am waiting to hear back from two separate publishers concerning two different manuscripts. Whether we will have a shared vision, however, remains to be seen.
Are you still working for a company, or are you now a full-time author?
I still write for the Japan Times. I also blog for HuffPo.
What are your future plans for your writing career?
I think the publishing industry is heading downhill in many ways. It is very hard to find people now who are qualified editors and publishers and who take publishing as seriously as old-school authors like myself do.
Many people now are publishing as a hobby and make some money on the side. Unfortunately, they don’t have the time or money to put into their business that is necessary to attract the best authors and put out top quality books. The result is, more often, very ordinary books that don’t end up selling but a few copies.
I see a lot of publishers out there taking advantage of first-time authors and publishing them without investing in good editors and book designers. I’ve approached some publishers myself who I thought might be a good match for my book ideas but upon closer look (usually after they ask for sample chapters) and reading one or two of their books, I see the quality is very poor. There are typos and inconsistencies in grammar, spelling and formatting. Many of these publishers lack content editors, so the stories aren’t executed well enough and have poor plot development or uninteresting characters.
Outside of the major publishers, the standards just aren’t very high anymore. I don’t want to be a part of that. I am leaning more towards self-publishing because then I can hire excellent editors and get my books up to the standard that I want them to be. So look for more books from me on niche areas such as Japan, sailing, cows and even a “Funny Side Up” series with editions on Bali, Australia and South-East Asia.
Amy Chavez has been a columnist with The Japan Times since 1997. Her feature articles have been published in magazines around the world including Japan, the UK, US, Canada, Indonesia and New Zealand. She lives on Shiraishi Island, a small island of just 580 people in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea where she and her husband run the Moooo! Bar (world’s first bar for cows!) on the beach in the summertime.
See the Running the Shikoku Pilgrimage book trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZJPrGczJkE
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