Amy Brill is a New York City native whose first book, a historical fiction novel published by Riverhead, came out in April. THE MOVEMENT OF STARS is the story of a female astronomer in 1845 Nantucket and the unusual man who understands her dreams. Amy’s writing has also been published in Salon, Guernica, and Time Out New York.
I met her at an industry event. She was incredibly sweet and game for the following impromptu interview.
NG: Thanks for being such a trooper and taking time to chat with me!! How did you become a writer?
AB: I became a writer through reading, which I think is probably true for a lot of writers.
I was a very early reader, and my Mom took me to the library pretty much constantly as a child. I just devoured books: there’s something magical about disappearing in the world of the story. I grew up in a very busy, very active neighborhood in Queens, and I think that something about having this incredible world that was completely mine was very appealing to me. I started writing at a very young age. I think I wrote my first “novel” when I was in fifth grade.
Also, you just fall in love! [Smiles.]
The author questionnaire that I received when I first signed a contract with Penguin asked the question: “How long have you wanted to be a writer? Was it a life-long dream?” And I was like, where is the box where I can just check: “Yes, this is my life-long dream!”
AB: I think the most important thing is to just go forward, especially if it’s a long project. I feel like a lot of first-time novelists make the same mistake that I made—that most people make—which is to re-write the first part of the novel over and over and over again.
You tinker with the details trying to get every sentence right, trying to make it perfect. And the truth is that it doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to re-write the whole thing over and over and over anyways. But until you have a first complete draft, you don’t even have the clay. You need to get something on paper that has a beginning, middle, and end. On screen, I shouldn’t say on paper! [Laughs.]
And once you’ve got that—even if it’s God awful—then you’ll go back and re-write it, and you’ll find the story that you’re trying to tell somewhere in there. But until you have that, it’s hard to see what the story will be. “Just go forward!” is Rule # 1.
Rule #2 is “Find other writers.” Find people to be in a community with—whether it’s online or at your local community center, or at your local college, or at your local bookstore, or wherever it may be in your community, even if it’s in your living room! Even if you have to put up signs around the neighborhood that say, “I’m interested in writing. I’m looking for other writers to share work with.
It’s really important to have a community because writing is very solitary work. And you don’t have to listen to what other people tell you about your writing, but you’ll be glad if you do.
NG: Thank you for sharing with us, Amy!