Amy Klinger: Novelist & freelance writer – ‘In Light Of Recent Events’

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Photo credit: Amanda Starr Photography

Interview Details

Recorded: Saturday, August 13th, 2022, in South Burlington, Vermont
Episode Length: 30:00
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Transcript disclaimer: text generated by Artificial Intelligence and probably fraught with errors!

Becca Hammond 0:01
What’s new 802 I’m Becca Hammond and you’re listening to Vermont talks. Vermont talks may include graphic or explicit content listener discretion is advised. Me clear, you are a novelist, a freelance writer, a marketing communications professional, and you just finished your debut novel? When did you actually finish the novel?

Amy Klinger 0:24
Oh, I finished it probably about finished finished was probably about three to four years ago. Okay. Yeah, four years ago, and the process of getting it published just took up a bit of time and, and writing it took way longer. I

Becca Hammond 0:45
loop around back to that when I just wanted to check in because I hadn’t seen the actual finished day on that. And the title of the book is in light of recent events, you moved to Vermont in 2000. And you’re working on a second novel that is set in Vermont, which I’m very interested to talk about later. Yeah. Okay. So in light of recent events, how long in total did this book take you to write?

Amy Klinger 1:10
If I were being totally honest, which I guess I will be since I, since I brought it up, probably about 12 years, 10 years really writing it in in very, very, you know, hour long increments, in the evening after after work. And then I had my daughter and so doing family stuff. And so I would sit down in the evenings, like I said, usually for like an hour at a time. And then it just chipped away at it. i It was kind of a labor of love for for a very long time that I honestly didn’t think would ever see the light of day. And so it’s it’s been a fun ride so far.

Becca Hammond 1:47
Yeah, that’s great. You write with such a clear, concise voice. I’m very impressed with your writing style. As soon as I read a few paragraphs. This is great. No wonder you have so many recommendations on the back cover of the book. Yeah. And the Amazon page. I’m amazed how many five star reviews you have as well. Like, that’s really impressive, especially when you’re independently publishing books. That’s really hard.

Amy Klinger 2:11
Yeah, well, my my day job is is like you said marketing and communication. So I’ve, I’ve worked hard to kind of get it out. And you know, the your fingers are always crossed anytime anybody reads it. And I won’t deny like probably about, I don’t know, a third to a half our people that know me and and are being generous. But But it’s always like kind of a an unexpected thrill when somebody I don’t know actually likes the book and puts up a review. It’s, it’s thrilling

Becca Hammond 2:43
actually. Sure. Yeah. I don’t don’t discredit yourself, if it’s friends and family. I know people who’ve written books. And I did. As far as that I would, I would say is just from based on the first paragraphs, and I probably read the first chapter. Yeah. Clearly, you’re very talented writer. Thank you. So swinging back to your earlier career and all of the other work you’ve done, because you’re apparently a somewhat prolific writer writing for work for yourself. It’s impressive to do something for work and then do it on your free time as well. That means you’re pretty passionate about it, but it gets draining. Yeah. So did I read that you’re a copywriter? Is that right? Yeah,

Amy Klinger 3:26
yeah, that’s, it’s I at this stage, I’ve gone through a bunch of communications jobs. But at this point, I’m, I’m sort of a combination brand strategist and copywriter, I do work for, you know, an agency. And then I also have freelance clients, but it’s all writing and using that, that part of my brain in my day job. But it’s a different. It’s such a different experience writing fiction, it’s such a, you know, a wide open field versus these are the parameters for work that I have to write, I have to speak to this audience, I have to have these messages and write

Becca Hammond 4:04
the message for brand writing is so concise and specific. And you have a very, you know, the tone you’re going for and exactly how you want to present yourself. It’s, it’s creative, but it’s like a limited sort of creative idea. I do engineering work by trade. So I appreciate that where it’s okay, here’s the exact set of things I need to complete in a very specific way. Because there’s a way you want to present each different brand. I can see how that’s a lot different than writing fiction for a novel. Do you enjoy the fiction writing a lot more? Or do you find that you enjoy both sides of it? And it’s, it’s just kind of up to the day and your mood? Yeah,

Amy Klinger 4:41
you know, it’s interesting that you brought up engineering because I sort of, through the process of writing, in light of recent events, I really kind of thought of it as you know, the equivalent of somebody who has an antique car that they work on in the garage and it’s just a it’s, it’s something that they do it’s still in like in your case if it were or engineering, it’s still using the skills that you have, but using it in a much different way. And so I don’t know that I’m answering your question, but I think the fiction writing is just so freeing. I mean, not entirely, because you still have to plot it out. And I still know where, where the story needs to go. But, but the path of getting there is, I don’t know, it’s just a lot more like play than it is work. Although I will say that when you’re writing, when you have different clients, you do have to get into the quote, unquote, character of their brand. So again, it’s using the same muscles and but doing it in a much more, to me much more satisfying and fun way.

Becca Hammond 5:44
Right. Right, that makes a lot of sense. So we’ve got to talk a little bit about the details in the book, we won’t get too in depth. And I wanted to mention that you did a VPR interview and incredible interview, I did go through that entire interview. And I was surprised how in depth, they get the and especially since you’re both writers, I think that the interaction of two writers getting very in depth about your work. And the tone that you set was really impressive. So if you want a very in depth coverage of the book, and the details within the book and characters, and I would check out the VEPR podcast, we tip we got to keep it loose. I will point people that way. That’s totally I’m, you know, power to VPR. Yeah, journalists, that was an incredible Yeah, view. And that was fun. They have many, many good interviews, as well. So power to those. So 90s office culture, this is one thing I really wanted to talk about. Because it’s a very unique, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of novels, especially being written today about 90s office culture that’s so specific, specific, and especially from a woman’s perspective, what inspired you and clearly you held on to this idea for a very long time. And, and you wanted to bring it to fruition? Yeah. What was it and why?

Amy Klinger 7:04
Well, I mean, you kind of hit on it, it was over the course of many job changes many different office environments, I actually started my first job out of college was at a publishing houses in academic publishing very much, I wouldn’t say that this book relies on that setting, any more than for the, for the framework for the structure and the office hierarchy, which was a big thing, there. And in several other places that I worked, I like I was so intrigued by this very strict protocol, unspoken protocols of the office environment, and particularly in corporate environments, where this level of person does never never gets to speak to the highest level of person, you always have to go up through the channels. And it’s just such a weird dynamic. But in every place that I worked, you know, you find your people you find your, it’s a group of people that are just thrown together by you know, I will take Winston’s but it’s it’s skills and interest, but it’s, they’re not people that you would choose to spend eight plus hours a day with necessarily and so you you find your people and I found that a really intriguing topic to, to work with. And of course, I mean, my earliest jobs were in the 90s and formed a lot of my my thinking and, and there are pieces that do end up in the story. Gosh, I’ve every experience I’ve had at a trade show has not been a pleasant one. And so that makes an appearance in the book at some point. And so, so the dynamics of that culture, particularly at a time in the 90s when technology was just starting to become a thing. I mean, I can remember my wife, having my first email account and just trying to wrestle with what that meant being able to send things electronically to people rather than having to get up and walk over to a desk and there’s just a lot of rich territory for exploring and a lot of ways

Becca Hammond 9:05
that’s very interesting. Are you still are you freelance working now? Or are you in sort of corporate environment?

Amy Klinger 9:12
No, I left that quite happily that environment a while ago and now I do I work out of my home office and I for clients and like I said, a small agency actually out in Ohio, Boulder creative, that’s a super group of people, but we’ve we’ve only met in person once so that I mean, that difference between going into the office every day and and again, like like I said, finding your people and having lunch and you know, gossip and all that stuff to get to where I am now where I’m working with people that I’ve only met once I see them every day virtually. And we form different kinds of bond. It’s a really having seen that spread over the course of years. It’s it’s just such a dramatic train change in a lot of ways, not better or worse. Just different.

Becca Hammond 9:57
Interesting is the Doosan Notice the hierarchy is still an issue, Ken, I would imagine in a situation where you can’t physically see someone where you’re walking through a hallway, it’s you can’t really just zoom call. The higher ups. Yeah, myself. You can’t just casually zoom call someone to tears above you. And management. I guess that yeah, I’ve never worked from home where I’ve worked full home. Yeah. office setup where you just are totally remote. And you’ve never like you said, you’ve never met them? Yeah, it’s sometimes hard. Is it hard to gauge that hierarchy? Or do you find that you know about it, but you’re isolated, and

Amy Klinger 10:38
it’s less so with, with the agents that I agency that I work for they it’s a much it’s a very collaborative, fluid group, there’s not that that hierarchy, I mean, there’s, there’s the owner of the company, but it doesn’t feel like that. I have other clients, where that structure, you know, kind of bigger clients where that corporate structure is in place, and you very much know who you go to for information and who you ask to go to someone else for information. And so, you know, I wouldn’t say that, you know, in some ways, I would suspect that the corporate culture has changed in some ways, and not changed in a lot of ways.

Becca Hammond 11:19
And I’m sure it’s really dependent on the company. Some companies are just fantastic. And some companies are so locked into a very, it’s so rigid. It’s such an old way of thinking that came from what do you think about I think about like, a fat hat guy with a cigar. And you know, they were like, slapping the woman’s ass that was like, the culture in the 50s. And it did it get carried through to the point where now it’s, it’s weird, like people that never grew up in that sort of misogynistic, weird society are kind of being pushed in companies like that. And yeah, like, that’s a whole new experience. For some people. Some people, it’s totally normal, like, this has been their whole life still, but we’re in a very strange time. Because the 90s was the start of the change. But I think we’re still changing constantly, like, or more yet, you’re so weird right now.

Amy Klinger 12:13
Yeah, yeah. And I’ll be honest with you, as, as I was writing the book, I wasn’t conscious of a lot of things, I was just enjoying the characters and, and having fun with it. And when, when the book got published, and I had to actually think about talking about it, and going back and thinking about the themes and whatnot, I discovered that I was really working a lot, a lot of stuff out with being a woman in, you know, in a culture that really was the hierarchy was very masculine, and, and the glass ceiling was a very real thing. And so you’ll the character, main character, Audrey, is in middle management. And, you know, it has this feeling of like, well, I’m good at my job, but I’m not good enough. And so I’m just going to be mediocre on it. She she actually says that, I’ve just decided I’m going to be mediocre at my job. And I had to think about like, Well, where did that come from? From me and I and I did. There were situations in my, in my professional life, where there were opportunities to rise up in the ranks. And almost every time somebody, a man was was brought in for the position that I was really next in line for, and despite, you know, getting great reviews, and it just felt like okay, well, I’m good, but I’m not good enough. So, right. And I think that’s that’s some of what what Audrey feels in the story. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t look at it as, as anything other than, you know, I just go into my job. And then I come home every day. And I have the people that I’m close to. And they’ve helped me get through the day kind of thing. Right. So right, which is kind of sad.

Becca Hammond 13:52
Right, like, yeah, it’s the, you know, the norm and the society and it’s such a that’s a fact for so many women and still today. Yeah. A fact for so many women I know of someone I won’t get into details, but the phrase, you have the wrong plumbing for the jaw. Oh, was used. Oh. It hurt heard. So, you know, I watched I can’t speak to her her experiences in her life, obviously, but as you know, just that camaraderie you feel for other woman, women in the workforce that you see being mistreated, that it’s still happening, it still happens and you know, 2020 it’s still happening today. So yeah, it’s important to talk about that kind of thing, because a lot of people men don’t realize they just don’t see that. Yeah, that’s totally inappropriate to bring in cuz they’ll bring in a brand new person and promote them over a woman who’s done the job for 10 years and that’s that story has been taught 1000s and 1000s of times it’s so normal to hear about it’s not okay, like that’s not okay. That’s why a lot of people don’t stay at these All right, right. Like, why would you do that to yourself? It’s it’s not worth the paycheck in some ways if you can go find a different one. Yeah, this is fascinating. I’ve Yeah, I really wanted to get at the heart of why you wanted to write a book about that culture, because it’s, it’s so interesting. I mean, we all we all love, like the office, right? Like, there’s a lot of people who are so embedded in office culture, that it’s something we do talk and think about, but not, not always, in some of these more interesting in depth ways. Like it’s not as funny, right? Like, yeah, why why is she so stuck in this position? Yeah.

Amy Klinger 15:33
Now she doesn’t she doesn’t end up not by circumstances make it so that she gets unstuck. So it’s the end, I, those may be the the undercurrent themes, but ultimately, it’s a pretty fun and funny book, I think in the way that, you know, the show, The Office poked fun at a lot of the absurdities of office culture. That certainly I hope shines through in this book, too. So

Becca Hammond 15:57
good. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So the first I won’t mention exactly what it was. But you had me giggling very quickly, something very 90s. related. I don’t think we really touched on this. So your writing process? How different is the process? Because like you said, you have to plan the plot, you have to obviously finish the book like you can’t, you can’t just write for fun forever. Yeah. What how different was that versus the more corporate like the plan for a corporate branded process versus something fun for you?

Amy Klinger 16:30
Yeah, deadlines are a big part of that. You know, when when a client needs something, and you just have to get it done versus, you know, this other book that that, like I said, I wasn’t, I wasn’t confident was ever going to get out in the world. So the process of writing in light of recent events is a little different from the book that I’m writing now. So I have a two book contract with the story plans and independent fiction house. And so this next book, I’ve had to really pick up the pace on I couldn’t, you know, you obviously can’t take another 10 years to write a book. So. So the process of writing this book is has been a lot different. I kind of went into it with a solid plot and structure and knew where I wanted to go. And did you already have

Becca Hammond 17:17
the idea for the book when they said, Oh, to book contract?

Amy Klinger 17:21
Yes. And no. They basically said, you know, we really liked the first book, but we like to bring new authors to market. So if this is your only book, good job, but we’ll pass but if you have another book, you know, we’d love to keep talking to so Oh, actually, I have a collection of short stories that are exploring, you know, the changing dynamics of Vermont and, you know, steering away. And I got very kind of academic and geeky about it. And they said, Oh, no, I don’t think that’s what we had in mind. Because that sounds interesting. And so so the publisher basically said, Why don’t you this was over Thanksgiving in 2019, maybe like it was and? And so he’s, why don’t you think of it, think about it over over Thanksgiving break. And, you know, we’re not saying you have to write the same book. But if you’re trying to build a market, you kind of want people to recognize and short stories. If you’re not a, you know, a famous person, they really probably won’t sell very well. So think about it. So I actually took one of the short stories, and the, the one that I felt had most structure to and I blew it out into it into a novel size story. So it’s a basically a three part story. And I’m drafting part three right now. And that’s basically that what the short story was going to be so I had to go back and build the backstory. So it’s been a different process, but it’s been fun, especially writing it in, in Vermont, instead of having to try rumor remember New Jersey of my roots. Now that I’ve been in Vermont for 2020 years, a little over 20 years, I’m sure

Becca Hammond 18:59
yeah, as I’ve many questions, but yeah, jersey to Vermont. I’m sure there’s a bit especially corporate culture, that’s wildly different. Because we’re, I mean, we’re corporate, but we’re much more relaxed here than I would imagine in New Jersey. Yes. Yeah. Congrats. Congrats on the two book contract. Thank you incredible books. What was the process like to find the publisher? Because he’s so you finish the book in 2018?

Amy Klinger 19:23
You said something like that.

Becca Hammond 19:26
And then you went and you found the publisher, what he and you were marketing yourself, where you were just using the internet, where you’re calling people? Well, it was

Amy Klinger 19:35
a little different. So the so the normal process that most people take is they they spend time trying to find the agent, and then the agent will go connect with they generally work with the big publishers. So I so my timeline is totally off because it took me I spent about a year and a half what they call querying agents and basically making the pitch and saying this is my book. This is what’s about this As to the markets board. And I got a lot of very polite rejections. Some encouraging rejections and said, you know, this isn’t right for me. But but but comeback. And it got pretty frustrating. And so I thought, You know what I know people who’ve self published, maybe I’ll go down that route and I started to I found a friend to work with on the cover and talk to another friend who had self published about what the process is and the day that I had that conversation with her. I thought, you know, one thing I haven’t done is, is look at independent publishers and see who will take queries. Without an agent, you know, just directly from the author. And I did some research, I found one that seemed to be a good fit based on what I saw, they published. And that was the story plan. And I, I sent the query the next morning, they said, Yep, send us a full manuscript. And then a month later, they said, Yep, that was when I had the conversation about the contract. So

Becca Hammond 20:59
fantastic. Yeah, I was curious about that. Because I read independent publishing, I didn’t really understand what the difference was between a publisher and someone independent. I didn’t realize they won’t even take a manuscript from an author at a large publishing house. That’s interesting. Even is so isolated to a lot of normal public doesn’t realize that’s how hard it is to get your voice heard.

Amy Klinger 21:23
Yeah. And a lot of a lot of writers don’t really, I mean, it was a learning process. For me, I leaned on people who had been through the process, I took a course on it, you know, on basically how to write that pitch letter, because it’s very, very particular. And I have to have it in this specific way. As soon

Becca Hammond 21:40
as they see something, you know, that they don’t like? Yeah, they probably just throw it in that pile, because I’m sure there’s probably 1000s and 1000s of people sending these letters every day.

Amy Klinger 21:49
Yeah, they get massive, massive amounts of of pitches. And and you’re right, it just takes the slightest thing to I want spelled, you know, the agents name wrong. And oh, no, I’m sure that did not go over well, but

Becca Hammond 22:03
that’s it’s almost like when you think of the poor people who work in academia, academics, and they’re going through applications at Harvard. Yeah. And there’s 1000s of them in front of you, and you only get to pick 50.

Amy Klinger 22:15
Right. Right Down the Line, something’s

Becca Hammond 22:19
off. There’s a smudge on this paper. This one to the left. I can imagine the struggle there. That sounds very hard. But independent publisher, I love independent companies. This is kind of an independent podcast, where yeah, you know, whatever, on the commercial industry that’s gotten way too complex, and so many different facets of our lives, whatever to them, if I can make a book, okay, I’m a publisher. Yeah. Right. So that’s really interesting. And it’s nice that they were responsive and got back to you quickly. Yeah. And you’ve had a good experience working with them all through have Yeah, what was editing? Like? Were they a lot of back and forth? Or were they just happy? From start?

Amy Klinger 22:59
Well, I mean, I like to believe so this book went through in light of recent events went through a lot of rounds of edits, you know, over the course of many years, and, and reviewers. And so I like to think that once it got to them, it was in pretty good shape. And so the feedback that came back was was really, I think there was one structural change that had to be made. And, and one one character development piece, but for the most part, it was pretty, it was pretty light. And the story is super close to what what I submitted, which was great. I don’t think that’s going to be the case with this next. Next a little bit more dense and, and the timeline is much shorter. And so it probably won’t be as polished as as the first

Becca Hammond 23:45
right, why you’re not taking the 12 years

Amy Klinger 23:47
or more like two was supposed to be one. But we’ve I’ve gotten a grace period

Becca Hammond 23:55
from them. Yeah. Well, the pandemic, I feel like the whole world kind of stopped in the weirdest way. And now everyone’s picking back up and everyone’s picking back up at lightspeed. It seems Yeah, like everyone’s super busy this summer. We’re getting a lot done. It’s great. But yeah, they’re, I feel like a grace period is definitely accept all people, all walks of life in regards to the pandemic. Okay, so the second book, can I ask any more detail, I don’t want to get too in depth on it, but it’s set in Vermont. And it’s based on one of the short stories any so we know, we kind of talked about the office culture for what’s this one about?

Amy Klinger 24:32
So this one is sort of about finding home. I mean, for me, I grew up in New Jersey, I lived I went to Salt Lake City for for grad school and lived six years in in Utah. And then was my boyfriend at the time who is now my husband. We decided he was we met excuse me, we met in Salt Lake but he was from Brooklyn. And you know me from The two East Coasters out and out in Utah, and we decided to move closer to family but not too close. So Vermont was kind of had the outdoors and, and whatnot and so so in many ways that process of moving to Vermont and sort of learning the culture and learning how to be here was really fascinating to me. I had people when we moved out to the country moved out to Richmond. I shouldn’t say that it’s country ish. Compared to compared to New Jersey compared to yesterday. Yeah. So all the kind of knowledge that you that you pick up from like, when do you order firewood? What time of year do you order firewood, green wood, and, you know, what are the seasonal aspects that you, you know, how do you plant a garden, all this all this kind of information about that you learn from people around you, and you learn about the culture and it really becomes it gets under your skin, it becomes like I I don’t think I could live anywhere else. At this point. I Vermont is home for me. And so this is the story of he’s an artist named Ruben Downes. He’s a sculptor, and painter. And he’s finds himself in Vermont circumstances find himself in Vermont and he decides to make it his home and he meets a lot of characters along the way. He joins a rural pickup coed softball league. And so there’s a there’s a rich cast of characters from there. And just as he’s starting to sort of get his space and feel like it’s his home, he does something that you know, kind of puts him into the spotlight and up ends things in in pretty uncomfortable ways. So I won’t go into too much detail. Yeah,

Becca Hammond 26:46
that was a great overview. It sounds like a great like I’ve already no aphids, but got it off. There you go. We’ve been wanting more. Yeah, yep. Nope. This is great. It’s been really great to talk to you. Thank you. It’s been fun. Is there anything else you’d like to share? I’m you’ve got a website And you’ve got an Instagram account me clinger underscore writer. I don’t know if you want to promote anything else specific. Besides, you did a VPR podcast. Yeah. Which I was fantastic. Everyone should check that one out as well. Anything else you’d like to share today, though? No,

Amy Klinger 27:25
I just, you know, I love hearing from people who’ve read the book. And so if if anybody reads it, enjoys it. My email is on my site. And honestly, that’s that’s kind of why why I do it is sharing stories. And that I know I enjoy and that that I hope other people enjoy. So. But it was great talking with you back I really had blast been fantastic. So

Becca Hammond 27:49
before I go, make sure where should they buy your book from? Where is the best place for you for people to buy your book.

Amy Klinger 27:56
Um, you know, I’m a big supporter of local independent bookstores, Phoenix, books in Burlington has been great. They hosted my book launch and bridge tide books in Waterbury was also super great. They had an A, we had an event down there a q&a with with audiences. So that’s great, local and independent. It’s also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and the usual suspects. But

Becca Hammond 28:19
which, if they’re going to leave you a review, is it on Amazon is that the best place to put one that are

Amy Klinger 28:25
good reads isn’t is another great place, and really any local bookstore can can order the book, it’s available through their distributors. So

Becca Hammond 28:32
I’ve just, we gotta leave you good reviews so that whenever that would be great when else comes across the book, they’ll be more prompted to the book, I’d read a book and it helps with the algorithms

Amy Klinger 28:42
you know, everybody with those those you might you might also likes, that all those reviews kind of helped to help push that up to serve up to other people. So

Becca Hammond 28:51
yeah, yeah. So check that book out. I love go look for the book locally. I love that you can find it right. Right in town. It’s so nice to not have to ship it here. Right? That’s true. Although they will ship I can tell you that even more convenient, perfect, so there’s no downside at all. Okay, thank you so much, Amy.

Amy Klinger 29:10
Thank you. Thank you.

Becca Hammond 29:11
If you want to check out the show notes for today, they’re gonna be at Vermont forward slash 32. Thanks so much for listening to the end of the show. Subscribe to Vermont talks on your favorite podcasting platform. You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, all over the web. Contact Becca at Vermont If you’d like to be interviewed, or if you know someone who should be thanks so much to Jason Baker for creating the show music. The views and opinions expressed by the guests are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vermont talks. Any content or statements provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual anyone or anything. And that’s what was new in the 802. Have a great day.

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