We had the good fortune of connecting with Amber Royer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amber, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?
I look at writing as a job, like any other. Which means setting a schedule and sticking to it. That’s really eighty percent of writing a book — just showing up with a plan (I’m an extensive outliner) and a word count goal for every writing day. I back up my work frequently, and I keep all the files in an organized fashion. I’m also a writing coach, and I’ve helped people deal with cobbling together novels they’ve written part in long-hand, parts in a notes program and parts on a computer. It’s so much easier to have a document that is formatted correctly and all in one piece from the beginning. I also have a spreadsheet for submitting articles and short work, so that I know what I’ve submitted where and how long ago. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget if you’ve sent a short story to a particular editor. I also make time to refill the creative well, which for me means listening to music, reading, watching films (especially documentaries) and spending time in nature. Creative impulses have to come from somewhere, and you never know what will inspire you.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I did a cookbook (co-authored with my husband) about chocolate, and then I wrote a science fiction novel where chocolate was a central element. So my brand is now food-related fact and fiction, especially dealing with chocolate and coffee. I guess I do it well because a number of people have told me my work makes them hungry. The novel I have coming out in February (Grand Openings Can Be Murder) is a cozy mystery with a bean to bar chocolate maker as my sleuth. I met so many real chocolate makers while researching and publicizing the science fiction that it was a logical choice. I also teach creative writing, so I have a textbook/workbook for writers that I use as the basis for many of my classes. A lot of the advice I give in Story Like a Journalist was hard won, as I wrote a number of novels that didn’t work and will likely never see the light of day. I would get agents and editors interested in my work based on the idea and the initial chapters, but they would pass when I sent them the whole book because my ideas were scattershot and I followed my creativity wherever it took me. I had assumed that I could get by on talent alone. But that’s the myth that many artists fall prey to, and it can hold us back years — even decades. It wasn’t until I systematically studied story structure, and character psychology that I was able to find an agent and get a book traditionally published.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
So we’re assuming that COVID has disappeared and it is safe to go out again? There are so many things to do in the DFW area. We’d definitely have to get a group together to go to Mr. Max izakaya in Irving for a bowl of ramen and some grilled shishito peppers. It’s all small plates, so we’d probably get karaage too. (Call for reservations in advance. Seating is EXTREMELY limited.) Then we’d catch a play at Pocket Sandwich Theater. They do these melodramas where the audience is encouraged to cheer the hero and boo and his at the villains — and you get to throw popcorn at everybody. If price was no object, we’d head to Eddie V’s Seafood. But I’d get one of the steaks. I think the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life was their New York strip au poivre (accompanied by cracked black peppercorn cognac sauce), And then we’d catch a late movie at the Inwood Theater, where they have an auditorium filled with sofas and beanbag chairs and sometimes they play old movies, like Dial M. for Murder. We’d head up to Richardson for lunch at my favorite family-owned pho place, Pho OK. Their shaken beef is the absolute bomb. They also do Vietnamese coffee that still has the press on it, so you watch it finish brewing into the condensed milk, stir it up and pour it over the ice yourself. And then we’d keep going up to McKinney, to Al Ruschhaupt Park for a relaxing round of disc golf. (If you’ve never played, it’s exactly what it sounds like — you throw specially designed plastic discs at wire baskets, while enjoying a walk through nature.) I’m not very good at it, but people are pretty laid back on the course, so it’s still fun. We’d head down to Mariano’s Mexican Restaurant in Arlington for some fajitas. It’s worth a visit for the salsa alone. From there, it’s not too far to get to the Ranger’s Stadium to catch a baseball game. Of course, we’d have to make a day of the arts district, starting with the food trucks at the edge of Klyde Warren Park, which is right across the street from the Dallas Museum of Art. Then we’d head over to the museum. After the DMA, we’d visit the Crow Museum of Asian Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center (both in the same area). If we’re not too tired, we’d head to the Dallas World Aquarium. I could watch the otters swim all day. And their sloth is one of the coolest animals ever. You can’t visit Dallas and not have barbecue, so we’d have to go to Deep Ellum to eat at Pecan Lodge (the business used to be located in the Dallas Farmer’s Market — it’s still the same owners in a new location). While we’re there, we’d stop in at Emporium Pies. Every pie I’ve tried there has been amazing. Which is why there’s usually a significant line. Just fifteen minutes down the highway (assuming good traffic) is the Bishop Arts District, where we’d go by one of my favorite chocolate shops, CocoAndre Chocolatier and Horchateria. We’d get an affogato or dirty horchata, and chocolates to take home. Then we’d explore the quirky little shops in the area. We’d wrap up with a low-key day with lunch at Del’s Burgers in Richardson. It doesn’t get more home-style than that burger place. Then we’d pick up everything we need for a pic-nic over at Eatzi’s and then just chill until it was time for Shakespeare in the Park.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to give a shoutout to my husband — who is also my alpha reader, tech guy and biggest cheerleader. When my first book got entered into a cover competition, he actually went to the mall with a poster he made with a QRR code for the contest to get people to vote for my cover. I’m a hybrid author, so some of my work is indie published. In our little publishing venture (Golden Tip Press), Jake does all the formatting and handles creating all the book listings and other headache-inducing technical stuff.
Taken be either me or by Jake Royer.