Author spotlight: Amy Jones

Amy Jones is a novelist, editor, and creative writing instructor and mentor. She is the author of the novels Every Little Piece of Me (McClelland & Stewart, 2019) and We’re All in This Together (McClelland & Stewart, 2016), and the short fiction collection What Boys Like (Biblioasis, 2009). Her third novel, Pebble and Dove, is forthcoming with McClelland & Stewart in 2023. Originally from Halifax, she currently lives in Hamilton, ON with her husband, writer Andrew F. Sullivan, and her rescue dog, Iggy.

WFNS recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Alistair MacLeod Mentorship Program. You were part of the 2005 mentorship cohort. What was that experience like for you?

Honestly, it was the first time anyone took my work seriously, which in turn helped me give myself permission to take my work seriously. It gave me an immense boost of confidence to have my work chosen. I had the amazing good fortune of working with Linda Little, who helped me polish my short stories, which was the only reason I got into my MFA program, which was where I wrote my first book. So I guess you could say it really was the start of my writing career.

The film adaptation of your first novel We’re All in This Together came out last year. How did it feel to see your writing transformed into a movie?

It’s really hard to describe the feeling—it’s like seeing your own thoughts on screen. But at the same time, I could see the filmmaker’s vision as well, sort of superimposed over them, so it became something completely new. I was extremely lucky to work with someone who understood my book and my characters so well, and who took such great care with them. I’m not going to lie—I bawled my eyes out the first time I saw it, just from how overwhelming it was, in the very best way!

Your second novel Every Little Piece of Me examines the potential downsides of life in the public eye. What inspired you to explore this topic in your fiction?

One of the themes I think is kind of ongoing in my work is the idea of identity, and the different layers of it that we veil ourselves in, either consciously or subconsciously—who we think we are, who we pretend to be (and especially who we think we have to be), who others see us as, who we think others see us as, all the different strata to ourselves that we have to dig through to get to the “real” us, if there is such a thing. In ELPOM I was particularly interested in how this intersects with social media, fame, and the public eye in general, especially for women. I’d say the inspiration for this stemmed from my own re-evaluation of how I have interacted with or viewed female celebrities in the past—I feel like there are a lot of us looking back at how we treated women like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan through a more contemporary lens and realizing how wrong we got things.

The addition of a, shall we say, “Lunenburgesque” setting really adds an interesting dynamic to Every Little Piece of Me. Why did you want to bring the novel’s celebrity characters to small-town Nova Scotia?

I knew I wanted the Hart family’s reality show to be in a small town, and Nova Scotia just seemed like the right fit. I’m so intrigued by how kind of “exotic” people in the US and even in the rest of Canada think the Maritimes are, and I wanted to play with that a little—not just the contrast between Manhattan and small-town Nova Scotia, but also the contrast between the characters’ perception of small-town Nova Scotia and how it changes over the course of their time there, how it changes them. Plus, I am not done writing about Nova Scotia by a long shot!

You’re a graduate of the Optional Residence MFA Program at the University of British Columbia. Do you have any advice for other writers considering graduate studies in creative writing?

I have a lot of thoughts on this! I had a good experience with my MFA, but it’s not for everyone. There’s a myriad of ways to become a writer, so really think about what it is you need—maybe it’s just time, or mentorship, or accountability. And for the love of god don’t make the mistake I did and go into massive debt over it! It’s hard enough to make a living as a writer without having to deal with student loans hanging over your head for years.

Hamilton is home for you these days. Do you still consider yourself an Atlantic Canadian writer?

I absolutely do! I think I keep a piece of all the places I’ve lived with me, but I spent the first nearly 30 years of my life in Nova Scotia, and I still spend a lot of time there. It’s the place that shaped me the most, and it will never stop influencing my writing.

I know you still visit family in Nova Scotia from time to time. What’s the first thing you like to do when you get back to St Margarets Bay?

When I’m not in NS, I constantly dream about being out on my dad’s ancient Boston Whaler, heading for Shut-In, searching for porpoises. And, of course, picking up lobster from Ryer’s!

Questions by K.R. Byggdin

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