A Must-Read Interview with Debut YA Novelist, Amy Earls

Here at Write2Ignite, we’re thrilled to share that one of our newest bloggers, Amy Earls, is launching her debut YA novel, The King’s Feather: Book I of the Under His Wings series, on June 30! 

In this Q & A interview with Write2Ignite Team member Debbie DeCiantis,  Amy discusses writing process, purpose, favorite authors, and publication options. Take it away Debbie and Amy!

Behind the Scenes

Q: What experiences led to your decision to write for a YA audience? How do you envision your reader? 

A: As a dreamer and highly imaginative teen, I always had a story or a lesson from God that burned within me to share with others. When I was eighteen, God told me that I’d effect many teen girls and women in my lifetime, and that I would be given a message to share with them. Many years later, God directed me to stay home with my kids and led me to start writing a novel. Since I was a huge fan of YA and a leader in my youth group, starting a YA novel became the most natural decision.

I write with one teen beta reader in mind who told me that my book type was needed and that she believed it would change many teen girls’ lives.

Q: What challenges do writers face in creating stories that appeal to YA readers?

A: I don’t think that creating a story that is appealing to YA readers is the challenge. It’s more creating a story that will be both entertaining and enjoyable and also challenge teens to grow in their faith. Yes, there is a pattern or plot that YA readers enjoy the most, and I did follow that formula to ensure it matched what YA fans seek when we pick up a new series. But I wanted to include a faith aspect that isn’t commonly found in YA. I wanted the story of God being the hero to be implemented naturally and with intrigue.

Q: How long have you worked on Under His Wings series?

A: From idea to publication, I’ve worked on The King’s Feather for four years. Between that time, I wrote the book twice, deleted thousands of words, finished Book 2 in the Under His Wings series, Forbidden Reign, and started Book 3Meadow’s Curse. I also worked on editing and honing my writing craft while working on the marketing side of being an author. I actually enjoy marketing because it combines my love for connecting with people and sharing what I’m passionate about.

Q: What process do you use in constructing your novel’s plot?

A: I started as a pantser writing whatever ideas came to mind. It was fun but also made the revision process a big mess to sort through. I now outline thoroughly by plotting scenes within a three-act structure. One resource that helped me tremendously is Ginny Yttrup’s Your Novel Map. Ginny guides for each pit stop to structure a novel visually using a free software called Trello. It’s cool to “see” my novel as I’m plotting.

Q: The King’s Feather combines fantasy and an alternate/parallel world with questions about family issues and this world. What advantages do you see in this pairing?

A: I’ve always been intrigued by what’s behind “Narnia closets.” Meaning, what’s beyond what I can see? And more specifically, how can I be a part of God’s big story? In a fun and adventurous way, fantasy and parallel universes are types of allegories for how the Lord pulls us out of our comfort zones to work on our hearts, the root of our issues. Where God calls us isn’t easy, but a God-as-hero journey points to the need for Jesus, rather than our own hero journey that points to ourselves. Jesus said we will have trouble but that He overcame the world (John 16:33). Fantasy can illustrate this beautifully. God doesn’t promise He’ll take us to Narnia lands as an escape from reality; He promises to fight our battles. And accepting His invitation on that “world-jumping” journey will always result in freedom in our lives. Jesus is the ultimate heart healer.

Amy’s Favorites

Q: What YA classic and contemporary works/writers make your “Top Ten” list? What draws you to these?

A: I love any YA that has something to do with girls in ballgowns. J “Princess dystopian” is what I call it. For example, anything by Kiera CassAlly Condie, and Amy Ewing. For Christian princess YA, I LOVE Hannah Currie’s Daughters of Peverell series and Lisa T. Bergren’s River of Time series. Nadine Brandes was a big inspiration for my own Under His Wings series with her Out of Time series because that was the first (and only) I’d read where God’s voice was a huge part of the books and what dictated the character’s choices.

Does Chronicles of Narnia count as YA? My favorite from the series is The Magician’s Nephew.

Q: Do you use test readers from the YA age group to gauge the effectiveness of plot, characters, and dialogue?

A: Love my beta readers! Bless their hearts, they actually liked my first drafts. At one point, I had thirteen teen beta readers test my book, and they all liked it and had great ideas. My biggest teen fans have been bloggers from Goodreads. They’ve been patiently waiting for a couple years for me to decide to self-publish, and they’re still waiting for Book 2, Forbidden Reign, which will be out in January of 2024.

Publishing Choices

Q: What publication options did you consider for Under His Wings series? What factors led to your publishing choice?

A: Oh, did I pitch! I thought for sure I would only go the traditional route. I’m not shy when it comes to making connections with literary agents and editors, and I started pitching during the pandemic. I am friends with many agents and editors now, and while the majority liked my writing, proposal, and story and presented it to publishing boards, it always came down to one thing: Christian YA doesn’t sell. However, that’s not what I was seeing in the indie publishing world. I did receive offers from a couple of small companies, but after much prayer and weighing decisions, I realized that self-publishing was a great fit with my love for marketing and my readiness to get the Under His Wings series out into the world. I’ve had a few bumps along the way, and I sometimes wish I had a team to help me, but overall, it’s been a good experience to self-publish. Based on where the Christian publishing industry currently is with YA and where they seem to be heading overall, I believe I made the right choice. If you’re interested in knowing more about self-publishing, I’ll address it more in a Write2Ignite post on August 7, 2023.

Q: What advice would you offer to (particularly beginning and YA) writers?

A: Pray! Some steps are wise to take towards publication, such as networking or growing your following (highly recommend offering a free story through BookFunnel). The ultimate guide you’ll want is the Holy Spirit. Pray for your audience, followers, and writing. Pray that God brings you a strong critique group and a writing community to learn from, such as Write2Ignite. Pray that He will clearly direct your path. And take one step as a time. It will feel overwhelming, and there’s a lot to learn. But you are doing the work. There’s no special arrival. If you feel called to write and share your writing, then your ministry starts as soon as you write your first sentence and as soon as you send out that first newsletter. You’re doing it! You are an author. 

Q: How would you describe your hopes for readers following Pero’s journey?

A: The Hebrew word, Koach, means “strength”. As you follow Pero’s journey, I hope you remember that Jesus will help you rest, He will win your battles, and He will give you strength. And for you girl-reader romantics out there, you get to meet good-looking guy characters along the way.  🙂

Under His Wings series, contemporary fiction inspired by biblical accounts of Rahab and the conquest of Jericho, opens with a prequel, Behind Walls. The King’s Feather can be pre-ordered now; its official launch date is June 30. Books II and III will follow.

Amy Earls writes YA fiction that explores intersections between life issues and faith. A professor of first-year college students, she holds a master’s degree in education for adult learners, with an emphasis on writing. Amy lives in Oregon with her husband and daughters. 

Learn more about Amy, her virtual letters, podcast, and free offers at https://linktr.ee/authoramyearls and https://amyearls.com/behind-walls/

Contemporary issues, universal experiences, imaginative reflections, and timeless personal questions merge with fantasy in this fascinating adventure.– Debbie DeCiantis


Leave a comment on this post by June 26th for one chance to win a copy of THE KING’S FEATHERS. Next week a young adult reader is reviewing this book and you’ll have another chance to leave a comment and win it.

16 thoughts on “A Must-Read Interview with Debut YA Novelist, Amy Earls

    1. Thank you for your comment, Catherine. I’ll add your name to the giveaway list.

  1. Amy, I’m trying to write mid grade. Your explanation of going from pantster to planner encourages me to look more closely into planning my novel. I’m looking forward to reading your series.

  2. I love writing outlines! In fact, sometimes I am so satisfied with the outline, that I don’t write the book. Do you ever struggle with straying from your outline, and what do you do if that happens?

    1. Thanks for the question! When I stray from my outline (and it does happen), I adjust to fit it most of the time because sometimes I find that the best ideas come in the writing moment. The wanderings can be the “aha” scenes that add another great layer to the plot.

  3. I love outlining, too! People think I’m nuts when I say that. But I’ve learned that if wandering wants to happen, then maybe I need to update my outline. It’s a push-and-pull thing.

What Do You Think?