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  • Holly Brunnbauer

Behind the scenes with Amy Hutton

SIT, STAY, LOVE by Amy Hutton


Behind the scenes with Amy Hutton - author of SIT, STAY, LOVE

Do you love rom-coms? What about dogs in rom-coms? If you answered yes (and why wouldn't you?), then read SIT, STAY, LOVE by Australian author, Amy Hutton.


Let's go behind the scenes to find out how this novel came to be.


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SIT, STAY, LOVE by Amy Hutton

SIT, STAY, LOVE

An uplifting rom-com about a woman torn between managing a chaotic pet shelter, her mother’s expectations, and the two sexy men nipping at her heels.


 

STORY IDEA



What came first – character or plot?


None of the above!


It was the opening scene that came first. It just downloaded into my brain, and I quickly got it out onto my computer. I wasn’t planning on writing a love-triangle, or a rom-com based in a pet shelter, or a friends-to-lovers story, mainly because I’m not much of a planner. But once that opening scene of Sera under a house rescuing kittens formed itself into something interesting, then the story couldn’t, or wouldn’t be ignored.


I was working on another story at the time (still unfinished) and I had to stop that and write SIT, STAY, LOVE because once that scene with Sera sparked to life, the rest of the book quickly followed.


Then it was the characters that led me through the story. As they developed, and their relationships developed, the story went with them. About half-way through, I stopped and wrote a quick and very rough synopsis for myself, so that I could have some clue about where we were all off to together, but really it was Sera, Toby and Ethan driving the bus.


FAVOURITES



What's your favourite scene?


Favourite scene is easy — and it’s not spoilery. It’s Ethan’s first dog walk with the Bull Mastiff. It’s a rollicking, action-filled, laugh-out-loud scene, and it gives a good clue to who Ethan really is under all his movie star gloss.


As for character. I love them all. Don’t make me choose! They’re genuine, good people trying their best. When I discovered I was writing a love-triangle, I wanted to make sure that both the men were solid choices, because Sera isn’t stupid and I didn’t want her falling for someone who wasn’t as caring a human as she is. So both the men are nice men who genuinely want the best for her and her future and each just hopes she realises that the future is with him. So I love basically them all.


But if you asked me today who I’m most in love with, right now it’s Ethan James.


FUN FACT



Share a fun fact about your novel.


Two of the animal characters are based on my pets. Buffy is my actual dog, and Harry was my dog before her. They were both rescue dogs. I got Harry from a local rescue when he was three. I had him for thirteen years. He was a rough-coat Jack (who also had terrible breath as Ethan later discovers about book Harry.)


Buffy is a Staffy-cross. She’s actually brindle and white, not brown like the Staffy on the cover, but other than that, Buffy is the dog in the book. I got her by accident. My mum wanted to visit the dog named Skye that she’d sponsored at the local shelter, and I went with mum, and took Skye home. I renamed her Buffy (the Slayer of Hearts.) She demands to be patted at all times, will not hear no to her love and has had the most ridiculous vet visits ever. Not for eating daffodils like book Buffy, but if I told you she was so emotional she has a nervous disorder that makes her faint sometimes, would you believe me? Well, you should because it’s true. Not from fear, from pure excitement and happiness. That’s Buff. All emotion. And I call her Stink, just like Toby does.


DRAFTING & EDITING



Describe your first draft process.


I’m going with fast and clean. I write pretty fast. I have the luxury of writing full-time right now, so I write most days and for a good part of the day. I also clean-up as I go. The first full manuscript I ever wrote (a yet-to-be published paranormal rom-com which won Best Light Paranormal in the Romance Writers of America awards in 2022) was a first draft mess. I had done quite a few craft courses that said just get the first draft out, don’t edit as you go. So I just got it out, and it was a nightmare to re-tool into something worthwhile. I could barely remember what I had written further up because I hadn’t gone back and read any of it during the writing process.


One of the secondary characters changed names half-way through. I was like, who the hell is this guy? OMG it’s that guy! I had loads of notes in a book, in my phone, on stick-its on the wall about things I thought of while I was drafting and thought I shouldn’t stop to add in, because I was supposed to be just getting it out. Ugh. Never again.


First big lesson I learnt was to write how works for you. Just getting it out does not work for me. Now I will usually review what I wrote the day before, before cracking into the day’s writing, that gives me a fresh start every day and it also allows me to make any small changes to anything that I’d spewed onto the page the day before or add in any notes that came to me while not sleeping in the middle of the night. It also keeps me familiar with what I’m writing and it keeps it fresh in my mind.


My first drafts are now usually in a half decent spot that just need more emotional layering and character work to deepen the story. SIT, STAY, LOVE barely changed from first draft to what ended up being the book. The edits were mostly craft stuff and cleaning up copy and overused words etc., but there were no structural changes from the first draft onwards.

I edit and clean up as I go, go back and revisit things that I suddenly realise are no-longer working and fix them before moving on. I constantly need to keep myself familiar with what is happening in the story. Because I don’t really plot, I pretty much pants.


What didn’t make it into the published version?


In this book, nothing was cut, and no darlings were killed. My publisher didn’t do a structural edit, we went straight into the copy edit.


I’m sure there were scenes that I cut on the way when I was going from draft one to three which is where it landed for submission—though three was more just a polish edit—but I wasn’t very neat about that cut stuff when I was writing this one.


Now I keep everything labelled clearly so I know what it was and where it once went, just in case I need it again.


There were probably some inconsequential scenes or conversations that I dropped because they didn’t move the story forward, and definitely some name changes, because a couple sounded too much alike, but yeah, no darlings killed in this one.


WRITING ROUTINE



Describe your routine while you were writing this story.


As I mentioned earlier, I’m in the lucky position that, for the moment at least, I can do this full-time. I actually quit my full-time job as a TV producer and sold my beachside unit to finance my writing before moving back into the family home. So I was all in from the get-go and I’ve taken it incredibly seriously since that leap. I treat it as my job.


I write 5-6 days a week and write solidly for at least four hours a day, maybe six. If I’m slamming a deadline, probably more. (Definitely more. Way too much.) I try to have a day off, but that’s often taken up with other stuff like social media planning, building graphics in Canva, that kind of thing. Or I might end up writing for a bit because something is in my head and I want to get it out.


Most days I usually start after Buffy’s been walked, between 9-10am and then I write to around 4pm—sometimes longer—but I average around that time.


Some days I might stop, have dinner and then go back to it if I’m on a deadline or in the groove and having fun. I could count on one hand the days I’ve gone, blergh, I don’t feel like this today. So I’m lucky like that.


For the most part, I love it. Though I’ll admit when I’m at the end of a manuscript, just before delivery, I’m insanely happy to see the back of it. I think that’s more because the last bits for me are the cleaning up and polishing and making sure it’s not awash with spelling errors and missing words and listening to it over and over until I’m exhausted. I always listen to my manuscript through Word because that AI lady picks up mistakes I’m still missing after five read throughs. Then when it comes back to me for the first round of edits, I read it again with fresh eyes and get super excited, and then I’m off having fun playing with my characters again.


PUBLICATION JOURNEY



How did this book come to be published?


I pitched SIT, STAY, LOVE to Cassandra DiBello of Simon & Schuster at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle, August 2022. To be honest, I thought I screwed it up. I was incredibly nervous, which I’m not usually. I mean I am, but in a good way, not in a messy way.


I actually love pitching. How I look at it is that you have a captive audience to talk about the thing you’re most passionate about and they really want to love it. They really do! They want you to have the next great book, they want you to get them excited, they are actually rooting for you. So that’s how I go into it, and I did with this one, but for some reason about a third of the way through I suddenly got super nervous. I got the flop sweats—which of course I had to tell Cass about. Sigh. Then I lost my place in my cards. First time ever I took flip cards! I walked out thinking, well she was lovely, and I was absolute rubbish. So imagine my surprise when about a week later I got an email asking for the full manuscript.


A couple of months after that I received another email from Cass saying that she loved it and was sharing it with her team and asking me if I could share with her any other ideas I had. SCRAMBLE TIME!


Thankfully I keep a folder on my computer with said ideas—some just a one-line pitch, some a synopsis, some a first page. So I put a document together and sent it off and a couple of weeks later, I got the phone call with the offer.


At the exact moment of the actual offer, Buffy went crazy barking at the window, then decided she had to sit on my lap. She’s 22kg. So I’m making life choices while my dog is all over me, which sounds just about right.


That was the end of November 2022, and the book was on the shelves at the beginning of August 2023. It was a whirlwind! Then, before the release of SIT, STAY, LOVE, they asked me once again for any ideas I had, and after some discussions, they signed me for two more books.


FUTURE



What's next?


Next up for me is LOVE FROM SCRATCH. That will be out on June 5. It’s up everywhere for pre-order now. I’m just in the process of finalising the proofread edit for that one, then it goes to final pages. The ARC is already produced.


I’m super excited about this book. I’m really happy with it. Reading it back when we were doing the copy edit I was like, oh, I really like this! I mean, thank goodness, right?


Here’s a bit of a blurb:


Opposites attract in this laugh-out-loud rom-com about a heart-throb actor, the grumpy woman who minds his beloved dog, and the cat that steals his heart.


Then my next one is due for delivery in April [title redacted]. I haven’t been given a publishing date for that yet other than 2025.


BOOK RECOMMENDATION



Share a rom-com recommendation by an Australian author.


I’m going to go share three recommendations.


I’ll start with Amy Andrews’ NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. It’s the first book in her Credence Colorado series and my fave. I love it. I also love BREAKING ALL THE RULES which was her latest book in the series. They’re sexy and very funny.


Jodi McAlister’s Marry Me, Juliet series—HERE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, CAN I STEAL YOU FOR A SECOND and NOT HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS—is fantastic. A must-read.


And finally, THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne. It’s one I randomly re-read whenever I need a mood boost because I love Joshua Templeman with all my heart.


 

Australian Author, Amy Hutton

AMY HUTTON

@amyhuttonauthor


Amy Hutton is a writer of contemporary romantic comedies from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

She is a Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of NZ Award Winner and the 2023 runner-up in the Romance Writers of Australia Emerald Award. Her stories are always funny, sweet and adorable, and a little bit steamy. They’ll make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.


Amy’s debut rom-com SIT, STAY, LOVE was released in August 2023. LOVE FROM SCRATCH will be released June 5 2024. Both through Simon & Schuster Australia.


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