Amy Jarecki studied for her MBA from Heriot-Watt via distance learning, and soon began writing Scottish historical romance novels. We caught up with her to find out more about her career.
Who are you and where do you come from?
The first thing that came to mind was a snarky remark: I’m Zoretta from the planet Zoton. Hello earthlings!
Ahem. Forgive me. I am Amy Jarecki, and I’m an author. When I studied at Heriot-Watt, I was Amy Guy. I was born in California, grew up in Washington State, lived in Australia for ten years, and then added Colorado, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and now Utah to my list of “came froms.” I live in St. George on the Utah/Arizona/Nevada border, and I’m a short, jaunty two-hour drive from Las Vegas.
What inspired you to do your course and study at HW?
I earned an MBA from Heriot-Watt’s distance learning programme. My undergrad was in accounting which I found rather dull, and wanted to be in charge. But I had a one-year-old daughter, and needed coursework I could study on my own time. Heriot-Watt advertised in the National Accountant Magazine in Australia, and after I contacted them, I knew it was the perfect MBA course for me.
What was your time here like?
I suppose I’m a bit different because I studied by distance learning. I enjoyed working through the modules at my own pace. I studied during my lunch hour, and whenever my daughter was sleeping. I took the course “part time” which on average should have taken four years, but I completed it in three while working full time and being a mother.
In Australia I sat my exams at the New South Wales Board of Studies. When I moved back to the U.S. halfway through the course, I sat my exams at the University of Washington.
I was thrilled to my toes to go to Scotland for graduation and walk with my classmates in 1996. Professor Lumsden made it quite a special occasion with a cocktail party the night before on campus. The ceremony was at the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall on Mound Place. Scotland holds a tender place in my heart. My maiden name is Trotter, and my ancestor was Johan Trot who signed the Ragman Roll. Americans all identify with their ethnic pasts—something not seen as much in other cultures. But in the U.S., most of us come from someplace else, and we are as fiercely loyal to our heritage as we are to our own country.
I was able to spend time traveling through Scotland on that visit, and was thoroughly enthralled with the rich history and friendly people.
What have you done since graduating – what are the highlights?
After graduating, I was promoted to CFO of the small company I worked for at the time. I took the leap to a big corporation (Ball) in 1998, and became their only female plant manager in a plastic bottle manufacturing plant. They transferred me across the country until I hit New Jersey, and managed an 850,000 square foot facility producing 5 million bottles a day. When Ball decided to sell the Plastics Division, I joined Bway in Utah for a couple years.
But my love had always been writing. After graduating from Heriot-Watt, I wrote a couple of novels in my free time, which are now in shallow graves (yep, they were really bad). I hung up my quill when life got too busy with raising my daughter and working ungodly hours. But when I moved to Utah, I had an epiphany at the Parowan Gap petroglyphs. I wrote a book, now titled Boy Man Chief, which won the Utah League of Writers Award for Best Manuscript and the Spark Book Award. It was published, and not long after, I left manufacturing and haven’t looked back. After dallying with a couple contemporary romance novels, I tried my hand at Scottish historical romance, and discovered my niche.
Thus far I’ve written ten Scottish historical romances (not all out yet), and in November, my novel Captured by the Pirate Laird hit #24 on Amazon’s (US) bestseller list. All of my books have spent time as #1 on their genre list, but hitting #24 and rubbing elbows with Diana Gabaldon and Nora Roberts was a personal best for me. In December my novel, A Highland Knight’s Desire won a contract with Amazon Publishing, and will be released in April 2015. I’m super excited about that.
What does the future hold?
I’m looking forward to three more new releases this year. In January I started writing a four-book time-travel series entitled Guardian of Scotland about William Wallace. I’m almost finished with the first draft of book one (Rise of a Legend). I am ultra-psyched about this new series, which hopefully will come out in 2016. It has taken a ton of research, and provided new angles from which I haven’t written before.
I also have travel planned. Since graduation, I have been back to Scotland twice, and am returning for another research trip in June. I’d love to meet up with Heriot-Watt alumni or students! You can contact me through my website: http://www.amyjarecki.com
What advice do you have for future graduates hoping to follow in your footsteps?
The interesting thing about having a successful writing career is that you need business savvy. My MBA has helped immensely analyzing trends to find my niche. Writing fiction successfully is very much an entrepreneurial endeavor.
To all those studying to be business managers or entrepreneurs, know how to analyze everything. Slicing and dicing data statistically is the most important thing you can do. Know your competition and where their strengths and weaknesses lie…then you’ll find your niche.
Finally, develop an impeccable work ethic, be tenacious and persevere. Losing is not an option. Success is not measured by your net worth, but by how richly you live your lives.
You can find out more about Amy by visiting her website at www.amyjarecki.com.