Author Interview: Anna-Marie O’Brien

How long have you been writing for?

I’ve been keeping diaries for years and have written for my college degrees and for my many abandoned blogs, and of course, my job – but writing just for myself? About seven years or so.

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

Staying committed to it over the long haul and keeping motivated.

What genre do you generally write?

I’m definitely a memoirist at heart. I have a fiction project knocking around in my head, but these memoirs need to come first.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

So many writers have had a profound impact on me. Everything from Stephen King to Marion Zimmer Bradley to Anne Rice to Chuck Klosterman and Cheryl Strayed and many, many more. I am the sum of all the writers I’ve ever read.

What is your book called and how did you choose this title?

Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian. For a while I just considered it my working title until I came up with something better, but I just couldn’t. Everything else seemed to coy and clever. This title is exactly what it says it is. Simple and straightforward.


In 1990, Anna-Marie left her disappointing Midwestern childhood behind and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 18 to pursue her heavy metal dreams on the Sunset Strip. Bands like Mötley Crüe, Megadeth, and Guns N’ Roses were at the height of their popularity, and she landed right in the middle of the heavy-metal music scene. Welcomed by sunshine and possibilities, her California adventure began the very first day she arrived in magical Laurel Canyon. Soon, she was working in the music industry, and then for Metal Blade Records. Working with her favorite bands and witnessing music history was a dream come true. But – things were not all as they seemed. Grunge music had arrived from Seattle, and it was taking over the metal scene. Los Angeles turned into a dark force, forcing her to make tough choices in order to survive. This is a story of big magic, following your heart, and starting over. Anna-Marie is a real-life librarian, and a lifelong fan of heavy metal and rock music. This is Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian.

Has your book been published and how did you go about this?

My book is being released in mid-September on Amazon, and I’m self publishing. I started out thinking I wanted to go traditional, but after I queried a dozen agents I decided to skip the gatekeepers. I didn’t have the heart to beg people for validation. Pick me! Pick me! I’m a grown woman, for goodness’ sake. Maybe after I’ve honed my chops a bit I’ll try trad publishing again. Or maybe not. Plus, now I’ve learned how to publish my own book.

Approximately how long did it take you to finish your book?

About five full years. I dickered around for two, then hunkered down for five. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the middle of the writing, so that slowed me down a bit – but I got it done. I am OK now, and the book is finished.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

The only way to fail at writing the book is to quit writing the book. Keep going. Work on it a little every day to keep your head in the game.

Do you use social media to promote your book? If yes, then which social networks do you like the most?

I have a web page, and a Facebook page that gets some action, but my favorite channel is Instagram. It’s allowed me to document my progress and process and connect with people.

What other ways do you market your book/s?

I plan on doing a few strategic ads, and I’ve got a small campaign planned for local media here in Arizona. I’ve got a marketing budget, but it’s not big.

Have you enrolled your book onto Amazon’s KDP Select and how have you found it?

I have not, and I’m not going to for this book. Maybe as I build a backlist, the KDP will be a good tool to promote with, but for this particular project, I’m not convinced it’s a good fit for me.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Actually, not much. Everything unfolded exactly as it should have, and it was quite magical. Maybe leave myself a bit more time on the editing and production? That took much longer than I thought. But otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing.

What books do you like to read in your spare time?

Usually non-fiction, true crime, history. Honestly, I couldn’t read many books as I was writing this one. It really seemed to slow me down and clog the channel. I’ve got some catching up to do before I start the next book in earnest.

What do you feel is the most important stage of writing a book?

Finishing the first draft. The first ugly, awful draft. Get it done!

How did you go about designing the cover for your book?

I happen to work with a very talented graphic designer, and she was willing to do a little free-lancing for me. I sent her some general ideas and a few chapters of my book. She came up with a few amazing designs, and my kids made the final selection for me. “Mom, this one is SO YOU!”

Are you writing or considering writing a follow-up to your book?

Oh yes, definitley. The next book is a continuation of this one as I move into my career and real life. It’s called “Library Confidential” and dishes all the dirt on what it’s like being a public librarian with a rebellious, rock n’ roll heart.

Do you have a day job (if so, what do you do?) or do you write full-time?

Yes, I have a day job as a public librarian! For 15 years now. It’s a fantastic, frustrating career. I can’t wait to leave librarianship in a few years so that I can write full-time. I have a little coaching business on the side as well – I help writers get unstuck in their writing. I’m also a mom to two great kids, and have been married for 26 years.

Anything else you’d like to include?

Writing a book is hard, but the sweet relief at actually finishing a book? Totally worth the effort, anxiety, and frustration. There is no one “right” way to do it. No one hands you a map. I work in a library, and every book on those shelves started out as someone’s dream, an idea, an urge. It’s a learning process and an act of faith. But it’s totally doable. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Just keep writing, and you can sort it all out after the first draft.

Check out Anna-Marie’s book, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian