Amy Spencer is a Los Angeles–based writer, author and journalist. She has written celebrity cover profiles, essays and features for Harper’s Bazaar, New York, InStyle, Parade, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Glamour and others. Prior to writing full-time, she was a launching editor of Maxim magazine in the U.S. and a features editor at Glamour. She has published three books on happiness and optimism: Meeting Your Half-Orange (Running Press, 2010) which Harper’s Bazaar called “the ultimate pep talk”; Bright Side Up (Perigee, 2012), which O, The Oprah Magazine called one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now”; and The Happy Life Checklist (Perigee, 2014). She has done copywriting and branded content for brands including Smashbox, Kate Spade, Mercury, Johnson & Johnson and InStyle magazine. She has ghostwritten and collaborated on books and non-fiction proposals for celebrities and other talent. She previously hosted a live call-in radio show on Sirius satellite radio offering relationship advice on the Maxim channel with co-hosts Anna David and Dr. Yvonne Fulbright, and has appeared on television for NBC, CBS, VH1, Fox and the E! channel among others. She has been quoted in The New York Times and USA Today. She lives in Venice, California.
Your books are all about optimism and happiness. Do you ever get sick of talking about it?
Not yet! I mostly write how I try to live—full of optimism, aiming for happiness. But let me be clear: I have plenty of crying and curl up on the couch with Apple TV days, too! Those are healthy and necessary. But eventually I’ll wind down the pity party and steer myself back to the more constructive feelings that feed me most. I’m basically a walking version of my book Bright Side Up, which is full of personal stories and strategies of how I’ve come to see life more positively, and how anyone can, too. I believe that what matters most in life isn’t what happens to you, but how you see what happens to you—and research backs that up. It’s life-altering stuff.
Do you realize you have the best job in the world interviewing celebrities for a living?
Yes. Yes I do. [Bows head in gratitude.]
So who’s the best person you’ve ever interviewed?
Okay, I mean it when I say that every interview is the best for me, because getting to the heart of people is my happy place. It truly is. I’ve ended up going deep when chatting with my dental hygienist and a store clerk, too. But I know that’s not what you’re really asking, so…I’ll say this: It was a gift talking to legends like Joan Rivers and Carol Burnett, to be able to mine some of their life experiences and humor in the short time I had with them. The interview that may have made me laugh the hardest was sitting down with Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph—so quick, those two, I had tears running down my face by the end. And I always enjoy the conversations that feel emotionally honest, like I felt I had with Ben Affleck, Robert Downey Jr., Goldie Hawn, Amy Schumer and Sam Elliott among many, many, many others. My most unique interview definitely goes to my sit-down with Megan Trainor when she was on vocal rest for upcoming vocal chord surgery and couldn’t actually speak, so she had to answer me by typing on her Mac notes app. Ultimately, my work is different every day, which is the best part about it.
How does your ghostwriting / book collaboration work?
It’s different for every client. Usually, I come into a project from the start and interview someone in person over the course of a few weeks or months, to come up with the best book angle and to get their own words down in the most effective, relatable, can’t-put-down way. Sometimes, a subject writes down their thoughts in advance or along the way and I work with them to edit their ideas into the best book it can be. I love collaborating on books with people, because it’s like taking a vacation from my own mind to join theirs—blending their words and their voice with my experience as an author and editor.
Why do people always call you Amy Spencer instead of just Amy?
I don’t know. But I like it. Which is probably why I introduce myself as Amy Spencer. Which is probably why people call me that.
Wait, you used to have a radio show on Sirius? How did that happen?
A: It happened the way most creative projects do: slowly and over a long period of time. After working as one of the launching editors of Maxim magazine in the U.S., I was asked to appear on the Covino & Rich Show on Sirius radio’s Maxim channel to provide a woman’s point of view on dating. Over the course of two years, my segment grew from 15 minutes to two hours…and a spinoff was born. I love radio and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Ooh, you live in Venice? I love Venice.
Me too! I once heard it called the sixth borough of NYC and I agree—it’s as walkable as New York City but with backyards and a beach. As my husband once said, L.A. gets a bad rap because people come here to chase their dreams…but since when is chasing your dreams a bad thing? I’m a dreams kind of girl.
What are you working on now?
Magazine stories, a memoir, a few feature screenplays and TV pilots with my writing partner. I’ve also been working as a story consultant for a couple of clients—one writing a memoir, another a screenplay.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start writing?
Yes: Do it! Start writing! As you do, I’d encourage two things: Start with the idea that’s in your bones, the one that nudges you before you fall asleep at night, sends you ideas you’re compelled to jot down in your Notes app, and is mostly likely to get you hopping out of bed to write in the morning—whether you’re paid for it or not. And if you get discouraged, remember that you have something precious in your arsenal: you. You get to write from your point of view, about your work experiences, your dating disasters, your family secrets, your opinions, your skills, your voice. You’re the only one who can tell a story your way.
Would you like a drink?
Yes. Thank you.