Sunday, March 17, 2024


Set in 1977 ~ Joleigh Moore lives an almost reclusive life on her small farm in Missouri. But when she witnesses the murder of her boyfriend, Mack, she worries the assailants will come after her next.

Planning to hide out until Mack’s killers are caught, Joleigh stows away in a neighbor’s station wagon and lands in a small Minnesota town. Later, she discovers a large amount of cash in her journal and realizes Mack must have hidden his drug money there. Joleigh now has what the men were willing to kill for.

Joleigh takes a summer job and moves into an old run-down cabin in the woods. As she gets to know the townspeople and becomes more and more involved with them, the place she once considered temporary could be her chance for a new beginning. But before Joleigh can have a future, she’ll be forced to deal with her past.

Early reviews:

Beautifully crafted, Closer to Home, is a compelling, fast-paced adventure with a plot that starts off at rocket speed and doesn't let up. Set in the seventies, Jill Hannah Anderson takes the reader back to a simpler time, and I found myself completely lost in the setting and the story, and rooting for the remarkable cast of characters she created.  ~Suzanne Redfearn, #1 Amazon bestselling author of In an Instant

"You'll cheer for this kind, resilient young woman who lives off the land, and a Vietnam Veteran constrained by emotional war wounds, in this story of optimism despite loss as they struggle to find their place in the world. A heartwarming read of what it feels like when you find the place you were meant to be."  Barbara O'NealWSJ and USA Today bestselling author of When We Believe in Mermaids

Closer to Home, an emotionally resonant tale, explores the complexities of relationships and the transformative power of love. If you are looking for a book that combines suspense, heart, and the triumph of the human spirit, this story is a must-read."  ~ Hope Gibbs, Award-winning author

"This is a heartwarming, fast-paced, small-town story of a fiercely independent young woman who not only survives but flourishes through the odds stacked against her." ~ 
 Donna Norman-Carbone, Award-winning author

An interview with myself:

What, or who, inspired this story?

A friend suggested I write about the many people in our rural area who could easily live off the land. I'm in awe of people like that (my husband is one of them) because I wouldn't last a day on my own in the wilderness!

I don't watch much TV but I am drawn to "reality" shows like ALONE that portray these types of resourceful people. So it was an easy decision to create a story about a young woman with these qualities. As with all my books, the story takes place in a small Minnesota town. This story is set in 1977-78, which was a fun era to research and write about. 

Characters often appear out of nowhere for authors. Did that happen for this story?

Yes! I had a rough idea of who the two main characters, Joleigh and Franklin, would be in the story, and that Joleigh would have an elderly adoptive mother and a very temporary boyfriend, but that was it.

Within the first few days of beginning the story, I realized I would have at least one Vietnam Veteran because of the time period. I ended up with three. And one, Moe, was definitely a surprise. He wouldn't get out of my head, and he ended up being one of my favorite characters.

I also resurrected Bits, a young girl in the story. She had initially been in early drafts of CRAZY LITTLE TOWN CALLED LOVE, but she wasn't needed for the plot. She fits perfectly in CLOSER TO HOME. Joleigh needed her, and Bits needed Joleigh.

Also, Ruby, the owner of the cafe, pushed her way into the story. Initially, she was going to be nothing more than the owner of Ruby's Cafe. But she had other plans and I just stood out of her way and let her tell me her story.

What is the message(s) of the story, and what inspired it?

Humans, at our core, simply want to be loved and to belong. It's why we join communities, clubs, etc. and in Joleigh's case, she had a tumultuous childhood until Unity gave her what she craved: love and a sense of belonging.

When Unity passed away, it forced Joleigh to look to her future. It wasn't until her boyfriend's murder (in chapter one) that Joleigh is forced to leave the place where she felt loved and felt like she belonged.

Home isn't always where we think it should be. It isn't always where we're "planted." Sometimes we have to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone to find the place that will help us bloom.

Until I was seven (the age Joleigh was when her parents died) our family moved around a lot because Dad was a pilot in Vietnam. I wanted a permanent home so bad that I remember when we were moving from Florida to Minnesota I cried when I found out we had to leave the hotel we had stayed in. I'd been told we were moving to a permanent home (Dad had just left the Air Force.) In my mind, that first hotel was our new home. I was devastated to get back in the car! Without realizing it, I wrote that same craving for permanence into Joleigh's story. 

How do you choose character names for your stories?

Sometimes the character just appears with a name I can't imagine changing. The young girl in this story, Bits, is an example. Her real name in the story is Elizabeth. I also look at the character's age, and whether I want a common name or make them unique. Joleigh, in this story, got her name from my two daughters' middle names: Jo and Leigh. Franklin's younger brother, David, in this story, was always David, a common name for his age (he would have been born in the late 1950s.)

I try to not repeat names, but in book #5, there's also a David, and he's a main character. It was too late for me to change the name in CLOSER TO HOME because he was cemented as David in my head after writing a couple of drafts. And I couldn't not name the character in book #5 David, because he is based on a real person named David, and I can't imagine calling that character anything else!

What is up next in your writing world?

I'm finishing up the final draft of my fifth(!) book, and honestly, I can't believe it. Sometimes none of this seems real, but if I look back and think of the many, many thousands of hours I've sat at the computer brainstorming (and agonizing, self-doubting, fuming, chocolate-eating, butt-widening, daydreaming, questioning-my-sanity was done during those hours) then I know that yes, I've put the time in for those five books.

Book #5 is loosely linked, via a Vietnam POW bracelet, to CLOSER TO HOME. You'll have to read this book to get a glimpse into how the POW bracelet appears in the story, and just know that said Vietnam Prisoner of War will be found in book #5. 

If you follow me on social media (Facebook and Instagram) then you'll likely have seen my posts about a POW bracelet and its significance.

Wrapping things up... final words?

First off, thank you to my early readers (ARC readers) who have helped generate interest for CLOSER TO HOME (and my earlier books.) Early readers/reviewers are so helpful, and I appreciate their time.

Writing a book is only a sliver of what it takes to be an author today. Writing a book and meeting with book lovers at events are my favorite parts. But in today's world, it takes much more. Marketing is a time-consuming but necessary part of the book world, so let me say how much readers are appreciated when they spread book love. As I tell everyone, reviewing and recommending books helps authors and fellow book lovers!

Also, I made a Spotify playlist (free) of the many songs referenced in CLOSER TO HOME (and a few extras.) Click this link: CLOSER TO HOME playlist

To connect with me:


Monday, January 22, 2024

DAUGHTERS OF GREEN MOUNTAIN GAP, by author TERI M. BROWN (out January 23rd!)

 An Appalachian granny woman. A daughter on a crusade. A granddaughter caught between the two.

Maggie McCoury, a generational healer woman, relies on family traditions, folklore, and beliefs gleaned from a local Cherokee tribe. Her daughter, Carrie Ann, believes her university training holds the answers. As they clash over the use of roots, herbs, and a dash of mountain magic versus the medicine available in the town's apothecary, Josie Mae doesn't know whom to follow. But what happens when neither family traditions nor science can save the ones you love most?

Daughters of Green Mountain Gap weaves a compelling tale of Maggie, Carrie Ann, and Josie Mae, three generations of remarkable North Carolina women living at the turn of the twentieth century, shedding light on racism, fear of change, loss of traditions, and the intricate dynamics within a family. Author Teri M. Brown skillfully navigates the complexities of their lives, revealing that some questions are not as easy to answer as one might think.

Author interview with Teri ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

As a kid, I used to say that I wanted to be an author, but I also wanted to be a brain surgeon and an Olympic ice skater. I think I wanted to be an author because I loved to read. However, when it came time to pick a career path in college, writer was not on the list because my parents didn’t see it as something viable.

I began writing for small businesses in 2000. Although I wanted to try my hand at fiction, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship and to afraid to give it a try. I left that relationship after fourteen long years and began writing, but was still too afraid to let my work be seen.

I met my now husband, Bruce, in 2018, and we went on an adventure of a lifetime during the summer of 2020. We rode 3102 miles across the US on a tandem bicycle. When we finished, I realized I could do anything I wanted to do, and I wanted to be an author. Fourteen months later, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow launched. One year later, An Enemy Like Me launched. And now, one year later, Daughters of Green Mountain Gap is launching!


Is your writing world anything like what you imagined it would be?


Although aspects of my writing world are like I imagined, there is so much more to being an author than I thought. I don’t just get to sit and write. I have to learn the craft. Edit. Choose covers. Write blurbs. Be interviewed. Talk up my books. Market. Keep up with my website. And recently, I’ve added podcast host to my list when I took over Online for Authors. It isn’t what I expected, but I’m loving the whole experience!


What was the original title of this book?


Daughters of Green Mountain Gap has had a multitude of names. I’m terrible at picking out a title. How is an author supposed to distill down a book into three to five words? I saved it in my computer as Maggie, who is one of the main characters, though I never really thought I’d call it that. I considered titles with Granny Woman but decided I didn’t want to fight against the non-fiction things out there about granny women. I considered things with the words healing, healer, mountain woman, hands, rivers, moons, and more. I finally put it to my readers and many liked the idea of Daughters of the Mountain, but that just didn’t seem good enough. Then a reader suggested that many of the mountains have a local name. So, I searched for the names of hills around Burnsville, NC where the book is set and found Green Mountain Gap – and I knew I had found my title!


What inspired this book plot?

Believe it or not, I was inspired by a wart on the pad of my thumb. I was complaining to my brother that my primary care physician wouldn’t remove the wart on my thumb stating that I needed to see a hand specialist. Instead, I went to CVS and got one of those patches. My brother said, “Why didn’t you get someone to talk it off?” I had never heard of such a thing and figured he was pulling my leg. After our phone conversation, I did my normal #researchjunkie thing and looked it up. Amazingly, there are people who claim to have the ability to talk off warts, blow in a person’s mouth to get rid of thrush, talk breech babies into turning the right way, and more. This led me to learning of the Granny Women in the Appalachian Mountains of NC, and Maggie McCroury was born.


What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

 I could easily write a small manuscript on this topic! I have many, many pasttimes I enjoy. In particular, I love going to the beach and collecting shells, especially at sunrise. Other things include playing bridge, bicycling, kayaking, thriftstore shopping, reading, photography, family history, playing with my grandchildren, baking, trying new recipes, playing the piano, eating out with friends, podcasting, and mentoring others.

Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?

I’m a pantser, so I didn’t have it plotted out. However, there is a difficult scene that I didn’t want to write. I really wanted something else to happen. So, I didn’t write for almost two months, willing a new path to open up. During this time, I not only couldn’t come up with a different scene, but I also couldn’t come up with anything at all about the book. I had no idea how to wrap everything up.

I finally wrote the difficult scene and put away my writing for the day. When I woke the next morning, the entire book opened up before my eyes. Not only did I know where to go next, I knew how everything would come together!

If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…

My computer so I could write, several books, and a comfy mattress. I can’t do anything without a good night’s sleep!


How do you market your work? 

I’m still working on the marketing process. When I first published, I didn’t even know I needed to market! I now have a website, a twice-monthly newsletter, social media, and a podcast. Additionally, I have been a guest on several dozen podcasts, held local in-person events, attend book clubs, and set up at outdoor markets.


What are you working on now?


When I was growing up, I loved the book Are You There God It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. One day, I was wondering what happened to Margaret. Instantly, she appeared and began talking to me. She now goes by Peg, she’s recently separated, and she’s going through menopause. My latest manuscript is her story, a humorous look at what women go through in their 50s.


Do you have a favorite character?

I definitely love Maggie, the grandmother in the story. She is well-grounded and understands her healing art. However, I love Carrie Ann fiercely because she needs my love the most. It takes her years – and years – to figure out her why, and she makes all kinds of mistakes while doing so.


What was some unique research you had to do for a book?


I did a lot of research about Cherokee healing traditions. The information I gathered is truly fascinating. I also had to do a lot of research about healing herbs. I had no idea that different parts of the same plant could be used for different remedies, or that plants picked at the wrong season could be harmful. I’m grateful to herbalists who are keeping this information alive and well.


Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a reader. Without you, what I love to do would be for nothing. I love hearing from readers, so feel free to head to my website and send me a note – and definitely sign up for my newsletter! 

To connect with Teri ~

Teri M Brown

Threads: @terimbrown_author

Monday, November 6, 2023


In their attempts to have a child, a husband and wife must contend with personal desires, crossed boundaries, and broken trust as they reimagine what it truly means to be a family.

Nikki and Kyle Sebastian have a loving and healthy marriage. It’s only missing one thing they want—children. When the couple is diagnosed with “unexplained infertility” and endures several failed rounds of IVF, Kyle, for both their sakes, is unwilling to bury them deeper in emotional and financial debt.

Desperate to have a baby, Nikki betrays Kyle’s trust in an attempt to try IVF one more time. The choice fractures their once-stable union. Now burdened with suspicion, resentment, and further grief, their little family is falling apart.

Picking up the pieces of their broken home means reassessing their dreams for the future—dreams that Nikki’s not ready to give up. If she can’t find a way to forge a new path forward with Kyle, she may find herself alone at the end of the family tree she longs to help grow.

Reviews ~

All We Could Still Have is a deeply moving story about having no control over the thing you desire most and discovering a different way of looking at that desire along the way. Diane Barnes masterfully weaves through darkness to discover light and takes the reader on a beautiful journey with a host of compelling characters that feel like they could be any one of us.” —Suzanne Redfearn, #1 Amazon bestselling author of In an Instant

“In All We Could Still Have, Diane Barnes deftly navigates soul-achingly difficult issues and betrayals of the heart with such honesty and care that you just know—at each anticipated turn of the page—her story will leave you with the most redemptive emotion of them all: hope.” —Alli Frank and Asha Youmans, authors of Never Meant to Meet You and Tiny Imperfections

“Diane Barnes is a masterful storyteller, unafraid to lay bare the needs and desires of her characters. All We Could Still Have is the poignant story of one woman’s yearnings that lead her down a path of deceit from which she barely recovers, only for her to be thrust into an agonizing position where all her choices are heartbreaking. Or so they seem. Readers will fall in love with All We Could Still Have from the very first page.” —Barbara Conrey, USA Today bestselling author of Nowhere Near Goodbye

“With wry precision, Diane Barnes tackles what it’s like to be in a good marriage stretched to its very limits by desire, betrayal, and the definition of family. All We Could Still Have begs the question: Does deep struggle always signal a red flag to the end? Or, is it the very foils of being human that turn a good marriage into a great one? I read this book in one night, holding my breath until the very last line.” —Ann Garvin, USA Today bestselling author of I Thought You Said This Would Work

All We Could Still Have by Diane Barnes manages to be both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. An emotional family drama, this story will leave you thinking about the ways we hurt the ones we love most and the power of forgiveness—for others and ourselves. Put this book on your TBR list!” —Alison Hammer, author of Little Pieces of Me

Author interview with Diane ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I started writing in second grade. We came in from recess one day, and there was a trail of big paper footprints through the classroom. The path went under chairs, over desks, and eventually out the window. The teacher gave us a composition book and asked us to write a story about how we think the footprints got there. I filled the book and asked for another. When I went home that afternoon, I still wasn’t done with my story. The teacher gave me a stack of the composition books to take home. I filled them all, and I’ve never really stopped writing since that day.

What are some things you enjoy when not writing?

Like most writers, I love reading, especially on the beach or by a pool. More active things I enjoy are tennis and golf. The thing I enjoy most is spending time with family and friends, just catching up, having drinks or food, or going for walks.

Do you have a particular writing routine?

Write a sentence, check Twitter. Write another sentence, check Facebook. Write another sentence, check email. Just kidding, sort of!  I actually do my best writing in our camp in Maine because there is no cell signal or Internet connection there.

Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?

Yes, based on comments from beta readers, I felt I had to change my ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you read the book and want to know my original ending, email me ( and I’ll tell you what it was. 

Finish this: “I can’t write without…”

A computer! I’ve tried to write in notebooks at the beach or in classes I take, but my handwriting is so bad that even I have trouble reading it sometimes.

If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…

My husband, dog, and chocolate

What career did you think you’d have as an adult? 

When I was young, I dreamed about writing for a soap opera, General Hospital or Days of Our Lives.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

When it comes to playing games, I am wickedly competitive. When my nieces and nephew were young, I would never let them just win, and my brother-in-law always got mad at me.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?

I do. I work as a Marketing Writer for a company in the health care industry. I’m lucky that the job allows me to do what I love: Write.

What was the original title of this book?

My working title was Life, Unplanned. 

Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot?

While I was working on my debut, I was lucky enough to attend a writing workshop taught by Elizabeth Berg. She gave each participant a customized writing prompt. Mine was about a woman who bought sexy lingerie and parades in front of her husband wearing it, but he ignores her. I thought about why that would happen and came up with an idea that the couple had been unable to conceive. When I read the scene, everyone in the workshop was laughing at the beginning. By the end, they were all crying.

That my writing evoked so much emotion gave me a big boost of confidence. I finished my debut and wrote two other novels before going back to that scene and turning it into a novel, All We Could Still Have. During revision, I had to cut that original scene from the book. It killed me to do so.

If I wasn’t an author, I might be…?

I really can’t imagine doing anything other than writing.

Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscript is ready?

Two, my sister Susan and my friend Susan. As I’m writing, I always bounce ideas off my friend Julie, who is also a writer.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)

I had a fun type of challenge with All We Could Still Have. I sent this book to my agent in the late spring. We did a round of revisions and went on submission in early summer. I started working on my next novel and put that book out of my mind. I was on vacation in our camp in Maine that has no cell service or Internet connection. One day I was out in the boat and there are points in the lake where I get an unstable signal, and my agent called to tell me we had an offer, but then I lost the signal. I kept trying to call back but the call kept dropping. By the time I was able to get to a place with a reliable connection and talk to her, we had multiple offers. So, that was really exciting.

What are you working on now?

The working title of my next novel is Mary Mulligan Gets a Do-Over. It’s about a 54-year-old woman who dreams about being young again. She gets her wisdom teeth removed and wakes up from the procedure as a 24-year-old.  She soon realizes that her daughter doesn’t exist in this second version of her life so she wants to get back to her old life.

Do you have a favorite character?

I really love most of the characters in All We Could Still Have, Nikki, Dana, Aunt Izzie, Hank, Sharon, Elizabeth, Casey, and the dog! I have mixed feelings about Kyle. I do think the way Nikki changes throughout the story is really special.

In my novel Mixed Signals, I love Mr. O’Brien, and readers always mention him to me.

Do you have other books you’d like to talk about here? (The research, how you came up with the idea for your story, etc.)

Before I wrote All We Could Still Have, I published a novel named More Than with Red Adept Publishing. The idea for More Than came from a boot camp style exercise class I attended at my local gym. The story is about Peggy Moriarty, an overweight widow whose twin children leave for college. Before they go, they give Peggy a gift certificate for an exercise class at the gym. Peggy reluctantly attends. Though her body doesn’t change much in the class, her attitude toward life does.  It was a really fun book to write, and I’ve heard from so many readers that Peggy’s story has inspired them in their own journeys. So, I’m really proud of that book.

What would your dream job be if you didn’t write books? (assuming this is your dream job!)

Shortstop for the Boston Red Sox or a professional tennis player.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

A rejection is just one person’s opinion. Never give up. To be a writer, you need to keep your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, even when nothing is coming to you.

What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?

The best part is the people I have met along the way. The writing community is so supportive. There’s nothing like it.

Favorite band or music? 

I love country music, Luke Combs and Carly Pearce, especially. I also have an affection for music from the ‘80s.

Place you’d like to travel?

I’d love to visit Italy. It’s where my grandparents are from. Also, I’ve read a few books that take place in Positano, and they make me want to climb through the pages into the setting.

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?

There are so many great books to read; thank you for choosing mine! If you have left a review for any of my novels, I’m sending an extra thanks. 

To connect with Diane ~

Twitter/Instagram: dianebarnes777

Thursday, November 2, 2023

THE WILD BETWEEN US, by author AMY HAGSTROM (out November 7th!)

The rescue of two missing boys in the Sierra Nevada mountains relies on unraveling the mysteries of the past in an addictive novel of heartrending suspense.

After inheriting his uncle’s lodge, Silas Matheson hopes the grandeur of the California Sierra Nevada will be a fresh start for his two young sons, and a chance to finally face his demons. It was here, fifteen years ago, that Silas and his friends Jessica, Danny, and Meg ventured into the mountain wilderness and Jessica vanished without a trace. When his boys go missing in the same dark woods, the fear and guilt that Silas has been running from ever since come crashing back.

Silas’s panicked call brings in the local search-and-rescue unit, and two familiar faces: Danny and Meg. As the frantic search gets underway, the three friends are plunged into a painfully recurring nightmare, each of them thinking, This can’t be happening again.

With a storm brewing and the boys’ fates threatened with every desperate hour, the secrets of the past begin to surface, and this time, for Silas, Danny, and Meg, there’s no escaping the truth.   

Reviews ~

The Wild Between Us shows how a suspense novel should be written. The tension ramps up with every scene, starting with the call out through to the shocking resolution. With the authentic description of the search and rescue mission, and the beautifully realized characters and scenery, Amy Hagstrom has created a story that all readers of suspense will relish, an achievement all the more remarkable given it’s by a debut author.” —Authorlink

The Wild Between Us is an unputdownable novel full of heart-stopping suspense and emotions. I couldn’t read fast enough and was blown away by this stellar debut.” —Lyn Liao Butler, Amazon bestselling author of Someone Else’s Life

“If the tragedy that defined your life threatens to repeat, is it a moment of reckoning or redemption? That question drives this gripping dual-timeline story set in the Sierra Nevada. As rescuers race to find two missing boys, the mission reunites key players in an unsolved disappearance from fifteen years earlier. Packed with secrets, guilt, and regret, I loved every heart-pounding moment with Silas, Meg, and Danny. The Wild Between Us is a phenomenal debut!” —Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son and The Promise Between Us

The Wild Between Us is a taut, engrossing story about searching for lost people and lost love…Part thriller and part tender love story, this novel will find resonance with a wide array of readers.” —Nicole Baart, bestselling author of Everything We Didn’t Say and The Long Way Back

“Revolving between two search and rescue missions fifteen years apart in the Marble Lake wilderness, like two points of gravitational pull, The Wild Between Us explores the depths of guilt, secrets, and the unbearable weight of time in the face of tragedy. This immersive thriller had me riveted from the first page. Do not miss Amy Hagstrom’s exceptional debut!” —Mindy Mejia, bestselling author of Everything You Want Me to Be and To Catch a Storm

Author interview with Amy ~

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing. 

Like so many authors, I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. It has always been the way I made sense of my world and my feelings and place in it, and I have journals going back to 2nd grade. I graduated college with a creative writing degree but went into journalism and then travel writing for over a decade. Fiction always called to me, however, and I always dabbled in it during the busy years of raising my kids and traveling for work.

Do you have a particular writing routine? 

I work full-time remotely as well, so I tend to divide my day into two parts: the morning is for my 'day job' and afternoons are for writing fiction. I tend to block out a couple hours a day when I am drafting, but once I'm in revision or editing mode, I find it most productive to immerse myself more completely until the task is done. When I go into 'editing mode', I can put in 12-hour writing days. It's probably not healthy, but it works for me.

What is something about you that would surprise people? 

Sometimes it surprises people to know I currently live full-time in a little town called Ajijic in Jalisco, Mexico. My wife and I both work remotely, and I have a background in travel writing and have always wanted to live abroad. This part of Mexico is a good fit because it is close to a major airport and easy to get back into the States to see grown kids, and parents, and take care of work obligations. Mexican culture is warm, friendly, welcoming, and beautifully paced, and we feel right at home here.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?) 

So. Many. Challenges! I began the first draft of THE WILD BETWEEN US in 2008. 2008! It was certainly not ready to query at that time, so I workshopped it, and rewrote it several more times before querying it without luck. I put it in the proverbial drawer and went on to write two more novels. One of these felt ready to query, so I dove back into the trenches. I queried almost 100 agents before gaining representation. Then my agent and I went on submission with this and one other novel for two years without luck. I dusted off WILD and gave it another round of edits, and got my first contract three years after getting my agent and 12 years after penning the first draft. 

Where do you get your ideas, or what inspired this book plot? 

Every manuscript I write starts with a sense of place. Before I meet my characters, before I even sketch out a rudimentary plot, I somehow know where I need to be, drawn to a map dot with what feels like magnetic pull. Once I know the ‘where’, the what, who, when, and why tend to trail reliably after. For THE WILD BETWEEN US in particular, I knew I wanted to pay homage to the place I grew up, the Sierra Nevada mountains of Northern California. This place is in my bones, and when I began drafting this novel, I was missing it terribly. It was cathartic to write about these mountains at that time. The plot was inspired by an experience I had as a teenager, when a friend decided to play an ill-advised prank of another friend in the woods. Everything ended up just fine, but later I wondered: what if it hadn't?

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences? 

Yes, quite a bit of it, in fact. In addition to being intimately familiar with the setting of the book, I was also very familiar with Search and Rescue operations. I went back to school for my EMT license when my children were very small, and worked for my county's Search and Rescue organization afterward. I didn't know at the time that my experiences there would inform my writing, but I tapped back into that time as I began to draft my debut. I think the process of learning all the protocols of SAR and being a 'ground pounder' during those years when I had small children at home impacted me greatly. I participated in searches for kids during that time, and I volunteered as a speaker in elementary schools, teaching kids what to do if they got lost in the wilderness.

Finish this sentence: “If I could write about anything, it would be…?” 

As a part of the LGBTQ writing community, I feel strongly about writing queer characters and centering them in my books. I have written two novels with gay protagonists, one of which landed me my agent, but as to date, we have not been able to sell these novels. It is definitely my dream to do so.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? 

I mean, we've all heard this before, but stick with it. You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, and all that. Persistence is sometimes the only thing in a writer's favor! I must have heard 'it's just not right for our list at this time' more times than I can count, on three different novels! There are so many factors out of the writer's control, and while you are waiting to find that agent or land that deal, just keep writing.

What are you working on now? 

I am excited to say that I have signed the contract for my second novel, currently titled SMOKE SEASON. Set during wildfire season in rural Oregon about two women dealing with secrets riskier than the currently raging fire, SMOKE SEASON is close to my heart as a 20-year resident of Southern Oregon. It is scheduled to publish in late 2024.

To connect with Amy ~


Instagram: @amyhagstromwrites