Q & A with Amy Harmon Author of Where the Lost Wander in our Behind the Pages Group @aharmon_author

We had the pleasure of Amy Harmon joining us in The Behind the Pages Goodreads group for a spoiler free Q & A. We asked her about Where the Lost Wander. “ epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss. I am excited to share some of it with you all today!

Brenda: Hi Amy! Let’s get started right away with the idea for the story. You have a personal connection to the story and the characters. Can you tell us about that?

Amy: My husband and I both enjoy genealogy, and the real John Lowry, the main male character in my story, is his ancestor. We didn’t know much about him beyond the fact that his mother was Pawnee Indian. There was some question about whether his father was Cheyenne, but we know that it was a white man (a man also named John Lowry) who married his Pawnee mother and raised him in Missouri until the young John Lowry headed out west to make a future for himself. According to family history, he was “pale” enough to pass as a white man and because he’d been raised by one, he was able to live in a white man’s world pretty successfully. Little is known beyond bare facts, but it gave me somewhere to start.

Brenda: From the prologue, we know something tragic happens to the family. Why did you decide to start telling the story with that?

Amy: My editor thought maybe I shouldn’t start the novel with that because it might scare some readers away. But I felt very strongly about it. I knew the reader would have to be forewarned, otherwise the violence and the shock would be too much when it did come. I also thought it created some tension throughout the story that otherwise would not have been there. Much of the action in this book is simply the slow travel in a wagon train, so starting with that scene infuses the book with danger that it otherwise would not have had.

Debra: Hi Amy! Thank you so much for joining us!!! I loved Where the Lost Wander and that it was inspired by your husband’s family. Can you tell us what it was like blending fact with fiction?

Amy: Melding fact and fiction–that just requires knowing enough about historical settings and people that you can make a character that could live and blend into the time. I find it fascinating and fun!

Lindsay: Hi Amy! Thanks for being here with us! I adored John and Naomi. Were their characters/personalities inspired by anyone?

Amy: John Lowry was inspired by my husband’s five X’s great grandfather, John Lowry. But his personality was formed from my own study, my own imaginings about a young man like John, with all of his challenges, would have formed and grown.

Naomi was tough in the way all the women in my family–particularly my mom–have been. Resourceful. Good. Smart. Determined. My mom’s maiden name was May, and it was her ancestors that were my family’s first pioneers.

DeAnn: Naomi was my favorite character in the book. What was your inspiration for her?

Amy: I think we look back on women in history as being somewhat subservient, and maybe they were in some ways–different ways that we are, for instance–but I also think they were incredibly strong and resourceful. Naomi May was named after my mother’s ancestry. My mother’s maiden name was May, and her family came across the plains and settled Utah in the late 1840s, early 1850s. Naomi made me think of my mom. Her brilliance, her beauty, her toughness, her commitment to family.

Marilyn: Do you have a vision of how life might proceed for the May and Lowry clan, in the future. The Civil War is coming and there will also be the development of the Buffalo Soldiers, who were used to “control” the Native Americans. You portrayed various groups so well and so fairly in this book, did you look to the future and see how things might go for the Mays/Lowry clan?

Amy: Tragically, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that things got truly terrible for many of the western tribes. I actually have another relative who fought with Custer–he was a French immigrant who joined the army as a way to support himself as a young man in a new country. He was sent home right before the Battle of Little Bighorn for “drunkenness” –perhaps the only time alcoholism has saved someone’s life. But I wonder about the demons that must have haunted him. It was a terrible time. No two ways about it. The native people wanted to retain their lives and their ways, nomadic and untethered. And it was not to be. I look back on it like so many do and just feel sadness and helplessness. It didn’t have to be the way that it was . . . the Native people were treated so unjustly. And yet I can’t see how the way of life they’d enjoyed for a thousand years could have continued. It was untenable. And that is the sadness that permeates all of Native American culture and history.

As far as the second part of your question, I simply looked at how things continued on for the real John Lowry. He made a life for himself in a small settlement and raised a family, who raised a family, and so on. Chief Washakie also managed to retain the lands of his father, and the Shoshoni lands still belong to the Shoshoni people. But as beautiful as those lands are, and as positive an example Chief Washakie was to all people, it is still sad. There is no happy ending because it WAS an ending, and it felt inevitable. It still feels inevitable. I’ve visited the Shoshoni lands in Wyoming, and their is a feeling in the air that I can’t even begin to put words to.

DeAnn: I loved “Where the Lost Wander” and I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters at the end. Have you thought about a sequel at all?

Amy: I don’t write thinking about sequels, actually. Sometimes one will come to me, but usually it is a story that branches off with a new character, for instance one of the May boys might get a story of his own at some point. Wyatt, Webb, or Will. Who knows? Or maybe they all will. I wish I had the time and stamina and mental strength to write all the stories that whisper to me.

Brenda: One of the things I love about reading is learning something from the characters and their actions and I did here with yours in the story. There were a couple of passages I highlighted that really stood out for me.

“Hope feels like the best air you’ve ever breathed after the worst fall you’ve ever taken. It hurts”

“The hardest thing about life is knowing what matters and what doesn’t If nothing matters then there is no point. If everything matters, there’s no purpose. The trick is to find firm ground between the two ways of being”

“Life is just a continual parting of the ways, some more painful than other”

My favourite “The moment you share your emotions with someone, those feeling are no longer yours” I learned something about myself with that.

Where do you feel this insight came from? Was it something from your experience or did your characters guide you with this insight?

Amy: One of the best things about writing, for me, is that truths reveal themselves. I discover what I know, what I believe to be true, when I am writing. These things come out, these words, and I find myself shaking my head and saying, “YES!” Yes, this is true. This is what I know to be true. Those are the little nuggets of wisdom that my characters find and that I find as well. My dad calls them “thoughts wrapped in light.” I think it’s a perfect description.

Lindsay: I’m curious to know if you plan out your novels ahead of time. Or do you simply let the characters and storyline take you wherever they go?

Amy: I plan them in part–meaning I know the history, I know the characters, I know the main struggle, the overriding difficulty, that will plague them.
I also know what it is each character desperately wants (or needs) so that their desire propels them (and me) forward. I don’t outline each chapter or know each twist and turn, but I don’t just start writing blindly either. I’ve usually assembled all my ingredients before I start “cooking.”

Brenda: What would you like your readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like to share with us?

Amy: This time in history is actually looked at with a great amount of derision. We tend to judge people in groups, and depending on who is out of favor in society, their history gets derided or scorned. I think the thing that writing and studying history has revealed to me is that people are just people. Good, bad, selfish, saintly. Painting all history or all people in big strokes of blame or condemnation is unfair and it also robs us of the lessons of history. There is so much to learn and appreciate in historical fiction. It teaches us about ourselves. It helps us ask questions. It helps us forgive and forge ahead on better paths. I would hope that readers will not only be entertained and edified by my stories, but that they will learn about themselves too.

Debra: Are you working on another book currently?

Amy: I just finished a book called THE SONGBOOK OF BENNY LAMENT which will not be released until next year (2021). It’s set in 1960 in NYC in the music scene. I’m excited to reveal more about that one in coming months, but the book is written and currently with my publisher. And I am currently plotting and writing a fantasy (medieval, vikings) which is a spin off from The First Girl Child.

More the Q & A can be found here

Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle @KimberlySBelle @parkrowbooks @HarlequinBooks

Welcome to our spot on the blog tour for Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle. I am excited to share our reviews with you all!

About the Book:

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

Brenda’s review

Yahoo! I am excited to say Kimberly Belle has me back in my groove, and I flew through this one like a wakeboarder hydroplaning through the wake! This is one wild ride, and I felt like I was weaving in and out those waves with those twists and turns. Just when I thought I was heading in one direction when I least expected it, I was heading outside the wake and then back again.

Stranger in the Lake is one chilly atmospheric domestic thriller that had me feeling chilled to the bone on the beautiful sunny day I was tapping my fingers as fast as I could on my Kindle. The magic here is all in the setting for me, and Kimberly Belle sure knows how to set the scene in more ways than one. The chilly lake with its deadly secrets, the small town where everyone knows everyone but their dangerous secrets that the lake holds. The house surrounded in the snow looking over the lake watching everything and knowing what happened to the stranger in the lake was a character in itself. I just want to say Brilliant, I love it!

There are a couple of dark mysteries here with the bodies found in the lake, opening up questions of whodunit, why and who is hiding want secrets from the past. Our main character Charlotte finds one body, and she starts to question her relationship with her husband. I loved Charlotte, she is a likable, strong, relatable character. At times I wanted to mistrust her, but her flawed and vulnerable side to her had me rooting for her. The characters here are exciting, and I questioned each one from start to that exciting final reveal, of course, I didn’t see coming.

Lindsay’s review

A thrilling, atmospheric, suspenseful journey from start to finish!

Charlotte has everything she ever wanted. Paul, her handsome, successful husband. A state of the art mansion on the water. No financial worries. Her current life is millions of miles away from where she came from. A trailer park childhood full of painful memories of hunger, fright and uncertainty, she has made her way out of her troubled past. One morning Charlotte discovers a woman’s dead body floating in the water under their dock, coincidentally the same death Paul’s first wife faced. As the investigation into the dead woman’s body starts, suspicions arise.

This novel is thick with palpable atmosphere, suspense and tension that gripped me immediately and didn’t let up until I read the last page. I was completely consumed by this story. The setting felt like a character in itself which I loved. I adored Charlotte. I felt for her childhood situation. Kimberly Belle, did an outstanding job building up Charlotte’s’ backstory. I felt like I was right there in the trailer park chaos with her.

I loved Dear Wife. It remains my favourite by Kimberly Belle, but this comes in a very close second. I highly recommend!

About the Author:

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links:
Author website: https://www.kimberlybellebooks.com/
Facebook: @KimberlyBelleBooks
Twitter: @KimberlySBelle
Instagram: @kimberlysbelle
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/kimberlybelle

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07WNX6ZZS

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stranger-in-the-lake-kimberly-belle/1133065677

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/stranger-in-the-lake-original/9780778309819?aid=0 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309819 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Stranger-Lake/Kimberly-Belle/9780778309819 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/stranger-in-the-lake 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/stranger-in-the-lake/id1477319023 Google Play: https://books.google.com/books?q=editions%3AISBN0008907390

We received copies from the publisher

Spotlight on Heather Gudenkauf @hgudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf knows how to use suspense to create page turners. She always has me hunger for answers and anticipating the outcome for the characters and the story well creating thought-provoking questions.

I am very excited to have Heather Gudenkauf join us in The Behind the Pages Goodreads group tomorrow June 2, 2020 for a spoiler-free Q & A. You can find the thread here to join or view the Q & A

My review for Little Mercies

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all have our moments. We all have those times when we turn our backs, close our eyes, become unguarded … I know that no matter what happens you’ll get through this. We’ll get through this. You have to look for the little mercies, the small kindnesses and good that come from the terrible.”

Little Mercies is a compelling, beautifully written story that explores a gut-wrenching situations and the emotions that comes with it. The story explores the child welfare system and the vulnerabilities of children from two perspectives, social worker Ellen and 10-year old Jenny.

Heather Gudenkauf skillfully put me in the shoes of our main character, social worker Ellen who has a lot on her plate with family and her caseload of vulnerable children. She shows us another side to the coin and explores the vulnerabilities of a parent here with Ellen.

Heather Gudenkauf gave me a lot to think about here with the story and I thought it was a perfect one for now as she also brings hope with ” the little mercies, the small kindnesses and good from the terrible” Little Mercies makes for a great group read and there are a few things to think about and discuss. I highly recommend it!

This Is How I Lied has a little something different here with the creep level to the story and it’s all in the suspense Heather Gudenkauf creates with the character Nola. She is one odd, dark character with an interesting creepy side to her. She has an exciting, mysterious side to her that created some great tension and suspense to the story that had me turning those pages as fast as I could.

Three Girls, an urban legend, a dark obsession and a chilling crime

Before She Was Found is a chilling, unsettlingly realistic, thought-provoking story that explores some teenage drama here with bullying, popularity, fitting in and approval. It also explores friendship, betrayal and the power of social media and the impact it all can have on family dynamics.

Our main character Amelia is not your typical thriller heroine. She is the woman in trouble and she brings on the some trouble herself that created some suspense for me. She had me bit frustrated at times and I was yelling questions at her in my head. That and her service dog Stitch made this one a fun and entertaining read for me.

Some of Heather Gudenkauf’s books that I read before I reviewed books. I highly recommend all of them

The Weight of Silence

From Goodreads

It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

One Breath Away

From Goodreads

In her most emotionally charged novel to date, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf explores the unspoken events that shape a community, the ties between parents and their children and how the fragile normalcy of our everyday life is so easily shattered.

Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin @LauraHankin @BerkleyPub

I feel the need to spread some love and joy right now and Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin is a perfect one to share some love for! It’s a fun, great distraction to bring some joy and laughter to your day!

Hurray! I am happy, and I want to show it!! Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin was another book from that stack of not my normal that surprised me. Again I find myself feeling like a little kid on the playground wanting to share my joy with everyone or more like wanting to share my joy with friends and a bottle of wine!

There is no shortage of books out there that explore “Mom culture,” wealthy moms and their struggles with keeping their image while raising their little joys or terrors. It can often feel like a playground of drama. Well, Laura Hankin takes this overused storyline and creates a fresh, exciting, and delicious playground for us to emerge ourselves into!

Things do start off feeling like satire; however, there are a few turning points that take this story and characters in a thrilling, delightful and fun direction that took me by surprise. The drama is smart and fun, the suspense had me anticipating the outcome of each of the character’s conflicts and secrets. Some of the characters are likable, and some not so, each with some vulnerability to provoke some emotions. The dialogue between them is fun, entertaining, smart, witty and balanced nicely with some snarkiness. There are some twists and turns that kept me on my toes!

I had some fun with this, and it kept me entertained, and I want to sing about it! With all the sadness going on right now, I just want to find some joy, and I am going to sing! If you are happy and know it and want to show it share it here with me!!

I received a copy from the publisher.

Blog Tour: SISTER DEAR by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Welcome to our stop on the blog tour for Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon. We are excited to share our reviews with you today. Our reviews again reflect the different types of readers we each are and we had some very different thoughts on this one. Sister Dear makes for a great group read and is a fun and exciting one to discuss.

Book Summary:

In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough.

Norma’s Review

Wowzers!! Surprising, thrilling, and a compelling page turner!

SISTER DEAR by HANNAH MARY McKINNON is a dramatic, cleverly layered, twisty, and crafty slow-burn suspenseful psychological thriller that was quite the surprising book to read. The story progresses at a steady pace and the tension subtly increases throughout. There is an unpredictable and pivotal moment in the story that changes the dynamics totally and makes this quite the apprehensive non-stop, exciting read.

Normally I don’t do all that well with slow-burn character study sort of reads but Eleanor’s character totally hooked me in right from the beginning. There were some characteristics to her personality that were so wickedly interesting, emotional, and relatable to me that totally fascinated and immersed me in this storyline. What I especially connected to was how Eleanor perceived her body. I definitely shared some of her body image issues.

HANNAH MARY McKINNON delivers an entertaining, well-written, and absorbing read here that had me immediately questioning each of the sisters characters and what exactly and who exactly I was supposed to pay attention to. For the most part I thought this was extremely unpredictable even though I guessed one aspect to the twist: the end result was totally mind-blowing. I couldn’t read the book fast enough to see how this was all going to play out in the end.

Thank you so much to Edelweiss for my eGalley. This book has one of the best cleverly crafted endings that I have recently read. It is twisty, thrilling and totally took me by surprise! Can we have a sequel please?

Brenda’s review

A secret is revealed that sends our main character grieving Eleanor on a path of deception, revenge motivated by grief jealously and the need for a family connection.

The story starts slow as Hannah Mary McKinnon creates a sinister story and delves into Eleanor’s mind, where we see her thoughts of self-loathing, paranoia, desperation and jealousy. This took on a depressing and sad mood to the story for me, and I didn’t get the emotional response I was looking for.

Hannah Mary McKinnon leaves those twists and reveals till end and the tension rises till that explosives ending that felt exciting. I was tapping my kindle faster than a line of tap dancers.

Some clues and actions by the characters are a little too convenient, and not as convincing as I would have liked them to be. However, that ending took me by surprised and was thrilling and twisted, just like this twisted dark reader likes!

I received a copy on NetGalley for this blog tour

Lindsay’s thoughts

A great start that quickly turned extremely unrealistic.

The first few chapters set up an intriguing storyline that piqued my interest and curiosity. That dwindled away as most of the plot points of the book felt implausible.

Although I wish I could simply read for entertainment and not over-analyze, I am the type of reader who needs a believable storyline and realistic characters. This simply comes down to me not being the right reader for this book.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my review copy!

Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Social Links: Author Website Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon Goodreads

Buy Links: Harlequin  Barnes & Noble Amazon Books-A-Million Powell’s

The Distance from Four Points by Margo Orlando Littell @margolittell @unopress

The Distance from Four Points by Margo Orlando Littell is available May 28, 2020! I highly recommend for readers looking for well developed characters.

After the death of our main character Robin’s husband, she is left in some financial trouble. He leaves her some investment property that takes investing her time and she becomes a reluctant landowner to some rundown rentals. She is forced to return to her home town with her daughter

The story is slow at times and seems like a simple story here, however, there are some darker themes to the story that Margo Orlando Littell handles with a lighter hand while provoking an emotional response from me for the characters. The strength is in the depth to the characters, their growth and the relationship between Robin and her friend from her past Cindy. I enjoyed seeing how they both developed through the story and learned something about themselves from each other. Both characters are convincing with their strength and courage but Cindy stood out for me. She is honest and tough with the way she lays it all out there for Robin showing her that it’s not about a better life but coming to terms with your past.

Now I did questioned one character and how convenient everything came together but sometimes this reader just needs to lighten up and enjoy a good ending.

I received a copy from the publisher on NetGalley