Jen: Today we welcome Amber Hart to Romancing the Book. Amber, will you share a short bio with us?
Amber: Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastlinewith family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be foundwriting, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of several novels for teens and adults, including Wicked Charm and the Before & After series for teens, and the Untamed series for adults.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Amber: A girl named Willow Bell moves into an old house at the edge of the Georgia swamp and runs into the brooding guy next door, Beau, who may or may not be a liar. But when girls from their high school start showing up dead in the bog, Willow and Beau must search for the killer, unless the killer is closer then anyone realizes.
I spent half of my time growing up in Georgia, and the other half in Florida, where there was no shortage of swampy waters and gators and southern charm. I spent most of that time reading thrillers and imagining the things that could go wrong in such an eerie setting. I drew on this to create the background scenery, then threw in a boy who likes to talk in riddles, a curious girl, and a string of shadowy murders.
Excerpt from Wicked Charm:
The walk is littered with stones and broken twigs. Leaves rustle like crackly paper. The wind brushes my skin so lightly that it’s almost a sigh. And then, only a few minutes later, I see the thing Beau wants me to see, sitting in the middle of it all.
“What is this?” I ask.
I bound over to it. Tree roots pop up from the ground like veiny scars intersecting a path. The crazy boy has made a platform for us out of wood, with four stilt legs beneath it digging into the ground. The wood is pine and smells like it, too. I run a finger along the edge, feeling where he smoothed it. It’s newly made, I can tell by the flakes that pepper the forest floor like pencil shavings and the rich wood smell. Atop the platform are another four posts with a fifth in the center, and draped over that is a canopy of white fabric. It sways in the breeze like spider’s silk.
“I wanted us to have a place to hang out,” Beau replies. “Where we won’t run into Old Lady Bell, Charlotte, or Grandpa, and where we can both be alone to relax.”
His eyes roam the swamp around us.
The makeshift pavilion is smaller than my room, but still it’s the most beautiful thing. Clear lights are strung around it, reminding me of fireflies. There is not enough space in my lungs for the quick breaths of excitement I find myself taking. I gasp at the beauty of it all.
“How did you get them to light up?” My question is filled with wonder.
“Battery powered,” he says, his grin growing. “Wait till you see inside.”
He helps me onto the platform that protects us from wandering critters below. It’s easily five feet up. I try not to catch my feet on the lights.
Beau pulls back the drape. A small cluster of cushions sits on the ground, fronted by a tiny wooden table topped with freshly fallen leaves and sticks, reminding me of a bird’s nest. A pink magnolia marks the middle, the source of the floral smell that sticks to the air.
“You did this?” I ask, mesmerized.
“All by myself,” he says.
It’s hard to imagine. Sure, I can see how Beau would bring the cushions and lights and tools to the island by boat, and how he could use the resources already here—the trees and stump for the table, the sticks and flower and leaves—to construct everything, but what I can’t see is why Beau would go through the trouble. Isn’t he the boy Jorie warned me about—the one who breaks hearts? Isn’t he the one Gran swore was darker than the night? That Beau doesn’t match the one standing before me, watching my reaction.
“I love it,” I say.
And then I wrap my arms around this surprising boy and press my lips to his.
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Amber: A soon as I could read, I wrote. It started with books like the GOOSEBUMPS series and FEARLESS series, and warped into me wondering what would happen if I transferred imaginary characters from my mind to paper. What would that look like? My stories tend to have a bit of edge, a bit of romance, and always, always, some sort of trouble.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Amber: I used to think I could wing it and mold my stories into novel material, but as I write more, I realize that plotting is my thing. A steaming cup of coffee, a clean notepad, all my ideas organized systematically. This is my process now, and it makes for a much better experience.
Jen: Describe your writing in 3 words.
Amber: Razor-edged. Romantic. Raw.
Jen: If you were able to travel in time, where would you go and what 3 things would you take with you?
Amber: A tropical island—preferably with a small village of people. Of course books are at the top of my list, but since storytelling can be done by word of mouth, I’d bring a camera, my family (including animals), and paint.
Jen: If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Amber: I once had a dream that J.K. Rowling, and I had co-written a novel. She would absolutely be the one I sat down with, if only to know such a beautiful soul in person.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Amber: I’m currently in the middle of writing a novel set in a small town where nothing is as it seems and secrets are the most guarded possessions. There’s a troublemaker, a rule follower, and a past that could ruin them both.