Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Amber West on social media last year. We hit it off… talking about writing, watching television, and sharing general life experiences with each other. Then, one day, Amber contacted me with one of her brilliant ideas—we should start a weekly blog series where we review television shows to help busy people know what is worth a watch and what is not. With that, Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday was born.
Amber and I have grown so close over the last year and a half that it seems almost impossible that we’ve never met in person. My parents are her friends on Facebook… and they also adore her. Her sister and I chat on Twitter… and hopefully everyone meets her soon as I’ve asked her to use her fabOoolous fashion sense to do a guest post covering my Football Sweetheart characters… but that’s later; today is all about Amber.
I cannot express how much Amber means to me. There have been days where I have wanted to bang my head against the wall, throw my laptop out the window, and quit writing altogether. In these moments, Amber jumps in and talks me down off the ledge. She makes me laugh; she makes me cry (tears of joy); she makes me feel loved. One day, we will meet face to face. And, when we do, I will hug her like there’s no tomorrow. Heck, I hope she’s a hugger…
For those who are unfamiliar with Amber, here is a brief bio:
Amber West is a Northeastern transplant dodging rodent sized bugs and sweltering heat in the jungles of Central Florida. When she isn’t battling the urge to pass out, she’s busy being a wife, mother, geek, photographer, and writer, in no particular order. You can read her ramblings at her website or find her on Twitter where she abuses hashtags and makes people laugh. Or at least, makes herself laugh.
The bio is in Amber’s words, but I will concur that she makes people laugh. A lot. Just look at this video she built for our WatchWed series:
Before we jump into the interview, check out Amber’s blurb for her debut mystery novel, The Ruth Valley Missing.
The Ruth Valley Missing:
Jameson Quinn is sick of trying to find herself in the big city. After a gallery opening ends in a trip to the ER and an argument with her self-involved boyfriend, she decides to take off for the peace and quiet of a small town — Ruth Valley.
The small town has everything Brooklyn lacked: simple people, peaceful surroundings, and a feeling of safety. Jameson even finds the perfect house to rent from the town’s most eligible bachelor, Sheriff Jack. Life is finally headed in a promising direction.
But something isn’t right. A young man is mysteriously injured, then disappears — and Jameson finds he isn’t the only person to suddenly vanish. The suspicious behavior of an abrasive nun and a creepy priest set her off on an investigation of what’s really happening. Will she figure out the secrets of Ruth Valley before she’s the next to go missing?
When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?
I don’t think being a bestseller was ever something I dreamed of, little or not so little. I was never the kid who had grand ideas of being rich and famous. I loved writing and acting, but never entertained either of those as a career. They were just something to do for entertainment.
But, in fifth grade, the school I went to did one of those “slam books” for the entire fifth grade class. One of the questions was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: a writer. I guess that means that I just didn’t care if I made money being one.
Fifth grade was also the first time I had a work of mine published. A short story I wrote about an orphaned tiger was accepted for a Young Writers’ Anthology.
Really? Why haven’t I read this short story, Amber? You know I want to!
I don’t have it anywhere! I may have to go on a little expedition in my mom’s closets…
Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?
I remember being on the monorail at Disney with my family when I was a kid and seeing a man looking out the window. He looked sad and alone, which seemed odd given where we were. For the rest of that day (and days after) I kept trying to work out his story.
Basically, I’ve always been a bit of a watcher. Well, that sounds creepy…like I’m some kind of peeping tom! I have a habit of watching how people interact, or the expressions on their faces, the way they stand, etc… If I see something that doesn’t quite fit, stories start popping into my head.
It’s not just people watching, though. I can be inspired by a place, too. I love photography, so even when I don’t have a camera with me, I’m always taking mental snapshots. Some of those snapshots turn into stories.
I also have really vivid dreams. Every once in a while, I wake up thinking, “That would make a great scene in a movie/story!”
Who are a few of your favorite authors?
I’m so incredibly behind in current reading, so I feel like my author list is completely antiquated. I’m a dorky Shakespeare girl, and I’ve read Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead about a million times. If it’s witty, even in the darker moments, then chances are I’ll enjoy it.
As a kid, Roald Dahl was one of my favorites, but I was a pretty voracious reader very early on, so the more I sit here and think, the more the list will grow.
The cover art for your book is amazing. Did you design it yourself?
Oh, thank you! I did, actually. I wanted something that would capture the mood of the book without really giving anything away; but being broke as all-get-out, I needed to design the cover myself. As I’ve mentioned, I love photography, so I used an original image of my own and built on that.
Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters. Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Jameson and why?
Oddly enough, no celebs in mind for Jameson. There aren’t too many redheaded American actresses that fit her, and I didn’t want to have the voice of an actress with an accent in my head while I wrote, so I didn’t try to have anyone in mind.
I’ve since explored someone who would fit, but still haven’t found the exact woman right for the role. When I write in first person, there’s a bit of me that feels like I’m method acting, so in some ways, I imagine myself in the role.
Granted, Jameson would be a red-haired, green-eyed, fitter version of me, but still.
I DID picture specific celebs for two other characters in the book. Taking a note from you, I may have to do a blog post on that in the future. 😉
I know exactly who you are talking about AND I can’t wait to see The Ruth Valley Missing dream cast!
Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?
David Tennant. He might be occupying the role of a future character in another novel starring Jameson. Yes, after some really great feedback from readers who want more, I am considering making a series…
And I just watched The Decoy Bride, some episodes of Doctor Who, and an episode of the BBC’s QI on which he guest starred.
I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today?
Oh…that is a tough one. The Good Wife used to be high on the list, but now that I am without cable, I haven’t been keeping up (CBS doesn’t have a great iPad viewing option). Parenthood, Grimm, Castle, and I’ll say Downton Abbey, since here in the states we are between seasons.
Now, let’s go to the movies… what is your favorite film of all-time?
Oh, that’s a terrible question. I can’t possibly answer it. But I’ll tell you three movies I own: Emma, Ever After, and Serenity. My movie collection is nearly non-existent, so the fact that I own these speaks volumes.
What snacks do you order when at a movie theater?
Generally, I stick to stealing a little popcorn from my neighbor (so long as I know them, of course) and either water or Cherry Coke. I can’t handle a lot of sugar, so candy snacks don’t happen often, and most movie chocolate isn’t the kind I like.
If we are being honest, I’m more likely to bring snacks in my purse than buy any. When we were kids, we rarely got to go to the movies (five kids meant a lot of creative free outings), so when we did, we were total snack smugglers.
Besides writing, I’ve noticed you’re quite the photographer and you love to share tons of fun home remedies and recipes…
First, name one place that you’d like to visit with your camera and why…
Right now I am on a major Scotland/Ireland kick. I know. That’s two, not one, I know. So if you are going to twist my arm, Scotland. It would be the ultimate retreat for me. I’d do nothing but take photos and write.
And eat. And drink proper beer and scotch.
It’s a good thing I plan on walking a lot on this imaginary trip.
Now, share with us the craziest home remedy that everyone should know about…
Well, for any of your readers that didn’t read about me shoving a garlic clove in my ear, that probably sounds pretty crazy.
Also, dipping your feet in raw egg yolks to bring down a fever…
WHAT??!!?? Dipping your feet in raw egg yolks will bring down a fever?? That’s nuts! But, I’ll try it next time. Why not?
That’s pretty much how I approach most home remedies. If they can’t hurt me, why not try them?
And, lastly, do you have a tasty, quick, and easy recipe you’d like to share with us today?
My parents gave me a waffle iron sometime back. It is a very cool tool to have, but I was curious to find more uses for it than just making waffles. So, I took a can of biscuits, split the biscuits open and filled them with whatever I was craving – jalapeños and cream cheese – and stuck them in the iron.
In minutes, you get stuffed biscuits. A yummy quick and easy snack!
Another quick treat that is surprisingly delicious – roasted cauliflower. Chop it up, toss it in olive oil and some salt, crumble goat cheese and crushed walnuts over the top, then toss it in the oven to roast at about 375 degrees. When it gets nice golden edges, it’s done!
Roasted Cauliflower… I may have to try this, minus the goat cheese of course. No cheese for me!
Isn’t Amber amazing AND adorable?
Do you have a question for Amber? Have you read The Ruth Valley Missing yet? If so, share your thoughts here! We’d love to hear from you!
And, because Amber is so fabOoolous, she’s kept her Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales price live just for the Ooo Factor readers! Be sure to click over to Amazon and buy The Ruth Valley Missing today if you haven’t already. It’s worth it!