Amanda McKinney likes to write books that evoke a whole range of emotions from her readers: fear, anticipation, suspense, lust, humor - you name it. As our Author of the Day, McKinney reveals why she walked away from her day job to become a writer and talks about her love for small, Southern towns and why she uses this setting to create an enchanting, creepy atmosphere.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Lake is about.
The Lake is a sexy, small-town murder mystery about two very different strangers—Ethan is a buttoned-up cyber-crimes investigator with the FBI, and Jolene is a sexy, enchanting white-collar criminal—who cross paths and form a shaky alliance, not realizing they are about to engage in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a ruthless killer.
Tell us more about Berry Springs - why did you pick this sleepy, southern town as the backdrop for your stories?
I love small towns, and I love Southern culture. I grew up in a sleepy, country town just like Berry Springs, where everyone called each other sir and ma’am, and y’all was acceptable English. Sweet tea, cowboy boots, jacked-up trucks, and Saturday night bonfires were a way of life. I’m a proud Southern gal through and through, whose favorite place on earth is being smack-dab in the middle of the woods. There’s something about being out in nature, in the mountains, that can be magical and enchanting, but also dark, creepy, and extremely lonely—which makes one hell of a backdrop for a murder mystery series.
What inspired the story of The Lake?
I always wanted to write a book where the traditional roles were reversed—I wanted the woman be the “bad-boy”, so to speak. So, Jolene Reeves drove this story. She’s a criminal with a heart of gold, that she keeps hidden deep inside, of course.
What makes Ethan and Jolene such a good match?
They’re opposites! The love story in The Lake is about meeting someone that is so different from yourself, and realizing they have exactly what you’ve been looking for your entire life.
Why sexy mysteries - what drew you to the genre?
I’m a sucker for suspense, romance and alpha males, and hey, let’s be honest, a few sexy scenes won’t hurt either. When I write a book, my number one goal is to make the reader feel a mix of emotions—fear, anticipation, surprise, lust, you name it. If he, or she, goes to bed thinking about my book, or stays up all night just to finish it, I’ve done my job.
What books do you read for your own enjoyment? Do you stick to the genre you write in? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Having two little kiddos, it’s difficult to carve out time to curl up with a book, but when I do, it’s almost always a murder mystery or romantic suspense book. My favorite author is Nora Roberts… oh, what I would give to sit down and split a bottle of wine with her! I’m also a fan of Laura Griffin, Sandra Brown, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Jackson, Janet Evanovich, just to name a few.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m quite the little hustler, I’ve learned. I approach my writing career as a small business and really get into the analytics, marketing and business side of things. Unrelated, I’m also a decent shot—thanks Dad.
What is the first thing you do once you start writing a new book?
I am someone who is very structured. I like plans and schedules; spontaneity scares the crap out of me. So, when I begin a book, the first thing I do is write out a detailed outline, bulleted of course.
How does this book tie in with the others in the series?
The great thing about the Berry Springs Series is that you don’t have to read the books in order. The location and some characters carry over, but each book is a new story with new characters.
You walked away from your career to start writing. What made you make this decision? Any regrets?
The decision to begin my writing career was the answer to a lot of soul searching and prayers, to be honest. I’d always struggled with what I was meant to do professionally. My world was cubicles, PowerPoint presentations, quotas and butt-kissing. I knew, deep down, that this was not my path. I wanted to be the person who said “I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work.” So, I kept sending positive energy out into the world, praying that I’d find whatever that job was. And one day, the decades long quest finally ended after I wrote the first few paragraphs of my first book (that was so terrible it never saw the light of day). I found something that I loved so much, and I just knew that writing was my path. I have absolutely no regrets.
What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
Aside from the old cliché, “never give up”, it would be to write every single day, no matter what. Fully commit to your dream and know that it is going to be one hell of a roller coaster, but keep at it. Keep writing and improving on your craft, every day.
What are you working on right now?
I’m so excited about my new series, the Black Rose Mystery Series, which takes place in a small, creepy town called Devil’s Den, where three single, rich, uber-smart and super tough sisters run one of the top private investigation companies in the country, Black Rose Investigations. It’s got it all—murder, mystery, small-town folklore, romance, and even witches! The first book in the series comes out February 2018.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
They can visit my website at www.amandamckinneyauthor.com