Author Amanda Traylor’s new novel, Lost Sierra, follows Daphne as she abandons the life that her parents had planned for her years earlier. She moves to a small community in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in search of a more idyllic life, where she develops a small clientele that values her unique blend of homeopathic methods and herbal remedies. When her favorite client, an army veteran in his 70s, goes missing, she refuses to believe that he is just on a bender. In her mission to discover the truth, she quickly finds herself in conflict with unknown adversaries, shocking revelations, and a raging wildfire.
Lost Sierra’s dynamic characters, gritty atmosphere, and compelling mystery makes for a fantastic and enthralling read. Be sure to check it out when it releases on March 7th! To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.
Tell us about Lost Sierra and the inspiration behind the story.
The initial spark came when a family friend living in the area where Lost Sierra takes place lost a friend to a very violent murder. The mystery behind it all was all so bizarre and I started to think about the region and the socio-economic situation rural communities were in. As I read more about the area, it struck me what a vast contrast it was to the flourishing metropolis of the Bay Area only a few hours away. I began drafting an outline of a grizzly murder and how it might have unfolded. I then needed the perfect person to try to solve the crime. She needed to be naive enough, and determined enough, to take on this unknown menace. Thus, Daphne Barlow was born.
What do you believe to be the essential elements of a good mystery?
A slow release of clues that could also be red herrings. It should feel natural, not in your face. The reader should constantly wonder, “Does that gun mean something? Was there a clue in that conversation with the nosy neighbor?”
A constant asking and answering of small questions—for every resolution, a new question should pop up. The reader should have a constant feeling of need to know.
A good cast of characters who could all be suspects!
A conclusion that feels “no way!” But also, “ahhh yeah! Of course it was the butler.” The solution to the puzzle should make sense in retrospect. It should never come out of nowhere. Like, oh it was the aliens or this random character we’ve never even mentioned. You have to play fair with your readers and give them a fighting chance to figure it out.
A rich setting that helps the antagonist more than the protagonist.
Mysteries and the phrase "it could never happen here" go hand in hand. What role does "setting" play in your story?
Setting actually plays a crucial part in all of my books. From a small college town (Lies in the Darkness), wealthy suburbs (Perfect Life) Tahoe (Redemption Lie) Estonia (Keeper’s Promise), a rural beach town (Shallow Water) and of course the rugged mountain town of Sierra Ridge, setting is a character of its own for me. It’s a living breathing component of my story and the setting itself often becomes an antagonist waging war against my main character. The setting, as much as the villains of flesh and blood, is often what stands in my hero’s way.
What were the challenges in bringing this book to life? What was the highlight?
When I started writing this book, the world was a very different place. Then we got pregnant, and I still wasn’t fazed. Full steam ahead–I’d get the book done before the little one was born. Then Covid changed the world.
Suddenly my husband and I were home 24/7 in a two-bedroom downtown Denver apartment. We didn’t know what the hell was happening out there beyond our high-rise walls. Violent city protests caused our building to board up the windows and hire major security. Being pregnant, I didn't even want to risk going for walks outside. Needless to say, my writing came to a crashing halt. Our daughter arrived in July 2020 and all romantic notions of clacking away on my manuscript while she slept peacefully in her sling was quickly dispelled. Even when she would sleep peacefully, I was too exhausted to write anything that wasn’t gibberish. And because of COVID, we couldn’t hire any help. It was another year before we felt comfortable enough to hire help and I was finally able to get back to the manuscript. By that time, we had gone through so much–the world had gone through so much–the book took a very different, much darker, turn.
However, all those challenges gave my writing a new edge and I think Lost Sierra is the book it is because of what we went through.
Do you have any other projects in the works at this time?
Yes! I have another book, a gothic, Hitchcock-style noir, slated for release this fall. I also have a southern gothic family drama in the works.
What does literary success look like to you?
Success is different for everyone and there are many ways I measure it. Ultimately, being able to support my family while we travel around the world on our private jet, will be my ultimate measure of success. But until then, being able to earn a living with my writing, being able to wake up every day and deliver stories to hungry readers feels successful to me. Every time I publish a book, even if it doesn’t land at the top of the charts, that feels like a victory!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read! Read anything and everything, from your genre to the news.
Practice your writing every day. Nobody is born a great writer.
Know that it’s a fabulous time to be a creator and there are more ways than ever to reach your audience. Don’t be afraid to explore outside of the traditional publishing route.
Make friends with other authors who will understand and support you. (your friends and family love you, but they might not always understand this journey)
Know that it’s a tough business and it takes time to find success.
Understand that rejection is part of the process and try to learn from it.
Remember that you don’t fail until you give up!
How can readers keep in touch with you?