Amber Cowie’s debut hit #1 overall on Amazon and was one of the top 100 selling Kindle books of 2018. Her second novel, Raven Lane, comes out tomorrow. We sat down with Amber over a cup of coffee and the internet to talk about the novel and her experience.
Robyn Harding calls Raven Lane “a sexy, provocative thriller about devastating secrets and shocking behavior in one bohemian, suburban enclave.” How will you explain this book to your neighbors?
Oh boy. I moved to a cute little cul-de-sac weeks after I finished Raven Lane, which is also set on a dead-end street with close-knit neighbors. The problem? On the fictional Raven Lane, there is sex, intrigue and betrayal. I was absolutely not inspired by my real-life neighbors while I wrote, but I get flustered when I talk about it, and I think it might make me look a bit guilty. The more I write, the more conscious I am of how much reality I’m bringing into my fiction, but there are always pieces of real life that my subconscious twists around to the point where they seem completely new while I’m writing. I can only see what they are based on after I emerge from the fog of the story. Also—Raven Lane is chock full of sex scenes, so the real question is how do I explain the book to my dad?
Why did you weave parts of a fictional, Lovecraftian horror novel into a domestic suspense novel?
I love monster stories and Lovecraft is a creepy, dark master of the tales. My brother died last year. After his death, I dove into the world of monsters and the macabre and read a lot of Lovecraft, especially The Call of the Cthulu, because it was one of his favorite stories. To me, Raven Lane is about trauma and the ugly parts of us that are created when someone hurts us . . . and when we hurt other people. When I write, I am exposing those parts of myself even without being aware of it, but often, I keep them hidden. My main character, Esme, has so many monstrous pieces buried deep within her, and the more I wrote about her, the more I wanted to include a corollary which could explain that she is not alone. When my beloved editor read the first draft of this book, she urged me to go even further with the idea behind the monstrous book in a book. We all carry our monsters inside of us, and they can either destroy us or give us the strength we need to get through our worst moments.
So, Raven Lane is full of sex and monsters. Is there anything that surprised you while writing this book?
Apart from the sex and monsters, what’s left to shock? Just kidding. I suppose the biggest thing that surprised me was when I was on a panel at the Whistler Writers Festival last month. Our moderator asked a question about how to write good men. When it was my turn to answer, she made a joke that I was disqualified as “all your characters are horrible people.” I was stunned but also intrigued. I love all my characters, most especially Esme. Though I don’t shy away from showing their worst features, their flaws make me love them even more. I never set out to write about terrible people, and I find it fascinating when they are received that way. Sometimes, I wonder it that makes me a horrible person as well.
Your debut, Rapid Falls, came out last year. What advice do you have for authors after their first book is published?
Have a second book outlined (or even written) before your first novel comes out. Readers are an incredible gift, and I’m grateful for every person who has picked up Rapid Falls, but having people absorbing my words changed the way I write, for better and for worse. Before I was published, I lived in a world of the imaginary where nothing I wrote was off-limits or scrutinized or critiqued before the editing stage. Now, I find myself second-guessing some of the pieces I put on paper. My bad reviews echo in the room as I struggle to get down an idea without getting in my own head. Don’t get me wrong. Being reviewed is an incredible honor. The fact that people read my books and think about them in such a way that inspires them to comment helps me to grow as a writer and storyteller. Sometimes, however, they can also needle away at my ability to create a world. On days like that, I like to quote Andy Warhol. “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”
What’s next for you?
I’m currently in love with my third book despite the fact that I am in the nitty gritty editing stage where I seek to find everything that is not working. It is a suspense story featuring a widow who uproots her entire life in the wake of her husband’s death to move to a town of less than 400 people more than a thousand miles north of Vancouver. The town’s main claim to fame is the huge lake which was created by accident when a nearby dam collapsed. Within hours of arriving, she opens her door and finds herself face to face with the sheriff of her new town. He’s there to notify her of a drowning in the lake. She is unnerved especially when she learns the person died on her property. It will be released in late 2020!