Interview & Book Giveaway w/ Amber West

Today I’m thrilled to welcome A Day Without Sushi blogger and author of The Ruth Valley Missing, Amber West to the Happiness Project!

*applause, applause ~ cheering crowds*

Amber is here to answer some really important questions on the meaning of life* and whether dogs or cats make better pets.

Note* ~ Amber will not really define what the meaning of life is. The owner of this publication sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience.

Bonus!! One lucky commenter on this post will win a FREE copy of Amber’s book, The Ruth Valley Missing, along with a cd playlist of music that inspired the story!

Share this post via Twitter or Facebook and receive a bonus entry in the drawing! Winner announced on Friday, December 13, 2013!

AmberWest-TheRuthValleyMissing-200x300 Click here to read about 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?

Take it away, Amber!


Getting to Know You:

1.     Share three words that describe you. 

Loyal, generous, weird.

2.     Share three words you wish described you. 

Confident, comfortable, organized.

Pick a book.AWest Quote3.     What is your favorite book?

It’s actually a play, but being that it’s a book on my shelf that I’ve read more than any other, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is at least worthy of a mention. When my husband and I were dating, he gave me the book Myst (yes, like the computer game) and I actually really loved the story.

Having said that, I’m not very good at picking a favorite book. It’s like asking me to choose a favorite food – there’s so many factors involved. What’s my mood? What am I craving?

4.     What are you most grateful for today?

Family. I happen to be fortunate enough to be close to my parents and several of my siblings, which means always having people in your life you can rely on.

5.     If you could live in any time period, what one would you pick and why?

So, I’m going to totally cheat here and say that I would just travel with the Doctor in his TARDIS. Then I don’t have to choose! I can just travel anywhere I want to go.

The trouble with choosing a time in the past is that, being a woman, there’s so much I could end up giving up. And then I feel like I’d have to specify, “well, I’d live in time period X, but only if I was wealthy and married to a man of status who also happens to be a nice dude who loves me”.

That’s kinda boring. The Doctor it is.

6.     Favorite social media hangout?

I flip between Twitter (@amberwest) and Facebook the most. Facebook is where more of my family and friends I’ve had from before social media are, and it lends itself to more lengthy group discussions (like the most recent thread I’ve got going there that has 170+ comments). However, I love interacting with people I’ve met on Twitter. It’s a faster pace there, and clever (at least, the people I interact with are).

About Your Book:

1.  Tell us about your book in one sentence.

It’s mystery and silly banter and a touch of romance all rolled into one.

Absolutely Horrible.AWest.Quote2.  The Ruth Valley Missing has a big twist in it. What are your favorite books or films that shock you at the end?

Is it absolutely horrible that I can’t remember the last time a movie or book shocked me with a twist? I tend to figure things out way ahead of time. Having said that, the show Scandal has surprised me in its ability to throw out some shockers in the story.

3.  Is there a real Ruth Valley? What inspired you to set the story there?

Ruth Valley is definitely fictional. The town feel is very much meant to be like a small town in North Carolina, but it’s a made up town.

I set it in in NC for a few reasons. As you know, there is a Catholic church in the small town. Small town North Carolina isn’t exactly where you’d find a dominant Catholic population. I wanted to separate this little church community from the larger religious group, so intentionally putting them somewhere out of the way, and realistically out of place accomplished that.

From my experiences in various small towns in North Carolina, I knew I wanted to set the story in a sort of amalgam of various places I had been there – places where the community is tight knit, charming, but also a bit odd for someone used to the city.

4.   What actors would you cast to play the lead roles of your book?    

Dylan – Ryan Gosling. It’s a small role, but he was the type of guy I pictured when I started writing him. It should be noted that I don’t have the same love for Gosling that created the “Hey Girl” meme. Ha.

Father Mike – Kyle Chandler. This may have something to do with watching a lot of Friday Night Lights when I was working on the book.

Jack – I personally went with Nathan Fillion for this one. If you’ve seen his role in Waitress, think more that than his current Castle role. I’ve had a few readers recommend Blake Shelton. I’m not a country music girl, but I can see the appeal.

Jameson – Ruth Wilson, more for her look than her voice, considering she’s a British actress. She does seem to be good at quirk, though, so if we can just get her some American accent lessons…

Sister Marjorie – Susan Sarandon. I don’t remember how she came to mind for the role, but once I thought of it, I couldn’t see anyone else.

5.    What’s next for you? Can we expect another thriller?

It’s funny. I never set out to write a thriller or mystery. I’m a dialogue junkie, so I think in a way I’m probably more of a women’s fic writer at heart. But, this story just sort of developed from my first NaNoWriMo attempt and I found I just had to finish it. While I never thought of writing mysteries or thrillers, I find I like having that extra something as part of a plot. (And I should give a huge shout out to Jen Kirchner and Tiffany White, writers who told me that I had a story worth finishing and publishing – writers encouraging writers are the best!)

I have three different books I’ve been working on, all with a substantial amount of words written, but I think the one I’ll focus on finishing next is a follow up to Ruth Valley Missing. While RVM definitely works as a standalone, I wrote the ending somewhat open, mostly because I like open endings.

The response to the book has been overwhelming – beyond anything I ever expected. (I mean, Stephen Colbert hasn’t called to give me The Colbert Bump or anything, but it’s been good.) Among the many responses I’ve received from readers is the desire for more Jameson, as well as some other characters, so I have been working on a story that gives everyone more of what they want: banter, and Jameson stumbling into mysterious situations she can’t help but stick her nose in.

About Life in General:

1.   Dogs or cats? Coffee or Tea? Book or Kindle?

I have both, but I am more of a dog person. If I had a large piece of land and the funds, I’d be adopting dogs left and right. (I’m a total supporter for adopting from shelters – so many dogs need homes! Always check shelters when considering adding a new pet to your family.)

Tea v Coffee? At the moment, tea over coffee, since I’m pregnant. I love a good cup of coffee, but if I had to be tied to one, I think I would still choose tea. There’s greater variety!

Book or Kindle? The traditional girl in me so badly wants to say “book”. But, the mother of an active four year old with one on the way yelps “kindle!” (or more accurately, kindle app on the ipad). The only way I get any reading done nowadays is when the lights are out and the kid is asleep, so the Kindle app is the way to go.

2.     Best parenting tip?

On Parenting.AWest.QuoteYikes. I so don’t feel qualified. I guess I’d just say, be informed, then follow your instincts and enjoy your kid. There is so much pressure now, I think even more than in my parent’s era, to create the perfect child. So many benchmarks to be met, so much comparing, so much fighting over what you should and shouldn’t do.

I feel like the areas where we’ve made great progress with our kid have been from following our instincts (I read a ton, so those instincts are informed, mind you), and just enjoying being with our kid.

3.     What’s worth watching on TV these days?

I watch everything online via Hulu, Netflix, and so on, so I’m sure there are shows I’d leave out strictly due to accessibility. Having said that, among the newest shows, Blacklist is one that’s really pulled me in. I just cannot resist a show with James Spader in it.

Not on your TV, but worth checking out on Hulu, is The Wrong Mans. It’s a British show that follows two guys who get caught up in this whole crime/conspiracy thing. It’s exactly what I love – humor and kind of regular people caught up in a crazy story. And it’s only six episodes, so it’s worth taking the time to check it out.

4.     Favorite piece of advice you’ve received?

I think I’ll share some advice that I found particularly encouraging when it comes to pursuing creative things (though it could be applied to a lot of things). The advice came via Wil Wheaton’s blog, from Shane Nickerson:

“If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.

Failure does not exist.”

And then this extra bit from Wil Wheaton:

 “…Failing at one thing does not mean you fail at all things and that’s the end of it. Failing at something can often be the beginning of succeeding at another thing.”

I think the fear of failing, particularly at something we love can be so crippling, so these bits of wisdom have helped me when I get in that “sad writer” rut.


tennantandmecrop_SnapseedAmber 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 or find her on Twitter (@amberwest) where she abuses hashtags and makes people laugh. Or at least, makes herself laugh.

Don’t forget to chat with Amber in the comments below and you could take home your own copy of The Ruth Valley Missing and a correlating cd playlist!

Thanks Amber!

27 responses

  1. First of all, congrats on your success on the book AND on your pending arrival. Sounds like lots of good things are coming your way!

    And I love the quotes about being creative and basically just DOING it. I’ve been struggling for a while now in my attempts to figure out HOW to just do . . . well, anything, really. I am stuck in a major rut . . . creatively, professionally, life-ly. And that quote really hits home. It’s easier said than done, though, but good to consider.

    1. Thank you, mistyslaws!

      Sorry to hear you are stuck in a rut! And you are right, changing that is easier said than done.

      It drives me a bit crazy when people say things like “you don’t want it bad enough” or some other nonsense like that if we aren’t pursuing our art in the way they deem fit. There are things in life we have to figure out (and that even take precedence).

      And that’s what I love about those quotes – it’s not telling me that I have to pursue something to the exclusion of all else, or in a specific time frame…it just reminds me to be sure that it isn’t my own fear holding me back.

      I hope you find the balance you need to be able to do what you love!

    2. Sorry to hear you’re in a life rut, Misty. Been there! And recently too. The advice that helped me take things one day at a time was this: Remember that you are moving forward. It may not be as fast as you like, but it’s still progress.

      (Hugs) hang in there friend!

  2. I love The Ruth Valley Missing! And I love Amber! 🙂 I like learning more about people I know, so these interviews are great.

    I SO agree on adopting from shelters. Our oldest dog (he’s almost 14!) was an adoptee. However, we usually don’t get a chance to adopt because people tend to dump dogs off out in the country where we live, so we have to adopt THOSE dogs.

      1. I hit enter too soon. 🙂 Taking care of abandoned animals you come across is just adopting without the paperwork. Love that you give them a home!

    1. Oh my gosh! I can’t believe people just abandon dogs in the woods! That’s why we have shelters! Yikes.

      But thanks for stopping over! Amber’s book is amazing and so is she!

      1. People do abandon dogs and cats a lot in my area. And, actually, it might be better than the shelter, because a lot of animals are killed. Although my town is working toward making ours a no-kill shelter, so that will be great. We also have a couple of rescue shelters, but they usually have more than they can handle. 😦

        Amber is great!

  3. I love it when asked to cast the characters in your own novel. I have had great fun imagining who would play Rachel (Kate Winslet) and Alex (Matthew McCona-hey-I-can’t-spell-his-last-name-but-you-know-who-I-mean).

    I actually have your book downloaded on my Kindle but haven’t yet read it. Because I’m sort of a Kindle nut and have half a dozen books downloaded that have yet to be read. But soon, I promise!

    1. Mark, my Kindle is the same. I have so many books to catch up with! I’m glad to be in the pile.

      (Also, I refer to Matthew McCon-etc the same way. 🙂 )

    2. Well we’re in the same boat. I have your book on my shelf and haven’t read it yet. But it’s definitely on my list! And with a Kate Winslet character I’m definitely in!

  4. I love your cast. Can’t go too far wrong with Ryan Gosling. 🙂

    1. SPOILER ALERT: The character he plays will appear again in the follow up. 🙂

  5. Love seeing you two together! You are both my favorite TV addicts and you keep me young. 🙂

    1. Nina, I am happy to be your favorite anything!

    2. I don’t recall calling you OLD, Nina! Lol

  6. Two of my favorite girls in one place. I consider Amber a sister, yet surprisingly, we’ve never met in person. We chat via social media, email, text, and have even talked on the phone a few times, but have never met (at least I’ve gotten to see Jess’ sweet face twice now in person. One of these days…

    Until then, I look forward to reading even more about Amber in interviews. She has such a fantastic voice and I can’t wait for her to finish her next book. I’ve had a sneak peek at one of them and it’s fantastic. Seriously. I’m not just saying that because she’s my girl.

    Anyway, such a great read. Thanks for the interview, Jess!

    1. ::sniffle::

      Big hugs. 🙂

    2. Hmmm what did you say? I was daydreaming about Ruth Valley Missing and Football Sweetheart becoming movies.

  7. Hey, Amber!!! I’ve been missing you, busy lady…and here you are on Jess’ blog. It’s like I conjured you. 🙂

    Can’t wait to see Book 2 of RVM!

    1. Jenny!!!

      This pregnancy has been kicking my butt! I hope to be around more in the weeks to come.

      Thanks for the love!

      1. You know I understand! I had a migraine the first 15 weeks of mine. I was literally wiped out. But know I’ve been thinking about you and sending magic from my coast to yours. 🙂

    2. Oooh conjurings are happening at my blog now. I’ve finally made it!

  8. I’m late to the party – seems to be happening a lot lately! Never mind! I had to stop and say how GREAT it is to have two of my favourite online family members here together. You two are a combination extraordinaire! I loved The Ruth Valley Missing and am eagerly anticipating the sequel. On top of everything else, Amber is an awesome mom and Jonas is the proof! What a kid!

    1. I know! Her Instagram pics are always so fun! Jonas is a lucky little boy! And his texting skills crack me up.

    2. I missed this comment! Thanks so much, Patricia, for the book AND kid love. 🙂

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