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Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
I am excited to have Amy Engel join us for a Q & A and to see what she has to say about her writing process and The Familiar Dark.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel


message 2: by MarilynW (new)

MarilynW (huecotx) | 20 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "I am excited to have Amy Engel join us for a Q & A and to see what she has to say about her writing process and The Familiar Dark.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel"


Oh wow, that was such a good book too!


message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle  | 2 comments She is a fabulous writer! I can't wait to hear what she has to say.


Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (lindsaylivi) | 79 comments Mod
I’m excited too!


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
Thank you for joining us Amy!! I thought that The Familiar Dark was one of the most brilliant books I have read so far this year and I am so glad to have the chance to learn more about this story and your writing process.

You can answer each question by replying to each of the messages.


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
What came first the plot or the characters Eve and Cal?


message 7: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 06, 2020 07:48AM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
How did you come up with the idea for The Familiar Dark and the idea of the characters Eve, Cal and their mother?


Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (lindsaylivi) | 79 comments Mod
Hi Amy! Thanks so much for being here with us. I’m a huge fan of yours! I adored The Roanoke Girls and loved The Familiar Dark. Both outstanding novels!

I am curious to know how long each of those books took you to write. What does your writing process look like? Do you map out your ideas first or just dive right in and see where the characters take you?


message 9: by MarilynW (new)

MarilynW (huecotx) | 20 comments I loved the very last lines of the book and they gave such insight into one of the characters, added more depth to the person. Is there a chance we will see some of these characters again? Do you see how their lives might play out after this book ends, whether you write them again or not? (I wonder this everytime I finish a book with really good characters). 😊


message 10: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 06, 2020 07:40AM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
I loved The Roanoke Girls too! Both have some dark difficult emotional subjects but I thought in The Roanoke Girls you explored a darker subject matter and in The Familiar Dark more the darkness inside the characters.

What draws you to write stories with dark characters and subject matters?


message 11: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 06, 2020 07:47AM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
The setting plays a bit part of who the characters are in The Familiar Dark and you painted a vivid picture with the setting and how it plays a part for the characters. I like to describe it as dynamics between the characters and their environment.

How did you go about creating the setting?


message 12: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 08, 2020 09:50AM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
I read somewhere that authors feel like their characters speak to them and that plays a part in creating the characters.

How do you go about capturing the voices of your characters? Do you feel your characters talk to you?


message 13: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 06, 2020 02:04PM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
In Eve's voice can you tell us a bit about her?


message 14: by DeAnn (new)

DeAnn | 19 comments Hi Amy! "The Familiar Dark" is the first book of yours that I've read, but I hear great things about "Roanoke Girls" so I want to read it soon.

I loved the character of Eve's mother and I loved the sibling relationship between Carl and Eve. Did you intend to create such strong family bonds in this one?

I think that strong bond between Carl and Eve made the ending even more powerful. Did you have that all mapped out from the beginning?


message 15: by Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (last edited May 06, 2020 02:11PM) (new)

Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
You created some dark twists there in the end with the characters and I loved the way you wrapped up the story. Did you know how you wanted the story to end when you started writing?


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
What does your writing day look like to you? How has it changed due to the pandemic?


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
I love the title is perfect for the story and the characters. Did the title come before or after finishing the book? How did you go about choosing the title?


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
What would you like readers to get from the story? Is there anything you would like us to know?


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
Are you working on anything you can share with us?


message 20: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth  | 9 comments I loved this book! Did you have a favorite character while writing this book? If so who is your favorite character, and why?


message 21: by Mary Beth (new)

Mary Beth  | 9 comments Do you have a favorite writing place?


message 22: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "I am excited to have Amy Engel join us for a Q & A and to see what she has to say about her writing process and The Familiar Dark.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel"


Hi Brenda, thanks so much for inviting me to participate in this book discussion! I look forward to answering the questions! Amy


message 23: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "What came first the plot or the characters Eve and Cal?"

The thing that came first with this book was actually the idea of two young girls being murdered. There was an actual case in Delphi, Indiana a few years ago where two 13 year old girls were murdered in the woods. The case has nothing to do with my book, but it stuck with me and I couldn't shake it. So that's what led to the opening of THE FAMILIAR DARK. From there, I came up with the characters of Eve and Cal and their mother. I always know my characters long before I know my plot.


message 24: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "How did you come up with the idea for The Familiar Dark and the idea of the characters Eve, Cal and their mother?"

I knew I wanted to set the book in the Missouri Ozarks and I'm always interested in writing about people and places that aren't necessarily well represented in crime fiction. And the rural poor aren't a group that's written about all that often in crime fiction, so I knew I wanted Eve and her family to come from generational poverty. Their characters grew from those basic ideas. I never outline and allow the characters to come to life as I'm writing.


message 25: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Lindsay - Traveling Sister wrote: "Hi Amy! Thanks so much for being here with us. I’m a huge fan of yours! I adored The Roanoke Girls and loved The Familiar Dark. Both outstanding novels!

I am curious to know how long each of thos..."


Thanks, Lindsay! THE ROANOKE GIRLS took me about 3 months to write, although when I was done I set it aside for a couple of months and then went back and added a bit more on the second go-round. THE FAMILIAR DARK took me longer, although it's a shorter book. Probably around 6 months. Mainly because writing about a murdered child was difficult for me and there were stretches when I had to put the book aside and do something else.

I don't outline at all before I write. I generally know how the story will begin and have an idea about the ending, but the rest is a complete mystery to me until I sit down to write.


message 26: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "You created some dark twists there in the end with the characters and I loved the way you wrapped up the story. Did you know how you wanted the story to end when you started writing?"

Sort of? Lol. I had an idea for the last chapter, but (without giving anything away) when I started writing it I realized the characters coming out on the page where not the ones I'd planned on having in the scene. That was kind of a surprise to me, but I realized it made perfect sense of the story so I went with it!


message 27: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments marilyn wrote: "I loved the very last lines of the book and they gave such insight into one of the characters, added more depth to the person. Is there a chance we will see some of these characters again? Do you s..."

Thank you for your kind words about the book. Honestly, I don't think we'll see these characters again. I think their story is complete, at least as far as my writing it goes. As for where I imagine they go after the book is done, I have to admit that I worry for Eve. She is in a dark place. But, on the other hand, she's shown such strength and resilience that maybe she can claw her way back out again. I think it's up to each individual reader to decide.


message 28: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "I loved The Roanoke Girls too! Both have some dark difficult emotional subjects but I thought in The Roanoke Girls you explored a darker subject matter and in The Familiar Dark more the darkness in..."

I'm not sure. I have always been drawn to dark books, even as a child. I found them so much more interesting than the sunny, typical children's books. For me, the world is rarely black and white, almost everything is a murky shade of gray. So that worldview lends itself to writing about characters who straddle the line between good and evil. I enjoy writing about good people who do bad things, and visa versa.


message 29: by MarilynW (new)

MarilynW (huecotx) | 20 comments Thank you for your answer Amy. Even though I sometimes want to know more about certain characters later on, I have come to realize it's probably best that I don't because life isn't a bed of roses in the future, more often than not. Stopping here, I can just wish the best for Eve, knowing she is in a very dark place.

I have followed the story of those Delphi girls, from the day they went missing and I thought of them as soon as I read about the girls in your book. Knowing of them, made this book seem even more real, to me.


message 30: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "The setting plays a bit part of who the characters are in The Familiar Dark and you painted a vivid picture with the setting and how it plays a part for the characters. I like to describe it as dyn..."

All of my books are set in the Midwest, either Kansas or Missouri. I've lived all over the country, and the world, but the Midwest is the place I know best. The rhythms of speech and life here come naturally to me and I think it's an environment that really lends itself to dark fiction. Because I know this part of the world so well, it's easier to turn the setting into a character in the story. And I love taking ideas about small towns and turning them upside down. Small towns can be lovely, but they can also harbor a lot of secrets.


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "I read somewhere that authors feel their characters speak to them and that plays a part in creating the characters.

How do you go about capturing the voices of your characters? Do you feel your c..."


I definitely feel like my characters talk to me. Often when I'm in the midst of writing I feel like my brain is only half engaged with the actual world around me. The other half is constantly in conversation with my characters. It's a little bit distracting and I know it drives my family crazy. My kids will often accuse me of not listening them, and they're not entirely wrong. It's just that I have competing voices in my head. In many ways, when I'm writing my characters are as alive to me as the people I interact with every day.


message 32: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "In Eve's voice can you tell us a bit about her?"

I think I'll have to revisit this question at a later date. I'm working on a new book and I try to stick with the voice of whichever character I'm writing during the process. I don't want Eve's voice to come roaring back!


message 33: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments DeAnn wrote: "Hi Amy! "The Familiar Dark" is the first book of yours that I've read, but I hear great things about "Roanoke Girls" so I want to read it soon.

I loved the character of Eve's mother and I loved th..."


Hi DeAnn. I definitely knew I wanted this book to feature strong family bonds. Family is often at the centerpiece of my books because I think family dynamics are endlessly fascinating. No matter whether we turn away from our families or embrace them fully, they are still influencing who we become.

I don't outline my books, so I wasn't entirely sure where the book was headed or how the relationships between characters would play out.


message 34: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "What does your writing day look like to you? How has it changed due to the pandemic?"

Before the pandemic I had a firmer writing schedule. I generally would get up, have coffee, my husband and kids would leave for work and school, and then I would write. If I was really in the zone, the writing might continue most of the day and into the evening. With the pandemic, everything has changed. Everyone is home ALL THE TIME and generally wanting to hang out or go on walks or make a meal together. Which is lovely, but also time consuming. It's much harder to concentrate, both because there are always distractions, but also because I'm a news junkie and can fall down the pandemic rabbit hole for hours at a time. But I'm trying to get back into some kind of routine for my own sanity!


message 35: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "I love the title is perfect for the story and the characters. Did the title come before or after finishing the book? How did you go about choosing the title?"

The title came after the book was complete and I'd spent what felt like weeks bashing my head against a wall trying to come up with something unique. My daughter actually stumbled across the Emily Dickinson poem that's quoted at the beginning of the book and I thought the line "We grow accustomed to the dark, when light is put away," was perfection. But "We Grow Accustomed to the Dark" is a little wordy for a title. So I brainstormed other ways to say "accustomed" and came up with THE FAMILIAR DARK.


message 36: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "What would you like readers to get from the story? Is there anything you would like us to know?"

Well, whenever I write a book my biggest hope is simply that readers enjoy the story. That it's engaging and keeps them turning pages and that the characters resonate with them in some way. I try not to think too much about big messages when I'm writing because I feel like that bogs down the book. I prefer to let those ideas sort of filter into the story organically. And sometimes I don't even realize what those themes are going to be until I'm almost done writing. If I had to pick a theme or idea I wanted people to get out of this book, it would probably be something to do with rural poverty--about how difficult it can be to pull yourself up and out of that kind of life. The deck is absolutely stacked against poor people in this country and it can be virtually impossible to climb the socioeconomic ladder. It's hard to even see possibility or change when you come from the kind of life that Eve has lived.


message 37: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "Are you working on anything you can share with us?"

I'm working on a new book that is set in rural Kansas. It deals with a woman serving a life sentence for the murder of her entire family when she was a teenager. I don't like to talk too much about my works in progress, so that's all I'll say for now!


message 38: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Mary Beth wrote: "I loved this book! Did you have a favorite character while writing this book? If so who is your favorite character, and why?"

Thanks, Mary Beth! Eve is probably my favorite character, but her mother, Lynette, is a close second. She was such a fascinating character to write. So awful in so many ways. But strangely sympathetic, too. At least to me. I think Lynette would argue that she loves her children the only way she can, by giving them the tools she thinks they need to survive in the world in which they were raised. I definitely have a soft spot for her.


message 39: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Mary Beth wrote: "Do you have a favorite writing place?"

I generally write in a big comfy chair in my living room with my feet up on an ottoman and my computer in my lap. When my children were younger, I couldn't go upstairs to my office to write because they'd follow me and pester me non-stop. I always compare it to what kids are occupied happily, but the second you pick up the phone they are all over you. But I found that if I sat in the living room, where they knew I was available, they would leave me alone to write. And the habit stuck!


message 40: by MarilynW (new)

MarilynW (huecotx) | 20 comments Amy wrote: "Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "Are you working on anything you can share with us?"

I'm working on a new book that is set in rural Kansas. It deals with a woman serving a life sentence for the mu..."


I feel bad for saying I can't wait to read it, but I know it'll be good despite the difficult subject matter.


message 41: by Amy (new)

Amy Engel | 18 comments Hopefully I got to all the questions! If not, feel free to leave any additional questions on my author page and I'll get them answered asap. Thanks so much to Brenda and the whole group for having me! I loved the questions and appreciate your support. Hope you all are staying safe and healthy and reading lots of amazing books! Amy


Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews | 402 comments Mod
Thank you so much for joining us Amy and answering our questions! I enjoyed reading your answers!!

I hope you and your family stay safe and well and wish you the best with your new book. I look forward to reading it!!


Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews (lindsaylivi) | 79 comments Mod
Thanks for being with us Amy!


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