BEHIND THE WORDS: Erin Bartels, Author of All That We Carried

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Welcome Erin! We’re excited to have you on Reader’s Entertainment.

First, tell our readers a bit about yourself. Where do you live?

I live in Michigan’s capital city, Lansing. I’ve lived in the state of Michigan for nearly my entire life and I am a tireless (and perhaps sometimes tiresome?) ambassador for it.

Is writing your full-time job?

Yes and no. My full-time job is as a copywriter, so I am writing full-time in a way. More than full-time when you count my fiction writing. 😊

How long have you been writing?

I started writing with thoughts of future publication in 2007 or 2008. But things didn’t really get serious for a few more years after that. It’s been a long journey to get to the beginning of the road!

Briefly describe your writing day.

I’m not great at keeping a strict routine. I fit writing in around my full-time job and being a mom and a pastor’s wife. It happens when I make it happen. I do occasionally take a week off work to get a chunk of drafting done at a time and I’ve taking multiple writing vacations where I hole up in a cabin or a hotel room—sometimes alone and sometimes with my husband, who is also a writer—and just write as much as possible for a few days in a row. Feast or famine!

Tell us about your latest release.

All That We Carried is the story of sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene. Ten years ago, they were on a backcountry hiking trip when their parents were in a fatal car accident. Over the years, they grew apart, each coping with the loss in her own way. Olivia plunged herself into law school, work, and a materialist view of the world—what you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality—a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

What inspired this book?

My sister and I have been taking backcountry hiking trips for years and I have been wanting to set a story on such a trip. We get along now, but that wasn’t always so. I wanted to tell a story that not only focused on the relationship between sisters but one that showed that sometimes that first step—deciding to forgive and to seek common ground—may be hard, but it’s always worth taking.

Could you share one detail from your current release with readers that they might not find in the book? Perhaps a juicy bit of backstory, or something only you know about a character? 

Many of the difficulties and dangers Olivia and Melanie face are ones you prepare for when you are planning a hiking trip, but you hope you never have. Thankfully, the trips I have taken with my sister are generally uneventful when it comes to danger. However, one incident involving a bear is taken directly from my own experience in the backcountry.

What has been your hardest scene to write? Any of your books

I have a book coming out next January (2022) that includes a number of scenes that were difficult to write because they involved confronting some of my own traumatic experiences from childhood involving abuse.

Who has been the most difficult character for you to write? Why?

I think perhaps J.J. in We Hope for Better Things. His experience of the world and growing up is so different from my own, it was important to me to be able to see the world from his unique perspective. It took a lot of research, work, empathy, and some help from early black readers to get him right.

If you could be one of your characters for a day which character would it be? Why? 

I’d either be old Dave DeWitt, the park ranger in The Words between Us or The Professor, the African Grey Parrot in the same book. Those two seem to have interesting lives and a lot of interesting thoughts. 😊

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

I do an uncanny seagull call.

Your favorite go to drink or food when the world goes crazy! 

I love to relax with a cigar and an Old Fashioned.

And what is your writing Kryptonite?

Other people being around. I covet vast swaths of alone time where I am sure to not be interrupted so that I can truly get lost in the story. Hard to do that when someone’s playing a loud video game nearby or walking into the room to find something.

What is the one question you never get asked at interviews, but wish you did? Ask and answer it. 

I had to poll some other writers to come up with a good one, but I think this is it:

What is an assumption that people make about you that couldn’t be further from the truth?

And the answer is that I think many people have a first impression of me that I’m stand-offish, unapproachable, or intimidating, but when you get to know me I’m really none of those things. I’m just an introvert with fairly serious demeanor who doesn’t make a lot of eye contact or initiate conversations with strangers. But if you make the first move and introduce yourself, I think you’ll find me rather friendly and perhaps even a wee bit charming. 😊

Thank you so much for joining us today!! I do love an Old Fashioned myself!!

Take a look at Erin’s latest release ALL THAT WE CARRIED
Award–winning novelist Erin Bartels has received high praise
for her captivating and thought-provoking storylines. Since the release of her
debut novel, We Hope for Better Things (January 2019), Bartels has won the
prestigious 2020 Michigan Notable Book Award and was selected as a
finalist for a 2019 Christy Award and the 2020 Star Award from the
Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA). Now Bartels delivers
another immersive tale set in her home state of Michigan, drawing on some
of her own adventures, in All That We Carried—a story about the
complexities of grief, faith, and sisterhood.

Ten years ago, sisters Olivia and Melanie Greene were on a hiking trip when
their parents were in a fatal car accident. They haven’t seen each other since.
Olivia coped with the loss by plunging herself into law school, work, and a
materialist view of the world—what you see is what you get, and that’s all you get. Melanie dropped out of college and developed an online life-coaching business around her cafeteria-style spirituality—a little of this, a little of that, whatever makes you happy.

Now, at Melanie’s insistence (and against Olivia’s better judgment), they are embarking on a hike in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this remote wilderness they’ll face their deepest fears, question their most dearly held beliefs, and begin to see that perhaps the best way to move forward is the one way they had never considered.

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Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.