Amy L. Bernstein – A Mystery Emerges from the Aftermath of a Pandemic

Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex; the award-winning The Nighthawkers; Dreams of Song Times; and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. She teaches workshops on various aspects of the craft of writing and is a frequent guest on podcasts to discuss writing, publishing, and creativity. She lives and writes in Baltimore, Maryland, which often inspires her poetry and fiction.

What’s the last great book you read?

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

The Fruit of the Tree by Edith Wharton

You’re organizing a party. Which two authors, dead or alive, do you invite?

Toni Morrison and Henry James

What do you read when you’re working on a book? And what kind of reading do you avoid while writing?

I tend to read classic fiction—19th or early 20th century—while writing my own book. I don’t want modern novelists’ voices to get inside my head while striving to find my own voice.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I read voraciously as a child—fiction and biographies. I remember binge-reading Harriet the Spy and A Wrinkle in Time. I couldn’t put them down.

What literary genres do you avoid reading?

Ironically, although I’ve published both romance and mystery fiction, I don’t read books in either genre. I don’t gravitate towards “cozy” styles or humor. I also avoid horror and suspense.

Where do you find inspiration for your books?

From everywhere—a news article, a stray remark, an idea that pops into my head as I’m falling asleep. I often begin with “What if…?” and then see what develops.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block, and if so, how do you deal with it?

When I have trouble moving forward with a novel, I’ll turn my attention to another type of writing, usually an essay or a poem. Occasionally, I’ll try to write a short story. I think it’s important to keep writing when you think you’re blocked—because that proves you’re not truly stuck, just pausing on a particular project.

How many drafts do you write before considering your novel complete?

That’s difficult to say because I revise and rewrite extensively, and constantly, as I’m drafting. Once a draft is complete, I go back and make more changes. And then I start from the beginning and do that all again. When I can’t see what else needs fixing, I turn it over to someone else.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Probably a teacher at a college or university. I love the give-and-take that occurs inside a classroom, seminar, or workshop when everyone engages with respect and an open mind.


MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky, blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.

The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner, Flint Sten, arrived in Canary.

The girl’s name was Effie and she was sixteen.

Effie’s pixelated image beamed down at Rags like a celebrity unaware that her fifteen minutes of fame were up.

Rags refused to give a damn about the missing girl who, after all, she didn’t know. Nor did she know much about the town, Canary, where the driverless ShareCar she and Flint had leased for their move had brought them. But missing kids make news, and as Canary’s newly imported one-and-only newspaper editor, Rags knew she’d be expected to do something about it. Which meant she wouldn’t control the news hole on day one. Which meant all kinds of people would come at her to do one thing or another.

Rags hadn’t been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated—and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from.

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