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By Terri Nolan

Amanda McKinney left the timeclock world of workaday stress to become a fulltime mother and writer. She made the right career move. THE WOODS is the first novel in the Berry Springs series and there is plenty of murder, crime, and romance.

Dr. Katie Somers, a successful archeologist, returns to the small town of Berry Springs to sell the family home after her sister’s mysterious death. Katie expects the task to take a week. She doesn’t expect the distraction of handsome Jake Thomas nor the dead bodies they find. When they become suspects Jake embarks on a parallel investigation. As the pair delves deeper into dangerous territory they grow closer. But their new togetherness and their lives are threatened when Katie closes in on the answer to the question of who killed her sister.

Why did you leave your career to become a writer?

I’d always struggled with what I was meant to do professionally. My world was cubicles, PowerPoint presentations, quotas, and ass-kissing. I knew, deep down, this was not my path. I wanted to be the person who said, “I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work.” So, I kept sending positive energy out into the world, praying that I’d find whatever that job was. It hit me like a lightning bolt one day. It was the answer to a lot of soul searching and prayers. The decades-long quest finally ended after I wrote the first few paragraphs of my first book. I found something that I loved so much, and I just knew that writing was my path. And, here I am.

That book was Lethal Legacy. Did the career you left prepare you for the rigors of writing?

I left a career in sales and business/account management. For the most part, no, my previous jobs did not prepare me for the rigors of writing. The writing and publishing world is definitely its own animal. Just when you think you’ve started to figure him out, he sends you a swift punch in the gut. I will say; having a sales background has helped to prepare me for the business side of a writing career. I focus a lot on how to grow my business, my target audience, the best ways to market my work, optimal timing, etcetera.

How was Katie Somers born?

I love creating characters. Before I begin a new book, I create a character page where I write down their physical characteristics and a few personality traits. But, I’ve found that my characters really develop as I go. As I come to each situation, I think, how would my character handle this? And with each scene their personality develops. Katie was born in my head one evening after a few glasses of wine. Coincidentally, she loves wine as well, which made for a fantastic partnership. Katie is the type of woman we can all relate to, and the type of woman we want to be. She’s smart—with a doctorate in archaeology—and she’s confident in who she is. But, she’s also flawed and vulnerable, as when dealing with the recent death of her sister. Through the course of the story, she becomes entangled in a string of violet murders, has to relive the pain from her sister’s death, and falls in love.

What is Katie’s fifty-word bio?

Born and raised in Berry Springs, Arkansas, Katie Somers graduated magma cum laude with a double degree in anthropology and history before receiving her doctorate from Arkansas University. Katie currently works for Samson Cultural Analysts and has gained national recognition for her publications on Native American culture. And, she’s an awesome chick.

Tell us about your writing process.  

I’m someone who loves schedules, plans, and consistency. Spontaneity scares me. So, I keep myself on a tight schedule. I write every day, no matter what. I find that this keeps the same tone through the book and my creative juices flowing. There’s nothing more frustrating than opening my computer and staring at the screen for thirty minutes trying to figure out what my next word should be. Writing every day helps to avoid that. I also have a weekly word goal and I’m pretty hardcore about meeting it. I’ve been known to set my alarm for four a.m. to get some writing time in before the kids wake up.

Lethal Legacy received two offers and was traditionally published. Why go indie with the Berry Springs series?

Although I learned so much from being traditionally published, I couldn’t ignore the pull I felt to explore self-publishing. I am a control freak at heart and being able to control every single piece of the puzzle really intrigued me. I also wanted to learn that part of the publishing world. So, I gave it a shot, and I’ve got to say, I’m loving the journey so far.

What authors inspire you and what novels are you currently reading?

Nora Roberts’s story inspires me; she had no writing experience or ties to the publishing world whatsoever, but one day she decided to sit down and write a book, and today she is one of the most successful romance authors in the world. She loved to write, and she made it happen. That’s awesome. I just downloaded her Come Sundown. I’m reading it little by little, in between writing and taking care of the kiddos. I’m also inspired by Laura Griffin; the research and facts she puts into her books is incredible. I learn a lot just from reading them.

One last question. Do you attend conferences? If so, which ones?

2017 has been a busy year of acclimating my second baby boy into this wonderful world, and using every spare second to write. So, traveling didn’t exactly fit into that schedule. Next year? Absolutely, my calendar is already blocked out for several conferences and ThrillerFest is at the top of the list. I also plan to attend Romance Writers of America and a few local conferences. I’m excited to meet other like-minded authors, and let’s be honest, have a little break from the kiddos.

Thank you, Amanda, for spending time with The Big Thrill. Good luck with the new books.


Amanda McKinney, writer of Romantic Suspense, wrote her debut novel, LETHAL LEGACY, after walking away from her career to become a stay-at-home mom. Her second novel, THE WOODS, the first book in the BERRY SPRINGS SERIES will be released in June, and the next in the series, THE LAKE, is scheduled to be released in the winter of 2017. Amanda’s books are fast-paced reads about murder, mystery, sex and seduction.

To learn more about Amanda, please visit her website.

Terri Nolan
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