Like most readers, I have guidelines for what makes a novel great. Consider it a recipe, a wish list, or whatever you like, but if all these items are present, for me the book is probably a winner.
· Start with a healthy (or maybe it's unhealthy!) dose of suspense. Make me gasp. Make my knuckles white from holding the book too tight. Make my heart pound. Keep me awake half the night.
· Add characters that feel so real they could be family and toss them into situations we all hope we never face.
· Layer in revelation upon revelation, on the both the character and plot levels.
· Mix in subplots as addicting as the main plot.
· Push me off track, then pull me back in with a gasp.
· Throw in surprises around every corner.
· Add a twist I don't see coming, but rings true to the book.
· Wrap it all up in a setting as alive as the characters.
· If the book sticks with me long after I've turned the last page, well, hand that author a Pulitzer!
Not picky at all, right?
As an author, I strive to include all of the above in my books, and then some. I love learning about the inspiration behind the stories I read and when they're based on something from the author's real life, it makes them that much more powerful. Everything I write has bit of my life in it. It may be the basis for a character or plot, an underlying truth woven into fiction, or a minor detail, but it's there.
In Apple of My Eye, the reality is in the setting. The story takes place in the small, southern Ohio town of Jackson, a place from my childhood. When I was growing up my family moved several times and no place grew on me quite this little town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Picture lush rolling hills, friendly welcoming faces, and a festival that seemed to draw the support of the whole community.
I admit, my impressions may be skewed by the fact that I was child at the time, but it seemed that everything in the town revolved around its annual Apple Festival. I remember the hours my mom spent making pies (which were sold in a booth to support the school I attended, just like Paula's pies in Apple of My Eye), my school constructing a float, and the thrill of riding on that float in the festival parade. I remember spending long days roaming the blocked-off streets of Jackson, playing carnival games, waiting for my turn on the rides, and bingeing on carnival food. I remember masses lining the streets to watch the parade and the need to get there early to claim a section of sidewalk.
I was 14 years old when I moved away from Jackson, but no other place from my past has quite the same hold on me. I felt this incredible pull to bring bits of those memories to life and what better way than through fiction? Of course, the festival was central to my memories and it's an important part of Apple of My Eye as well.
Thankfully for the characters, the book is 99.9% fake. Fiction is all about entertainment, plain and simple, but those little bits of realism can really bring it to life. I hope that as you read you feel a bit of that realism, but most importantly, I sincerely hope that you enjoy the ride!
Date Published: 08-04-2018
Laurie Brandon isn’t crazy. It’s a bout of panic that has her muttering indecipherable sounds and crying out like a mad woman, an attack brought on by her infant daughter’s sudden disappearance from the town’s annual Apple Festival. Not insanity. She needs help to save Emily. Someone has to see that, do something.
But her recent history of psychosis coupled with witness claims that Emily was never at the festival with Laurie isn’t helping her credibility. Neither is recent suspension from her job as a school teacher over stability concerns. Perhaps most damaging, though, is Laurie’s insistence that her ex-husband, Jake, had something to do with the child’s disappearance. Any sane person knows a dead man can’t run off with a baby.
The town sheriff believes Laurie is, at best, unreliable and possibly something much worse. But Laurie knows what she saw. She knows other things, too, details too hard to believe and even harder to accept. Now, she needs to convince someone – anyone – that Emily is in danger before the sheriff locks Laurie away permanently.
Laurie seems to want to disappear into the wall, her back pressed firmly against it, her feet shuffling. I step closer to her, hoping she’ll catch sight of me instead of Tilton. “It’s Sheriff Tilton, Laurie.” I keep my voice soft. “But you just said Jake.”
She nods frantically.
I glance at the sheriff. By his expression, I know he’s thinking the same thing I am. Still, I play Laurie’s game, hope if she calms she’ll be able to speak to me again. “Jake has Emily?”
Those mumbled sounds tumble from her mouth again, gibberish I can’t even begin to understand. “J…J…J…” I think she’s nodding, but it’s hard to tell.
The sheriff steps forward, putting himself in Laurie’s line of vision. He puts his hands on his narrow hips, sticks out his ever-growing belly. “That doesn’t make sense.” At least he keeps his voice friendly. “You know that.”
She meets his eyes, her own widening. Tilton squints and shakes his head. “How could Jake have Emily?”
Laurie’s head is shaking and her teeth are chattering as if she’s standing in a freezer. “J…J…” She groans a little then blows out a frustrated breath.
Sheriff Tilton shakes his head. “Jake can’t have Emily, Laurie. He’s dead.”
Christine Barfknecht has a passion for weaving the darkest bits of the human psyche into page-turning fiction. She’s been crafting stories since before she printed her first word and credits her overactive imagination to a lifelong love of reading. She seeks out books that keep her hiding beneath the covers at night or turning pages long after her eyes begin to cross, and strives for those qualities in her own writing.
Christine lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, children, and pets where she is also a virtual bookkeeping entrepreneur. In addition to reading and writing, she enjoys gardening, crafts, time with family, and traveling. APPLE OF MY EYE is her debut novel.