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An Interview with Amber Roberts

Haunt Your Heart Out with this exciting new interview, where we chat with Amber Roberts all about her upcoming small-town queer romance featuring bi and pan leads. If you love Gilmore Girls and/or Ghost Hunters, you'll love learning more about this cosy novel!

 

Thank you for joining us, Amber! First of all, please could you introduce yourself? 


Hello, I’m happy to be here! I’m Amber Roberts, a contemporary romance author from Vermont, USA. I’m a D&D nerd and former fanfic writer and while I often play with fantasy projects on the side for fun, I’ve found my happy place in the romance genre. My debut, Text Appeal, was released in 2023, and my second novel, Haunt Your Heart Out, releases in October.



Tell us more about Haunt Your Heart Out and what inspired you to write it.


Haunt Your Heart Out is a small-town romance set in Stowe, Vermont featuring a former paranormal vlog host and the ghost-hunting filmmaker who comes to town to investigate the hauntings she faked. I grew up near the town where this book is set and a lot of the scenes happen in real locations throughout the area. The town has many ghost stories—some I even mention in the book. I used to spend time in these spaces because I found them peaceful (most of the time, anyway!). When COVID lockdowns started, I was missing my hometown quite a bit so I started writing a book set there because I was craving something comforting and nostalgic.



Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Which, if any, did you identify with most and why? 


Lex is a woman in her early 30s who has worked at the local bookstore for years. She dreams of buying it, but regular bills and extra home repair costs keep the dream from becoming a reality. When she was a teen, she had a YouTube vlog where she invented ghost stories for the town—and it actually gathered quite a following when it was in its prime.


James, a man in his mid-30s, winds up in Stowe as part of a documentary film crew to investigate stories of hauntings in the area, including some from Lex’s vlog. He’s secretly a little scared of ghosts but enjoys the storytelling that comes along with the job! He’s a wanderer and hasn’t yet figured out where he wants to settle, but he’s enjoying his journey while he tries to find “home.”


I identify with Lex a lot. Throughout the book, she struggles with her anxiety. My own experience with anxiety informed a lot of Lex’s character and writing her journey was special to me. And what I wouldn’t give to have my own bookstore!



What are your favourite romance tropes to read and do any make an appearance in this love story?


I can’t get enough enemies to lovers, only one bed, forced proximity, or fake dating—especially when they’re in the same book. While none of these are in Haunt Your Heart Out, I do hint at these tropes through character interactions and book references.



Your MCs are pan and bi. Why is it important that you include this representation in M/F romance, and is there anything else you’d love to see more of in this genre?


While I love reading bi/pan characters and queer characters in any pairings, I think it’s important to also represent bi/pan characters in m/f relationships because it gives many readers the chance to see themselves on the page as they are. Because bi erasure is so prevalent, I—and others, I hope—find comfort in stories that reinforce the validity of bi and pan characters, including through m/f pairings. Queer stories featuring any pairings or identities are incredibly important and necessary—I absolutely still want those, I’ll eat them up—but it’s also nice to see queer characters just living their best bi lives, regardless of what their romantic situation is.


In terms of what I want to see more in the genre, I will never say no to more queer retellings! I want them all, every one of them! 



What initially drew you to romance and why did you settle on a bookstore setting as the backdrop? Was the cosy setting inspired by any other places, real or fictional?


I started out writing fantasy but kept finding that my characters wouldn’t focus on the plot and were instead focusing on each other. Obviously, the only real answer was to write in a romantic subplot (haha). But, after I caved to my characters’ demands, I realized I really enjoyed the character building that came with writing a romance arc. All of the elements that made up the two characters came together so beautifully and helped the story become something even more than I’d imagined. That said, I’ve 100% shelved that book (trust me, it’s for everyone’s good!) but I started to explore writing romance after realizing how much intense character work the genre requires. While I publish contemporary romance, I am always working on side projects (they help clear my head!) and more often than not those are fantasy.


Regarding the bookstore setting, I used to work in a bookstore and I miss that job every day. While describing the store in Haunt Your Heart Out, I often had Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont in mind. That store is where I used to escape when I needed to decompress. It was a safe, comfortable spot where I always felt welcome, no matter what.


You also include themes such as loneliness, belonging, finding yourself, and taking chances. Tell us a little bit about how these impact the story and what you hope readers will take from them. 


While Haunt Your Heart Out is a cozy, feel-good story, these elements are a part of who the characters are—and what they struggle with daily. Lex has anxiety and depression, she feels isolated and lonely, and small things can often feel far too big—so she retreats. But, as she meets new people and challenges her own ideas that she’s held for her whole adult life, she grows and forges connections that help her begin to heal.


I hope readers can take what they need from the story—whether that’s hope, joy, a few laughs, or a sudden urge to watch every episode of Ghost Hunters in one week. Writing the first draft of this book was what I needed at a specific moment in my life, and I hope the themes that brought me comfort also resonate with readers.



Did you find any challenges while writing this story? How did you overcome them?


I have a confession to make: I am terrified of scary stories! I can’t even watch trailers for horror movies because I’d be up all night thinking something was under my bed. The biggest challenge was balancing the ghost-hunting aspect with something less spooky so I didn’t freak myself out. This is why the ghost-hunting aspect leans on the idea of hauntings as stories rather than including actual ghosts.



Your MMC is a TV ghost hunter — did this profession require a lot of research? Do you have any favourite ghost hunters/shows yourself?


While I wanted to attend a paranormal investigation for research, I chickened out last minute! Oops! Instead, I spent a lot of time examining video reviews of ghost-hunting tools and techniques—there are some really dedicated product reviewers out there. I was even able to play with some EMF readers and REM pods that a paranormal-loving friend of mine has. I also spent a lot of my spare time reading studies and essays about the psychology related to hauntings and ghost sightings (I include a little bit of that info in the book, as well!). The brain is so complex and some of the resources I studied had some wild theories—I’m hoping to add a resources list to my website closer to publication, so watch for that.


Regarding ghost hunters and ghost-hunting shows, I used to watch the original Ghost Hunters and Scariest Places on Earth even though I knew I’d keep myself up at night. Recently, though, I discovered Living for the Dead—a queer ghost-hunting show with Kristen Stewart as executive producer—and I love it.



This isn’t your first steamy queer romance novel! What can readers expect from your debut, Text Appeal


Text Appeal follows Lark, a woman who is unfairly pushed out of her STEM career after accidentally displaying an unsolicited pic on a screen during a presentation—so she takes up sexting to pay the bills. But, her best friend, who she’s been crushing on since college, makes a move and she has to try to balance a new relationship while trying to keep her sexting job a secret. Where Haunt Your Heart Out is cozy and gentle, Text Appeal is a bit of a loudmouth!





We’d love a hint about any of your current projects!


I’m playing with a few projects right now, both with f/f pairings! One is a fake dating, opposites attract, destination romcom with all of the forced proximity/only one bed goodness. The other is a dating lessons, grumpy/sunshine, just once to get it out of our systems book that started as a loose Serendipity-inspired story and morphed into something entirely different.



Have any shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?


Yes! Gilmore Girls, Ghost Hunters, and Christmas romance movies all kept me inspired while working on Haunt Your Heart Out—and there are a few references to some of my favorite Christmas movies in the book. The book is also set in December because A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite movies (in general, not just for Christmas).


Text Appeal jokes that sexting should be approached as a D&D Dungeon Master would game night—and has some RPG-like moments throughout. I also found inspiration in both Sex Education and Fleabag.



If you could give any advice to authors set to make their debut, what would it be?


I once asked an author who was signing a book for me to include some words of encouragement with her signature, and she wrote “Write you you, the rest will come!” and those words became comfort to me and I am so grateful for them! I would give the same advice.



Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, or games you’re enjoying at the moment? Any recommendations for our audience? Bonus points if it includes sapphics!


Oh, yes!!!! Recent favorite books include Fly With Me by Andie Burke, Thank You for Sharing by Rachel Runya Katz, Kilt Trip by Alexandra Kiley, the Witchlings series by Claribel A Ortega, and So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole. For shows, I’ve been loving Resident Alien, The Flatshare, Ghosts (both US and UK versions!), Strange New Worlds, and Lower Decks.



About Amber



Amber Roberts writes contemporary romance about unabashedly nerdy characters in ridiculous situations. She lives with her husband, two children, and formerly feral cats in the Vermont woods, where eating maple creemees is a year-round activity. She can be found on Instagram @AmberRobertsWrites, Twitter @ARobertsWrites, or amberrobertswrites.com.



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