Looking for a good book to keep you in suspense? Let me recommend Nicole Baart’s new novel, “Everything We Didn’t Say.” It was my latest read, and I can tell you I stayed up way past my bedtime completely engrossed in the story.

The book follows a woman named Juniper who goes back to her small hometown and confronts the summer that changed her life forever. It’s a murder mystery with an ending I did not see coming—and I am so honored that Nicole (who has written 9 previous novels) has taken the time to share some of her writing process with me (and you!)

Below, find out how she came up with the idea for the book, how she can thank fan fiction for her start, and the best writing tip she ever received:

1. How did the idea for “Everything We Didn’t Say” come to you?
It took me three years to write this book and it came from a variety of different places. I wish I had a fantastic origin story, but it honestly was a sort of book soup: a little of this, a bit of that. At the very heart of “Everything We Didn’t Say” is a cold case in Iowa that gripped me several years ago. I don’t even remember how I came across it, but it stuck with me. I can’t stand cold cases because I can’t imagine being the family member or loved one of a victim and not having the answers I need. I like to write those answers and give closure to hurting families, even if it’s fictitious.

Nicole Baart

2. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you to sit down and write your first book?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little girl. I had to have a lot of surgeries when I was young, and I quickly learned that the best way to cope with the trauma of hospital days was to cocoon myself on my dad’s lap while he read to me. Books were comfort, excitement, and escape from the fear and pain. I never wanted them to end. By the time I was six or so, I was writing fan fiction—though I didn’t know I was doing it and didn’t even realize it was a thing until much, much later. But continuing the story after the last page was a great way for me to start.

3. What have you found to be the most challenging part of writing a book, and has it gotten any easier for you through the years? What tricks have helped?
I feel much more confident writing books now than I did when I started nearly fifteen years ago. But I can’t necessarily say that the process has gotten any easier. Every single book is a brand new world that comes with its own unique set of challenges. One trick that never fails me is getting rid of all screens (including my computer!) and writing longhand. I am so much more creative and capable of silencing my inner critic when I write old school.

4. What’s the best tip you ever got from someone about writing that you use often, and who did it come from?
My good friends Tosca Lee and Kimberly Stuart opened my eyes to the joy of plotting. I used to be a “pantser” and was quite convinced that it made my books more interesting and authentic… But really, writing without a plan only makes things chaotic—at least, for me. Knowing the major beats before I pick up pen and paper helps me have a better understanding of how the story should unfold, how to pace, and what my character arcs should be. There’s still plenty of room for creativity, and my characters always surprise me, but I can’t write without a solid framework anymore.

SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT NICOLE:

Where she does most of her writing: The couch!

The most interesting/weird/odd thing she Googled while working on “Everything We Didn’t Say:” “How many waterways in Iowa are contaminated?”

Her first reader: Her agent

Her drink of choice while writing: Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea

Authors, living or not, she’d want to have dinner with: Emily Dickinson or JK Rowling

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a nonprofit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of nine previous novels, including You Were Always Mine, Little Broken Things, and The Beautiful Daughters. Learn more at NicoleBaart.com and follow her on Instagram @nicolebaart.

MORE ABOUT “EVERYTHING WE DIDN’T SAY”: Juniper Baker was 19, college bound, and deeply in love on the night her world was torn apart. As fireworks lit up the summer sky, her neighbors were brutally murdered right outside their barn, and—to her horror—her younger brother became the prime suspect. In an instant, everything she loved fell away. She escaped, pledging never to return to her tiny Iowa town. Until now. Juniper is back in town to “help a friend.” But really, she’s here to repair her relationship with her teenage daughter who her parents have raised, the source of her deepest regret—and to solve the infamous Murphy murders. The key to both lies in the darkest secret of the long-ago summer night that’s haunted her for nearly 15 years. As history begins to repeat itself, the race to the truth puts past and present on a dangerous collision course. Except this time, it’s her daughter’s life that hangs in the balance.

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