It’s a new year which means a lot of people have made New Years resolutions. I’m not one to make any type of serious resolution. I mostly try to reset the habits I may have broken in the previous year. Eat healthier. Work out consistently. Spend quality time with my family. But this year, high on my list, is reading more books! I want to discover new authors, as well as continue to read old favorites who never disappoint. 2019 is only nine days old, and I’ve already added a new author to my must-read-everything-she-writes pile!
I was lucky enough to read an Advanced Reader Copy of Erin Bartels’ debut novel, We Hope for Better Things. This book is Upmarket Women’s Fiction, and was released on January 1. This should translate to, Yay! I can go out and buy this book right now! I can’t say enough good things about this book, but instead of me spouting my utter and total love for this debut, I thought it’d be way more interesting to ask Erin Bartels some questions about her novel.
DMH: Hi Erin! Thank you so much stopping by and answering a few questions. Congratulations on your book release! Can you tell everyone a little about what We Hope for Better Things is about?
EB: The story begins when journalist Elizabeth Balsam is tasked with returning a box of never-before-seen photos of the 1967 Detroit riot to a relative she didn’t know she had. Elizabeth wants to use them to further her flagging career. But as she connects with her long-lost great-aunt in the family’s 150-year-old farmhouse outside of Detroit, she begins to uncover the stories of two women who lived in that very house a century apart, who were involved in the Underground Railroad and the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. What she discovers about her family’s past has repercussions for her own future.
DMH: There was so much to love about this book, but what hooked me was learning about what the women went through in three different eras of American history. Where did you get your idea?
EB: Because I take a lot of photos, I’m not in many photos unless it’s a selfie. I started thinking about the fact that every picture we see is seen through the eyes of an unseen observer. There’s always one more person than you are seeing in the photo. And I started to wonder what you could know about that unseen presence hovering outside the frame. Then everything just ballooned from there.
DMH: Such an interesting concept! Since there is so much history in this book, what kind of research did you do?
EB: I read well over a thousand pages on women in the Civil War, Michigan’s involvement in the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, funerary practices in the Victorian Era, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, all Jim Crow, the development of the city of Detroit, civil unrest and the Detroit riot of 1967, and more. I also watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and interviewed people who had lived in Detroit in the 1960s.
DMH: Wow! Well, the research paid off! Every detail felt very authentic and was extremely vivid. Now that you have one release under your belt, what can we expect to see from you next?
EB: My second book, The Words between Us, comes out this September. It’s a story about bookstores, books, first loves, and second chances that explores the power of words—the ones we read, the ones we write, and the ones we say to one another. It’s sort of a coming-of-age story mixed with romance and family drama that is a perfect choice for book clubs.
DMH: This sounds fantastic, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait to read it! Thanks again for stopping by!
If you haven’t already, I highly recommend picking up a copy of We Hope for Better Things today! You won’t be disappointed. You can get your copy here:
For those of us who don’t want to wait until September to see what Erin is up to, you can follow her here: