THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR, my second novel for Harlequin MIRA, is set in my little corner of the North Carolina forest. Close to Occoneechee Mountain, which is home to rare wildlife and plants dating back to the Ice Age, this part of the world is filled with Native American history, wild wisteria, venomous snakes, and the cries of hawks. From the day we moved here—nineteen years ago—I felt a strong connection to the land and a sense of living, breathing history. Walks through the forest revealed rusty mule shoes and wagon wheels, abandoned graves and hiking trails that connect to the historic Indian Trading Path. For a writer, this land is a gift, and it inspired THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR.
THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR is a story of two broken families that come together to heal. It’s a story of finding hope in darkness, which is a recurring theme for me. I create damaged, quirky characters who are isolated through invisible disabilities such as clinical depression, severe grief, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I send them to hell, but they always emerge on the other side if not happy and in love, then at least fighting. (As a Brit I feel the need to quote Sir Winston Churchill here: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”) One thing my characters share is the ability to discover the light ahead.
A serious woodland gardener, I have learned to pay attention to the quality of light in the shade and to find beauty in unexpected, hidden corners. I’ve also learned that no matter how deep I am in the forest, I can look up into the Carolina blue sky and see light filtering through the shadows.
My favorite time to be out in the forest is during the gloaming, that fleeting hour—or less—before the temperature dips and everything fades to black. The light is soft and warm, and the sinking sun ignites the treetops so they burn gold. Nothing beats the magic of the gloaming in Orange County, North Carolina. The world seems to stop, and it’s as if I’m caught between day and night in a moment of endless possibility. Many of the scenes in THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR are set during the gloaming. In fact, THE GLOAMING was the original title.
While I was updating my website, I snapped hundreds of photographs of our forest, trying to capture the light that spoke to me of the story behind the story. When I took the picture below, I knew I had found the essence of THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR: light pouring through bare trees to illuminate fallen leaves; light coming through the darkness; light bringing hope.
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Bestselling author Will Shepard is caught in the twilight of grief, after his young son dies in a car accident. But when his father’s aging mind erases the memory, Will rewrites the truth. The story he spins brings unexpected relief…until he’s forced to return to rural North Carolina, trapping himself in a lie.
Holistic veterinarian Hannah Linden is a healer who opens her heart to strays but can only watch, powerless, as her grown son struggles with inner demons. When she rents her guest cottage to Will and his dad, she finds solace in trying to mend their broken world, even while her own shatters.
As their lives connect and collide, Will and Hannah become each other’s only hope—if they can find their way into a new story, one that begins with love.