It took a long time for me to realize that dark themes were the toast for my jam. I think it stemmed from this pressure I felt growing up that I had to be happy all the time, so write happy, fluffy things. That meant I spent all my time writing historical because I love those too. Only, they always seemed to take a turn from aw! into ah! at the end of the first act so I scraped them and moved on.
Then—and I’m dating myself here—a few days before I turned 18, The Grudge movie came out and changed my thinking. If I’m being honest, scary movies are never scary to me so I only saw it because of Sarah Michelle Geller (I’m a diehard Buffy fan). This movie though… I can’t put my finger on why it clicked with me. Maybe because it wasn’t only jump-scares. There was plenty of that, but it was also extremely creepy and kept me wondering what was going on. I don’t remember a lot of the movie now (although I’m pretty sure I’m going to go rent it now), but I remember the way it made me feel.
The meowing. The kid. The way the woman came down those stairs. I still get chills thinking about it, and it makes me giddy. I’ve tried to find other movies and books that give me the same feeling with little luck, but knowing that feeling even once was like I had permission—permission I never needed, but always wanted—to recreate that in my own work.
DREAM KEEPER is actually the first book where I let myself go completely. I can’t remember how many times I asked myself “is this going too far?” but that’s what the story needed. Some early readers mentioned that it’s given them nightmares and, honestly, that gives me life.
The Sandman is seventeen-year-old Nora’s closest friend and best-kept secret. He has to be, if she doesn’t want a one-way ticket back to the psychiatrist. It took her too long to learn not to mention the hooded figure in her dreams to her mother, who still watches Nora as if she’ll crack. So when Nora’s friends start mysteriously dying gruesome deaths in their sleep, she isn’t altogether surprised when the police direct their suspicion at her. The Sandman is the only one she can turn to for answers. But the truth might be more than she bargained for…
For the last five years, the Sandman has spent every night protecting Nora. When he hid the secret to the Nightmare Lord’s escape inside her dreams, he never expected to fall in love with her. Neither did he think his nemesis would find her so quickly, but there’s no mistaking his cruel handiwork. The Nightmare Lord is tired of playing by the rules and will do anything to release his deadly nightmares into the world, even if that means tormenting Nora until she breaks.
When the Nightmare Lord kidnaps Nora’s sister, Nora must enter enemy territory to save her. The Sandman is determined to help, but if Nora isn’t careful, she could lose even more than her family to the darkness.
Amber R Duell
Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s constantly moving with her husband and two sons as a military wife. Before becoming published, she had a wide range of occupations including banking, bartending (though she’s never tried alcohol), and phlebotomy (though she faints with needles). She also volunteered as a re-enactor at the local Revolutionary War fort and worked near shelter cats which led to her previous crazy cat lady status.
She does her best writing in the middle of the night, surviving the daylight hours with massive amounts of caffeine. Her favorite stories are dark with a touch of romance and a villain you either love to hate or hate to love.
When not reading or writing, she enjoys snowboarding, embroidering, snuggling with her cat, and staying up way too late to research genealogy. She loves to travel and has visited more countries than states. Kissing the Blarney Stone and hand-feeding monkeys in the mountains of France will be hard to beat, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to find the next real-life adventure.
You can find out more about Amber by visiting her official website www.amberduell.com
Please follow Amber on Twitter @AmberR_Duell