Amanda Dykes‘ debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, is the winner of the prestigious 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, and the winner of an INSPY Award. She’s also the author of Christy Award-finalists All the Lost Places, Yours Is the Night, and Set the Stars Alight.

In this interview, Amanda talks with us about her new book, Born of Gilded Mountains.

FF: Can you please tell us a little bit about your new novel Born of Gilded Mountains?
The thrill and intrigue of a treasure hunt beckons two heroines on a quest to pick up the pieces of their friendship, their pasts, and the riddles of a long-lost treasure, kept for years in the folds of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a celebration of the gift of friendship, the unique purpose of each life, the majesty of the mountains…and I hope readers will have fun trying to solve the clues, codes, and riddles right along with Rusty Bright and Marybeth Spatts (aka Mercy Windsor, the famous queen of the silver screen).

FF: The novel is set in the fictional mountain town of Mercy Peak in the 1940s. How would you describe this setting to readers and how does it enrich the story?
The setting of this book stole my heart most of all. As a mountain girl myself, born and raised at the base of the Sierras, I couldn’t help falling for the strikingly unique beauty of the San Juan Range of the Rockies in Colorado. It’s a place steeped in story and adventure, where the people have long been full of fortitude, creativity, vision, and hope, braving the wilds of the mountains to carve out a life in the “Switzerland of America.” Settings so vivid have a way of becoming characters themselves, and that’s my hope for Mercy Peak. It’s based on the beloved towns of the San Juans: Ouray, Telluride, Silverton, Durango, and more. I hope the sense of community will feel to readers a bit like coming home.

FF: Your work is known for its beautiful prose—even the title, Born of Gilded Mountains, has a lyrical sound to it. How would you say your writing is unique from other authors?
We’re all our own harshest critics, right? So this is a tricky question for me, and I’ll defer to readers, who’ve been kind enough to use words such as mesmerizing, spellbinding, enchanting, and immersive. For readers who are brave enough to lend me their patience as I work to build a world, my hope is that their patience will be paid off with an experience that is rich and lasting, and will connect with them deeply with an invitation to hope, even in the face of hard things. I’m not as lickety-split in jumping right into the action as some authors are, much as I admire them—but stick with me, and we’ll have such a journey!

FF: You’ve written four novels before this one. How did your writing process for Born of Gilded Mountains differ from your previous novels?
I like to try something new with each novel, to continue to learn and grow. For this book, the primary theme of friendship was a new focus. I also employed the use of letters and ephemera—mail, newspaper clippings, movie script excerpts (all fictional and created for the story) to help tell the story. It’s not an entirely epistolary novel but dips into those waters since the main characters started their friendship as pen pals. It was such fun!

FF: What were some of the unique joys writing this novel presented?
I thought that writing in a mountain setting would be the great joy of this novel—and it was! But I was surprised along the way by other joys, such as getting to know Rusty, Mercy, and their friendship. I also toured a Hollywood movie backlot/sets to get a feel for Mercy’s Hollywood background, tromped to waterfalls and nooks and crannies in the San Juans, and visited two of the Galloping Geese (hybrid train/automobile vehicles unique to the time and setting)—one in the Rockies, and one at an amusement park where I had to brave L.A. traffic all alone to get to (remember, small-town mountain girl here). Did I hop on a roller coaster just because I could and just because my kids told me I had to? Definitely. And then I found the Galloping Goose I was chasing, and even got to sit in the driver’s seat in the round house and honk its horn!

Oh, and I was able to go into a mine for research and found myself in there beside a real-life movie star (Avengers fans: it was Thanos. Or rather, the actor who plays him.). There I was, four hundred feet into the dark earth in a tiny gathering of people as I researched a mine scene for a movie star character…and standing next to a movie star. What are the odds?

FF: What was the most challenging part of writing Born of Gilded Mountains?
I always get a little too wrapped up in characters and spend not enough time on plot on the first draft, so the rewrites stage of this book was a big feat to conquer. It resulted in a much more amped-up treasure hunt element, and I hope it turns out to be loads of fun for readers. The challenge is so worth it.

FF: This novel tells the story of two long-lost friends. What do you believe this book illustrates about the nature of friendship?
I believe friendship can be one of the greatest gifts of this life, and one that our society often glosses over. My hope is to shine the light on that gift for a little while. I know that in my own life, friendships have taught me such important things: hope, faith, celebration, forgiveness, grace, growth, courage, and adventure. Some friendships last a season, and others for a life, and they’re each treasures. I hope it’s a celebration of journeying through life together, taking time to notice each other, to live not just for ourselves, and to cherish the dreams, cradle the hurts, and foster the courage of friends.

FF: Symbolism plays a major role in this story. Can you discuss one of the symbols you use throughout the novel and how it contributes to its overall meaning?
For whatever reason, my brain is wired in symbolism/metaphor. And one of the beautiful things about story is that readers might discover symbolism or meaning that I didn’t necessarily intend or realize was there—but their own lens and experiences bring it to life. I love that! It makes books living and dynamic. But to answer the question: to me, one of the biggest (literally) symbols is the mountains themselves. They’re at once a place of danger and of safety, of shattered dreams and new hopes, of storms and of sun, of barren peaks and wildflower-strewn valleys. They hold treasure in all that rugged strength. To me, it’s so much like life. It’s a wild and beautiful place.

FF: What do you hope readers experience when reading an Amanda Dykes novel?
Hope. It always comes down to hope. We may go through difficult terrain on these pages, but it’s never for naught. There’s always hope, even when it’s hard—I believe that with all my heart, and I hope it’s the undercurrent carrying every story. In the hands of a God who penned our hearts with so much care, there is always, always hope.

FF: What are you working on next?
Two things! I have a nonfiction book geared toward young adventurers, focused on the theme of wonder (and, of course, hope), coming out with Bethany House in the spring of 2025. And as we prepare to launch Born of Gilded Mountains, my mind is tumbling around the next novel. I can’t say too much about it yet, as I’m in the very beginning research stages and it’s just starting to find a vague shape, but I’m very excited for what that vague shape might look like once it’s written and sculpted into a story.

Born of Gilded Mountains
Amanda Dykes
Bethany House
Genres: Historical
Release Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎0764239511
ISBN-13: ‎978-0764239519

Book Summary:
A lost treasure. A riddled quest. The healing power of friendship.

Legends are tucked into every fold of the Colorado mountains surrounding the quaint town of Mercy Peak, where residents are the stuff of tall tales, the peaks are taller still, and a lost treasure has etched mystery into the very terrain.

In 1948, when outsider Mercy Windsor arrives after a scandal shatters her gilded world as Hollywood’s beloved leading lady, she is determined to forge a new life in obscurity in this time-forgotten Colorado haven. She purchases Wildwood, an abandoned estate with a haunting history, and begins to restore it to its former glory.

But as she does, her every move tugs at the threads of the mountain’s lore, unearthing what became of her long-lost pen pal Rusty Bright, and the whereabouts of the infamous Galloping Goose Railcar No. 8, which vanished years ago—along with the mailbag it carried, whose contents could change the course of countless lives. Not to mention the fabled treasure that—if found—could right so many wrongs.

Among the towering mountains that stand as silent witnesses, the ghosts of the past entangle with the courage of the present to find a place where healing, friendship, and hope can abide amid a world forever changed.


Buy Born of Gilded Mountains from the FF Store HERE!


Buy Born of Gilded Mountains from the FamilyFiction Amazon Affiliate HERE!

Check out more great articles

About The Author

Amanda Dykes, a former English teacher, is a drinker of tea, dweller of redemption, and spinner of hope-filled tales. Her novella, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale, was met with critical acclaim from Publishers Weekly, Readers' Favorite, and more. Whose Waves These Are is her debut novel.