Amanda Cox is the four-time Christy Award–winning author. In 2020, Amanda’s debut novel, The Edge of Belonging, was released into the world. Her story quickly garnered recognition, winning the 2021 Christy Book of the Year Award and the Christy Award for best debut novel. Her first book was followed by The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery, which also won two Christy Awards—the 2022 Christy Book of the Year Award and the General Fiction Award.
In this interview, Amanda talks with us about her new book, He Should Have Told the Bees.
FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your novel He Should Have Told the Bees?
He Should Have Told the Bees is the story of two young women, Beck and Callie, who find themselves named on one man’s trust. Beck is his faithful daughter, who shared his love of keeping bees. Callie, a stranger, is mystified by her connection to her benefactor. Accepting the gift will give Callie the stability that’s always been out of reach, but to do so will mean taking away the only home Beck has ever known.
As the two women search for the truth behind why their lives have suddenly become entangled and negotiate their shared ownership of Walsh Farm, they discover new pathways to hope.
FF: He Should Have Told the Bees is packed with complex secrets. What was the inspiration behind your new work?
This story and all its layers happened little by little, each little thread coming from different touchpoints in my life. But I’d have to say it all started with my love for bees and my passion for crafting stories that explore family dynamics and pathways to relational healing.
FF: You have two main protagonists in your new novel, Beckett (Beck) Walsh and Callie Peterson. Can you please provide a brief description of both of these women?
Beck is a country girl, and farm life is in her blood. She has lived a very isolated life on her farm, in part because she loves it so much and in part because of some early childhood experiences that have had a significant impact on her life. She is a little rough around the edges, but she has a good heart. Even though she has some significant struggles to overcome, she is strong and independent in a lot of ways.
Callie was raised by a mother whose life was consumed by substance abuse, which caused Callie to grow up at a very young age. She’s worked very long and hard to build a stable life with a business of her own, but things keep happening that push her goals just out of reach. She is resilient and compassionate, broken but determined to grow and heal.
FF: Beck Walsh is a beekeeper who has worked alongside her father in their apiary. What type of research was required to accurately portray all the details and tasks that come with beekeeping?
I have always been fascinated with bees. I began to get serious about learning about beekeeping several years ago. After spending a lot of time learning about their care, my daughter and I started keeping a few hives of our own. Many, many hours have been spent reading books, scrolling through online forums, watching videos, and tending my own hives. (I am an amateur, not a professional like Beck!)
FF: Beck struggles with anxiety. Why did you choose to include her struggles as part of your story line?
Even if readers don’t struggle with anxiety on the same level that Beck does, most people have some level of experience with it, whether as a short-lived emotional state or as an ongoing battle.
While I was writing this book, the world was going through a lot of changes—from people being quarantined to returning to the workplace. Struggles with anxiety were on the rise. In writing Beck, I hoped to craft a character who would connect with readers sharing the same battle.
FF: In addition to Beck’s struggles, Callie’s mother, Lindy, is also struggling with her own issues. Can you please provide some insight on how this initially affect’s Callie’s decision about the trust?
Lindy’s life has been plagued with substance abuse. After being estranged from Callie for several months, Lindy shows up asking her daughter to help her get into a rehabilitative program. Callie, who has been working so hard to get her new business off the ground, suddenly finds herself saddled with her mother’s bills. Callie feels like she, once again, will have to choose between the fresh, new, healthy life she is trying to build and helping her mother. When she is named in the trust, the financial gain that could come from selling her portion of the inheritance could be enough to allow her to both get her business going and get excellent care provided for her mother.
FF: You have a master’s degree in professional counseling. How do you feel your knowledge in this area has helped you create real and relatable characters?
As a counselor I spent time sitting with individuals and families on their most difficult days, serving as a guide while they processed their thoughts and emotions and helping them take steps toward healing. Listening, observing, and simply being present with another person has always been a passion of mine. When forming characters, I invest a lot of my time imagining who they are and what life experiences have shaped them. I “sit with” these characters in order to bring them to life on the page in an authentic way. As a counselor I functioned as a guide toward healing for my counseling clients. As a novelist I strive to do the same for my characters, using the story as their guide on the path to healing.
FF: What do you hope readers will gain from reading He Should Have Told the Bees?
I hope that this book inspires those who are on their own healing journey to stay the course and continue to do the hard work involved in the healing process. I hope it helps those with struggling friends and family members to grow in empathy and compassion.
And, of course, I do hope to spread my love of honeybees!
He Should Have Told the Bees
Genres: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary
Release Date: August 29, 2023
Beckett (Beck) Walsh loves working alongside her father in their apiary. But when her father passes away unexpectantly, her life takes an unexpected turn. Suddenly, it is up to her to run Walsh Farm, including managing the finances, which she has never done. But there is a catch—she is only part owner of the farm, and the other owner, someone she knows nothing about, has the power to sell the business. Why would her father risk something that meant so much to both of them?
Callie Peterson is attempting to open her first storefront for her natural body care products. So, when she learns that she has been named in the trust of a man she’s never heard of, she views this as an opportunity to take care of her struggling finances. Not only will the extra money support her new start-up business but it will also help her absent mother get into rehab for her lifelong substance abuse issues.
As Beck and Callie try to navigate through the difficult conundrum, they must first sort through a complex and entangled past full of secrets in order to pave the way for a brighter future for both of them.
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