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BRIDGES, BOOKS, AND BONES
Willow Falls Series
BY PAT NICHOLS
Newspaper editor Emily Hayes can’t get a break. The release of her novel about Willow Falls’ rise from failure is upstaged when a bulldozer unearths a skull and curious residents set up camp at the dig site. After a crime investigation television crew arrives on the scene, the sheriff recruits her and the new mayor to shadow the lead investigator nicknamed she dragon. Will a decades old letter and rumors from the past solve the crime or send the crew packing?
Rachel Streetman’s six-week trip in Venice, Italy to star in a major motion picture forces her to face reality. She’ll spend her first wedding anniversary an ocean away from Charlie. Adding to her anxiety, a ruthless publicist initiates a social media fiasco and threatens her reputation in the town she’s grown to love. When her costar shares details about her fame-driven lifestyle, Rachel questions if living the dream comes at a cost she’s willing to pay.
BRIDGES, BOOKS, AND BONES
Willow Falls Series
BY PAT NICHOLS
You’ve just released your second novel. What compelled you to write two books about your hometown?
Three years ago, Willow Falls was dying a slow painful death and Hayes General Store, my husband’s century-old family business, was on the brink of failure. Residents were struggling to survive and Scott and I were barely able to pay our bills. I hoped if people could read about Willow Falls’ colorful history, they’d want to visit our little spot in North Georgia. After all, how many towns were created because the son of a wealthy land owner fell in love with the daughter of domestic servants, who made her living as a vaudeville singer? My second novel is the story of Willow Falls current rise from failure.
What is life in a small town like?
Wonderful and at the same time whacky—like one big, lovable, argumentative family. Everybody knows everybody’s business and believe me, no one is too shy to voice their opinion. Which makes our townhall meetings unpredictable and entertaining. What I admire most is how our community pulls together when faced with challenges or threats. I’m especially proud of the way folks put aside their pre-conceived notions and welcomed three ex-cons and three homeless veterans into the family.
What do you consider your most important achievement?
Other than being a wife and mother, there are two. The first was completing my parents’ vision. They believed the only way to save Willow Falls was to transform it into a tourist destination. Their first two goals were to turn one of the town’s original homes into the Willow Inn, and find an investor to finish our only hotel. Both buildings had been vacant for three decades. After their accident, I found the courage to carry on what they had begun. What makes that accomplishment even more amazing is my birth mother—who I didn’t know existed for thirty years—helped me and became Willow Inn’s first innkeeper. My second most important achievement was partnering with my sister Rachel to write and cast a play about the town’s history.
Speaking of Rachel, what’s it like to have a twin on the verge of becoming a famous movie star?
Every once in a while I experience a little envy, until reality hits home. Unfortunately, Rachel’s acting career often takes her away from everything and everyone she loves. A few days ago she flew to Venice to star in a major motion picture. Which means she’ll be in one of the most romantic cities in the world and Charlie will be in Willow Falls during their first wedding anniversary. He manages his family’s vineyard and winery and is right in the middle of their first harvest. I can’t imagine spending any anniversary away from Scott. Sometimes I wonder if the price of fame is worth the sacrifices.
How about a change of direction? Do you prefer cats or dogs?
I’m more of a dog person. We adopted my parents’ golden retriever Cody. He’s a sweetheart and my daughters adore him. If you were to ask Rachel about her favorite gift from Charlie, she’d tell you it was Cody’s cousin Brownie. I do have a favorite cat, her name’s Mittens. She lives next door to the Willow Inn and has taken the role as the inn’s official greeter. Most days you’d find her stretched out on the front porch railing.
Finally, what is an important lesson you’ve learned?
When difficult circumstances or tragedy strikes, God surrounds you with family and friends, and sometimes a loyal dog, to help you through the pain and heartache.
Rachel Streetman Bricker gripped her husband’s arm and peeked out the business-class window at the dense fog obscuring the terminal and shrouding the runway. “I can’t believe we’re taking off in this pea soup.”
Charlie brushed a stray curl from her cheek. “People claim air travel is safer than driving.”
Her pulse pounded in her ears. “Cars can’t fall from the sky and crash in a giant ball of fire.”
“I remember that grip of yours doggone near cut off my circulation when we rode up to the Sun Dial Restaurant during our first date.”
“In a glass tube hugging the outside of a seventy-plus story building, thank you very much. At least that elevator was attached with some sort of cable. It’s not logical that a multi-ton plane loaded with fuel, people, and a belly full of luggage can leave the ground, much less fly.”
“It’s all about lift and aerodynamics.”
“What if the baggage handlers overloaded the cargo area?” She tightened her seatbelt. “Maybe too many heavy passengers boarded or a gang of thieves smuggled gold bars in their luggage.”
Charlie chuckled. “Either you’ve picked up your sister’s writer imagination or that dose of antibiotics you took a few weeks ago muddled your brain.”
“Emily is my identical twin, and those pills cured my sinus infection.” Rachel squeezed her eyes shut as the plane accelerated down the runway and abandoned solid ground. Turbulence shaking the aircraft conjured images of planes spiraling out of control. She dug her fingers into Charlie’s arm. “Worse takeoff so far.”
He winced. “What do you do when you fly alone?”
“Pretend I’m still on the ground.”
“How does that work?”
“Not so great. I have no idea how I’ll survive flying for hours over an ocean full of sharks.”
Pat Nichols is proving it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Nine years after retiring from a twenty-seven-year corporate career, her love for writing resurfaced and prompted her to launch career number two as a novelist. Now she draws on her experience to write stories with tension-laced challenges and heart-warming triumphs. She and her high-school-sweetheart husband of fifty-plus years have called the Atlanta area home since the eighties. She is the mother of two and grandmother of four. One precious granddaughter lives with the angels.
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