Through the Wise Women Collective, we spotlight women whom we admire and who inspire.
Meet Andi Bartz, best-selling author of We Were Never Here, the third book within our #BoozyBookClub summer series!
OB: Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write We Were Never Here?
A: In 2019, a friend and I traveled to Chile’s Elqui Valley, where we befriended the one other backpacker in Pisco Elqui. He was so cool and kind and non-creepy that we kept making jokes about how he was actually a lunatic waiting for his chance to kill us and steal our money.
On our last night, we were drinking wine in our hotel suite when someone made yet another crack about how Stephen was running out of time to enact his evil plan. Out of nowhere, I said, "You know, Stephen, you've known us exactly as long as we've known you...and you didn't watch me pour your wine in the kitchen. What makes you so sure you shouldn’t be afraid of us?" After a freaked-out silence, someone observed that it sounded like a thriller novel, and the idea for this book was born!
More generally, though, I love traveling—I’ve been to more than 30 countries, many of them on my own. And people are always telling me I'm brave or saying, “I wouldn’t let my daughter do that!” or reminding me to be careful. Just the other day, I saw another article of women sharing tips for how they can prevent male violence. That casual, comfortable assumption that women are, by default, victims (especially if they have the gall to travel the world, gasp!) inspired We Were Never Here; I wanted to turn that idea on its head by making female travelers the ones with blood on their hands.
OB: The book is centered around the friendship of two women. How important are friendships to you and how have you found the last year in keeping in touch with friends near and far?
A: My friends are my whole world! My thrillers center around complex female friendships instead of romantic relationships—unlike many books in the suspense genre, where there’s a widow or a jealous ex-wife or someone who seems to have the perfect marriage...you know the rest!) I wanted to focus on platonic friendships because I was single for most of my 20s and early 30s, and my social life felt plenty juicy. In some ways, the pandemic brought me closer to certain friends; now we keep up on Whatsapp throughout the day and have frequent Zooms even though we live all over the country.
OB: Do you have any traditions with friends that are special to you?
A: Every summer, for at least seven or eight years, a group of friends and I would gather in Red Hook, a cobblestoned, out-of-the-way part of Brooklyn, for what we lovingly called Red Hook Day. We’d eat barbecue and key lime pie, do a tasting at the winery on the riverfront, take pictures with the Statue of Liberty in the background, and finish the day with corn hole and lobster rolls at a seafood joint with a huge backyard. One year my friend surprised us all by making Red Hook Day medals—actual medals on ribbons, like Olympic gold!—and handing them out whenever someone deserved kudos. It’s just a silly, sunny, carefree day we look forward to throughout the year. The pandemic put a damper on Red Hook Day, but I hope we can start it up again soon!
OB: An interesting aspect of your novel is the relationship that exists between adult children and their parents. In particular, Ziggy’s mom, Bev and Miles’ mom, Jo. Can you describe how you created the mothers?
A: Several of my close friends became mothers as I was writing Rock the Boat, and I had a front-row seat to see and hear how they were navigating not only a newborn but also a new identity. I think it's easy and human to compare ourselves to our peers, and that doesn't dissipate as we age, so I saw Bev and Jo as two women with divergent strengths who, even with adult kids, continue to struggle to figure out what's next for themselves and how to do right by their children.
OB: National Women’s Friendship Day is Sunday, September 19th. Now that you know this, how are you celebrating? ;)
A: Ooh, I need to mark my calendar! I’ll just be getting back from Philadelphia, where I’m spending a few days visiting friends and catching a Julian Baker concert. I’ll be sure to keep the friend-focused festivities going!
OB: We talk a lot about women supporting women. Who have been your biggest cheerleaders and your support system?
A: My girlfriend, Julia, is the most supportive human around—she’s always doing thoughtful things for me, like picking up my favorite candy bar when she’s out running errands, and she sometimes asks how she can be supportive, which is about the kindest thing anyone can do. My sister, Jules, has also been there for me since Day One (literally!) and always knows how to crack me up or calm me down. I have beloved author friends who help keep me sane in this wild industry (looking at you, Leah and Jennifer) and close friends from high school who’ve known me for more than 20 years (hi, Lianna and Katie). This is beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech, isn’t it?!
OB: What is the one thing you want readers to know about you?
A: That I’m no stranger to rejection! My debut thriller, The Lost Night, was rejected by more than 30 agents and 15 editors. I’ve applied for dozens and dozens of jobs and been rejected from the vast majority. My third book, We Were Never Here, is on the New York Times bestseller list, but there were so many steps when I could have quit before this. It’s easy to look at where I am now and think I’ve lived a charmed life (and of course, luck and privilege have played a role in my publishing success), but I think it’s so important to normalize rejection and show that I’ve had loads of ups and downs, too!
OB: What’s next? Are you working on another novel to follow this one?
A: Yes, I’m finishing up my fourth novel, which should be released in 2023! It’s another thriller about a close-knit, closed door social milieu, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
OB: The Boozy Tea you recommend sipping while reading We Were Never Here?!
A: I’m totally up for collaborating on a cocktail if you are! The white tea, raspberry and watermelon one has kind of a tropical vibe that could match the women’s warm-weather vacations?