Wednesday 4 May 2022


Bonnar Spring, author of the recently released Disappeared (out yesterday, and also featured on the blog yesterday) and Toward the light (2020) was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning. 

Is the writing full time or is there a day job? Can you offer us a potted biography of yourself?

I gave up my fulltime job, teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at the start of covid, and now teach one Creative Writing class a semester. I began teaching ESOL a million years ago when, fresh out of the university, I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Senegal, in West Africa. I taught English at a lycée to French- and Wolof-speaking teens. While I’d always written short pieces—newspaper articles, essays—the experience fueled my interest in storytelling.

*I’m soon to read your latest offering – Disappeared.  Can you pitch it to a potential reader in 50 words or less?

You’re alone in Morocco. It was supposed to be a vacation with your sister—the teenager with whom you shared a bedroom, clothes, secrets. But your sister lied to you, left And didn’t return. How far into the Sahara Desert would you go to find her and bring her home?

 (*Since read and enjoyed)

I believe it’s your second book after Toward the Light dropped in 2020. Which one are you most proud of?


Nope, that’s like asking which of your children you love best. I mean, I could weasel-word around your question and say that my older child (Toward the Light) was a much easier child that my second (Disappeared). Toward the Light came together in a short time, found me my first agent, and sold promptly, whereas Disappeared took quite a while to reach  . . . maturity (to continue the awkward metaphor). But I love them both.

Which would you press into the hands of a new reader first?

Because of the protagonist’s moral choice, her willingness to commit murder, Toward the Light is a darker, more serious book.

In Disappeared, the choice (the hero’s call to action) is almost a given—Julie must rise to the occasion and try to find her sister, Fay, although she is understandably afraid and seriously pissed at Fay. {{NB: You can change ‘pissed at’ to ‘furious with’ if your readers will object. Also I think ‘pissed’ means something different in England than it does in the US.}} But it becomes more of an on-the-road adventure: If these women don’t escape their captors, they’ll die. But if they do escape, how can they possibly survive long enough to reach safety?

So try Disappeared first, and if my writing style agrees with you, take a look at Toward the Light.

Do you have a typical writing schedule?

I write every day, if possible in the morning when I have more energy. Also, I often wake up with semi-formed writing ideas, so getting right to it after coffee is best for getting the words/idea out of the either and onto paper (the computer, I mean.)

Do you insert family, friends, and colleagues into your characters?

Doesn’t everyone? The secondary characters in Disappeared are almost all based on folks we met traveling around Morocco. Yes, we were stopped by an arrogant, mustachioed policeman, and we did pick up a cute hitchhiker.

And Luz, the main character in my debut novel, Toward the Light, is a composite of many of the young ESOL students I’ve taught.

When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like?

Over the course of several manuscripts, I’ve changed more endings than beginnings. It’s a result of knowing where the story starts . . . but in progressing to the end, something unexpected happens. (And no matter what they tell you, no writer ever has all those plot points mapped out in advance!) Sometimes shifting the middle requires tweaking the ending.

Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?

I’m a plotter and, honestly, I’m such a slow writer that, if I didn’t have a good idea of the book’s direction, I’d probably never finish.

Are there any subjects off limits?

I wouldn’t say ’off limits’ but I don’t read horror, don’t watch horror, don’t want to know anything about horror, so that’s not going to happen. I have a friend who writes erotica, but I don’t have that much imagination—or experience.

I’m willing to put a child in a dangerous situation (see Hamid in Disappeared!) but I would never write cruelty toward children.

How long from conception to completion did Disappeared take? Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?

Oh, Col . . . Disappeared—originally titled The Black Desert—was my very first completed manuscript. In 2009.

Like many other authors just starting out, it was a hot mess, even after revision. No agent was willing to take it on, but many contributed helpful suggestions (the book really should start in Chapter 4/the title sucks/too many digressions from the action). I reworked the manuscript countless times.

Meanwhile, I wrote another thriller—this one set in Guatemala—making use of skills I’d gained in all my The Black Desert re-writes. The story started at the right moment (not in chapter 4); the pacing was much better. And from the beginning, I knew the title needed to be Toward the Light. A young woman, a Guatemalan expat who grew up in the US, returns to her native country to kill the man who murdered her father. Toward the Light quickly attracted an agent. We polished the manuscript for a year before submitting it, and it sold a few months later. Really fast!

I had a two-book deal and, even though I’d written a few other stories that were in acceptable draft form, I really really wanted to make that first manuscript shine.

So The Black Desert became Disappeared. Third person became first person. Past tense became a more lively present tense. The stakes became clearer and more desperate. The relationship between the main characters became sharper. After I was satisfied with the revisions, Disappeared sold in two weeks—twelve years after I first typed The End on the first draft!

Did the end result mirror both your expectations at the start of the process, or is it a very different book to what you imagined?

The main reason I wanted to work on Disappeared after Toward the Light sold was my love for the story it tells. The end has to be the way I originally set it up—or else the relationships, the themes, the searches and struggles are for naught  Despite all the grammar/pacing/emotional stakes changes in Disappeared—the end scene is the first draft is recognizable as the same as in the published book.

Was there one spark or germ of imagination which started the story off in your mind?

I’ve traveled quite a bit—from hopping in the car with my mother and brothers for open-ended road trips across the US and Central America to hitchhiking through Europe as a teenager. I taught school in Senegal and trekked to Machu Picchu.

But when I arrived in Morocco on vacation with my best friend, I felt like Dorothy landing in Oz. I’d never been in such a tantalizing place. The spark of idea that inspired Disappeared was a visceral reaction—almost a panic attack—I had when we landed in Casablanca. My friend’s suitcase never appeared on the baggage conveyor belt so, leaving me in the baggage claim area to guard the rest of our luggage, she went in search of information. Alone in a milling crowd speaking a language I didn’t understand, I waited and waited . . . What if she got lost, if something happened to her? What if she disappeared in the airport? How could I find her? How could I even start to look when I was supposed to stay with the luggage—which I couldn’t carry by myself and couldn’t leave? If I left, how would be ever find one another in this unfamiliar place?

Julie, who tells the story in Disappeared, experiences the same overwhelming panic when her sister doesn’t return that I felt in the Casablanca airport. Julie recovers (probably faster than I would have!) and it’s a good thing. If not for her investigation and tenacious search, her sister—and several other innocent people—would be dead!

Are there any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?

There’s one book I’d love to finish but the timing was/is wrong. It’s the sequel to my debut, Toward the Light, and it begins six months later when the main character, a young Guatemalan woman, joins an immigrant caravan to investigate trouble that’s delaying it—and then there’s a murder. 

It was halfway done when Jeanne Cummins’ American Dirt came out in 2020 and the big brouhaha erupted about Cummins’ cultural appropriation and capitalizing on immigrant trauma. I’m a white woman, and while I know people who’ve survived the migrant journey, their stories are not mine to tell.


What’s the current project in progress?

My covid project was writing my first mystery. I found it much more difficult than thriller-writing. With thrillers, plotting typically moves ‘forward’ to a ticking-clock climax; in mysteries, the crime (usually a murder) occurs near the beginning, and the unraveling of it necessitates the writer larding the narrative with clues. It’s a fun story, set on a small island in the Bahamas.

What’s the best thing about writing?

Throwing together ephemeral ideas and imaginary people, mix in a bit of mayhem or intrigue. Also (serious introvert here) I don’t have to talk to people.

You didn’t ask, but that was the best thing about the pandemic, too. I didn’t have to make excuses—no one was socializing.

The worst?

I love writing, but authoring sucks—the social demands, the selling. Not you, Col. You seem chill, but I usually get a stomach ache when I have to interact in author-mode. I recently returned home from a 4-day writing conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico—the first big-deal crime-writing conference in the US since 2020. Five hundred authors and fans—panels, cocktail parties, a banquet. It was so exhausting on so many levels!

Moving on….

What are the last five books you’ve read?

Karen Cleveland, The New Neighbor 

Ashley Weaver, The Key to Deceit

Amy McCulloch, Breathless

Thomas Perry, Shadow Woman

Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny, State of Terror


Who do you read and enjoy?


These days, the author at the top of my list is William Kent Krueger. He has a wonderful ability to blend setting, characters the reader wants to succeed, and tight plots.

Is there any one book you wish you had written?

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel or Celine by Peter Heller.

Favourite activity when not working or writing?


I’m a kayaker and hiker, and I love to cook.

Also read—but I bet everyone says that!

What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?


Not a huge film person. But if you care, my all-time favorite movie is A Fish Called Wanda, followed closely by the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski. Yeah, neither very recent.


TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Spring household?

We don’t have a TV. (hope that’s not too weird) If people are watching something that sounds un-missable, we can always find a replay. I loved Big Little Lies and Broadchurch. And the ongoing series I like best is The Good Fight.


What are the last three pieces of music you’ve listened to?

I tend to listen to entire albums and think of them as a ‘piece.’   

Santana, Abraxis

Orchestra Baobab, Pirate’s Choice

Dylan, Blood on the Tracks




What’s your favourite vegetable?


If I had to choose between never eating eggplant or asparagus again, I’d probably kill myself. Okay, maybe I’d pick eggplant. It’s more versatile. No, you can’t put eggplant in omelets and there’s nothing like an asparagus omelet. But you can’t layer asparagus with lamb and bechamel sauce for moussaka—or can you? Hmmm, I might have to try that.


When and where did you last have a cat fight? School, church, a sleazy neighbourhood bar?

I Do Not Fight.

Now, I don’t get mad, I get even. Capiche?

Have you ever been thrown out of a bar or a club?

Not even close

Do you have any tattoos?

No, but I do have some interesting piercings. And no, I’m not going to tell you.

What was your first pet’s name?

That was Hoagy, named after Hoagy Carmichael, the jazz musician. He was a Basset Hound my father brought home one day—long saggy jowls and floppy ears. Sweet, sweet dog. Slept at the foot of my bed.  I carried his picture with me the first time I traveled to Europe.

What’s the worst meal you have ever eaten?

I tried guinea pig in Peru. Ugh. No matter what they claim, it does not taste like duck.

Do you have any irrational fears?

I’m terrified of snakes, but I don’t consider that an irrational fear.

What’s your favourite vacation destination?

Tough to choose—and I’ve been stuck at home for so long now, I’d go anywhere.

I love Morocco, the setting of Disappeared, and would return in a heartbeat. Guatemala and Honduras are also favorites. (Are you detecting a trend here? Debut set in Guatemala, this new book in Morocco?) If travel restrictions become less onerous later this year, I’ll head back to Morocco next winter.

I love to write about what I love—that includes betrayal and revenge as well as my go-to destinations.

When did you last tell a lie?

See comments above.


Many thanks to Bonnar for her time.

You can catch up with her at the following haunts 


Facebook page - here



And don't forget to check out Disappeared - published by Oceanview Publishing - it's very good!

These two sisters are about to be permanently "disappeared"

Julie Welch's sister, Fay Lariviere, disappears from their hotel in Morocco. Although she leaves a note that she'll be back in two days, Fay doesn't return.

Julie's anger shifts to worry—and to fear when she discovers a stalker. Then, an attack meant for Julie kills another woman. Searching Fay's luggage and quizzing the hotel staff, Julie discovers Fay's destination—a remote village in the Saharan desert. Convinced her sister is in danger and propelled by her own jeopardy, Julie rushes to warn Fay.

By the time she reaches the village, Julie finds that Fay has traveled deeper into the desert. With a villager as guide, Julie follows—only to be stranded in the Sahara when the guide abandons her. Julie is eventually reunited with Fay—in a prison cell—and learns the reasons for Fay's secrecy.

Although furious at Fay's deception and weak from her desert ordeal, Julie knows they must work together. The sisters, ensnared in a web of dangerous lies and about to be permanently "disappeared", pit their wits against soldiers and desert in a fight for their lives.

Perfect for fans of Tana French and Martin Cruz Smith


  1. What a great interview! Thanks, both. It's a pleasure to meet someone else with a background in language and language acquisition. And it's fascinating to learn how other authors develop their characters and where they get their inspiration.

    1. Margot, I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.