Tara Rack-Amber dreamed of being an author.
“When I was younger, probably around my daughter’s age, I used to write stories. I had this journal bound with floral fabric,” said Rack-Amber, a Uniontown native and Waynesburg University graduate. “I wrote stories that I invented. Being able to create a story and have someone read it has always been a dream of mine.
This dream has come true – again.
Rack-Amber’s non-fiction book “Mousekatots” was published in 2015 by Theme Park Press. In May 2021, she released “Seraphim Falls,” a Lynchian collection of short stories that climbed Amazon’s Top 200 Small Town Novels, under the pen name TR Toth.
And now the former radio personality, public relations coordinator and Golden Pen nominated journalist is adding young adult novelist to her list of accomplishments.
Rack-Amber’s first YA novel “The Sapphire Key” was released in November 2021 and is available for purchase on the author’s website, https://www.tararackamber.com/.
“Of all the three books, this is probably my most important book to me, personally,” Rack-Amber said. “It was a gift for my daughter. It came from a little nugget of an idea she had when she was so little.
While waiting to enter the public library, then 3-year-old Lily Amber (the daughter of Rack-Amber, after whom the novel’s main character is named) remarked to her father that a grove of nearby trees looked like “The Forest of a Thousand Bookshelves.
Rack-Amber’s husband Kevin Amber mentioned Lily’s comment in passing.
“I didn’t think about it too much at first. I just thought, this is so creative,” Rack-Amber said. Months passed, but Rack-Amber couldn’t shake The Forest of a Thousand Libraries.
She thought, “You know, that could make a really nice story.”
Thus, “The Sapphire Key” was born.
The novel follows Lily Buchjager, an eighth grader who struggles to fit in with popular girls when she’s tasked with saving all the stories mankind has ever loved from an evil witch. With the help of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and the Cowardly Lion – and, of course, a medallion and a little magic – Lily travels from The Forest of a Thousand Libraries through fairytale realms to save the beloved Story Weavers and books.
The story, Rack-Amber said, spread across the page.
“It’s funny because I like to plan everything. For ‘Seraphim Falls’, I completely mapped out everything,” she said. “When I wrote ‘The Sapphire Key’ the very first time, I just sat down and wrote it.”
Within months, Rack-Amber was handing a first draft to her husband, who she says reads all of her work. Though the words flowed, crafting a novel is no easy task — a rollercoaster ride, as Rack-Amber puts it — and there was a moment when she questioned a thread of the story. ‘plot.
“There was a point – I don’t want to say exactly what it was, because it’s a spoiler – where a character ended up dying. I really struggled with that, given the ages the book is aimed at,” Rack-Amber said. “To make it more impactful, it had to happen. As I wrote, I thought to myself that this had to happen for Lily to continue and become the young woman I wanted her to be in the end.
This young woman is a strong, determined and confident girl, someone Rack-Amber hopes her 8-year-old daughter will become.
“I developed the character to look like what I thought (my daughter) might be when she was a little older.”
Lily Amber thinks her mother’s profession — Rack-Amber is now a full-time author-preneur who hosts a “Seraphim Falls” podcast and sells novels on her site — is cool, and it’s her family’s support. which pushes the novelist to put pen to paper, in the figurative sense.
“It’s a lot sometimes. I have a really amazing family supporting me,” Rack-Amber said. “Sometimes you wonder, is this what I’m supposed to do?”
Judging by the warm reception given to “The Sapphire Key,” Rack-Amber is indeed destined to create imaginative worlds that take readers on a journey similar to those she loved to travel in her youth.
“Children’s literature is so important. We have to put books in their hands. Those kind of stories, whenever I grew up, they were always so important to me. The classic stories seem to get a bit lost. I wanted to introduce them to the younger generation,” Rack-Amber said. “That’s what I do: I write books and I just try to develop this love of reading for younger people as well.”