Today we’re celebrating the release of Jacqueline Sheehan’s The Tiger in the House! Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence, says it is “teeming with excitement and heart-stirring emotion.” Here’s how Jacqueline describes her book:

Delia Lamont has had it. Though she loves her job at Portland, Maine’s child services agency, its frustrations have left her feeling burned out and restless. She’s ready to join her carefree sister Juniper and start a seaside bakery, celebrating and serving life’s sweetness for a change. Then the call comes: a five-year-old girl has been found at the side of the road, streaked with someone else’s blood.

As she seeks to discover where the child belongs, Delia is forced to reexamine her own painful history. With no guide but her own flawed instincts, Delia must decide how deep to venture into the unknown, whether in shaping the destiny of the child who has no one else to turn to—or in exploring the fierce dark corners of her own soul.

There is a dark underbelly to this story. The opioid crisis is storming through rural New England (and every part of America). I researched the evolution of this crisis for two years while writing this book. My essay in Psychology Today gives a summary of what I found and how it influenced The Tiger in the House.

Now Jacqueline answers some fun Poppy questions to help you get to know her!

Where would you love to be?

I truly love being home because Western Massachusetts is the mother lode for writers. But the other place where I feel at home is Ireland. The first time I visited Ireland twenty years ago, I felt my entire body relax in a profound way. Not only did I look like I belonged, but I felt like I belonged. Everything about Ireland, the wind, the rain, the easy conversation between strangers, the warm fire in a pub, and the nearly religious appreciation of literature all made my heart sing. I’ve returned many times, but one memorable time was a research trip. In the book, Now & Then, a present day woman and her nephew are pulled back in time to the year before the start of Great Famine in Ireland. I made a map of where my characters traveled and then my sister and I followed my characters all over Ireland.

If you were a drink, what would you be and why?

No question about it, I would be a hibiscus Marguerita. My friend from Canada, Jane Mortifee, developed this drink a few years ago while we were on a writing retreat in Guatemala. Here is the recipe: Toss a handful of hibiscus petals (I get them at the local food coop) into a teapot. Let steep, add a Tablespoon of honey and cool. Pour a shot of really good Tequila into a glass, plus half a shot of Triple Sec, and the juice of one lime. Add half a cup of the hibiscus liquid, and ice. And there you have a gorgeous drink. This is definitely my avatar drink, my alter ego.

Do you have advice for aspiring writers?

First and foremost, read broadly. Read at least one good quality newspaper every day, read fiction, non-fiction, science bits, read it all. Follow a lead in the news that fascinates you. Don’t depend solely on Google to give you answers. Make friends with your local librarian; they can research the daylights out of anything. They are the true super heroes.

What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?

I am now self-employed as a full time writer. The hardest part is that I am a hard-driving boss. For example, I started working this morning at 9 and I’m still working now at 7 PM. I am going to ask for a raise, shorter worker hours, and an annual bonus! But the best part of my job is that my life is something that I’m designing. I’m working ten hours today, but tomorrow I’ll work for two hours. I also get to decide what to wear, how much of my time to donate to causes that are important to me, and if I want to take a walk at 2 in the afternoon, I just do it. Or if I want to juggle baking a loaf of bread in between writing a scene in my book, I can easily do so. My income flow is unpredictable but I have learned to flow with it.

Share one quirk that most people don’t know about.

While this doesn’t seem like a quirk to me, I know it does to many others. I write down my dreams every morning and I often use parts of my dreams in my books. If I am stuck with the direction of the plot, I will incubate a dream about the plot. I do this by writing down a very specific question before I go to sleep, such “What is missing in X’s character? What is he hiding?” And I will write down whatever dream I have that night, no matter how unrelated it seems. I have learned to count on the unconscious mind and I am grateful when my more mundane mind can be still so that the more creative unconscious can be hear.

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times Bestselling author. She is also a psychologist. A New Englander through and through, she spent twenty years living far from home in Oregon, California, and New Mexico doing a variety of things, including house painting, photography, freelance journalism, clerking in a health food store, and directing a traveling troupe of high school puppeteers.

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