Staying in with J. Mercer


It gives me very great pleasure to welcome another new to me author, J. Mercer, to the blog today to stay in and tell me all about one of her books.

Staying in with Joanna Mercer

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Joanna.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 


Hi Linda 🙂 I’ve brought my contemporary women’s fiction novel After They Go because it was just released this week.

(Oo – belated happy publication day!)

It’s a large family saga set in a small tourist town, with sister rivalry, family legacy, teenage angst, love, and loss. Following two generations of women in the Aaldenberg family, this novel tackles the chasm between what we think life is going to be and how it sometimes ends up.

(Ha! I think that’s a theme we can all relate to!)

What can we expect from an evening in with After They Go?

You can expect to get cozy, make friends and enemies, and feel like you’re fifteen or twenty-three or even fifty again 🙂

(I remember every one of those ages!)

Early readers are saying:

I had a hard time putting this down! The story follows one family on the brink of financial ruin in a coastal vacation town. It is a place of contradictions–homey and inviting for some, a stifling source of tradition and responsibility for others. What I found most engrossing was the story’s central characters: three sisters and their mother. Like the town, they are full of contradictions: self-absorbed and self-sacrificing, reckless and wise. They are flawed and hurting, every one–keeping secrets, nursing grudges, indulging their obsessions. Through it all, their love for each other is like the flame that both guides and sears them. It is the engine behind their actions as well as the source of their greatest limitations. After They Go explores how the people we love most can both help and hinder us on the journey to become our true selves. An absorbing read!

After They Go is an intriguing story about how a family tradition, while supposed to be the foundation they’re built on, can actually be the one thing to break them apart. Reading the three sisters’ journeys as they navigate life and struggles is fascinating and feels authentic to how sisters fight, bond, and support each other. Great small town setting! Just the perfect amount of romance!

(Smashing responses. You must be so pleased.)

But really, here’s a summary so you have a better idea:

Gwen is the oldest of four children in the Aaldenberg family, and the one who seems to have it all. She’s also most desperate to escape. Betta, having nursed their dying grandpa for the past three years, is anxious for Gwen to go, so she can finally have reins to the family business. And Esmerelda, viciously determined to follow in Gwen’s footsteps, vies for popularity as a freshman in high school, only to learn she must sell her soul, reputation, and most prized possession for acceptance.

As their father struggles with retirement and their mother with depression, Gwen discovers the debt her grandfather’s passing left them in—and during a time of year when their coastal town, dependent on tourists, can barely sustain itself. Gwen and their father agree Betta can’t take over the store under such stressful circumstances, not when she’s been carrying the load for so long, and to protect Betta, they play it off that she needs some time to rest.

When Gwen’s fiancé moves to town, Gwen does her best to resign herself to a local life, while Betta struggles for meaning without the store. In order to carve out a place for herself, Betta must decide to what lengths she’ll go in order to become her own person, and Gwen must decide what’s more important: her sister or her future.

Can this family pull through their disappointment, jealousy, and regret? Or will they cling so tightly to their desires that it ruins them?

(Sounds great!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

recipe first


First I want to share my Great Grandma’s caramel recipe, because Shelby makes them in the book, and I promise homemade caramels are better than any you can buy – way easier than you think, too!

(That looks EXACTLY my kind of recipe Joanna!)


Then I have some images of the places that inspired me to write about a coastal tourist town. The east coast spot in the book doesn’t technically exist, but I pulled from Naxos in Greece and Door County, Wisconsin, then threw in a little New England flair.


boats distance


(They look wonderful.)

Last, but not least, there’s a song I heard while editing After They Go that struck me. I’m not one to make soundtracks, or listen to music while writing, but sometimes I hear something and it speaks to the story I’m working on. This one, All The Things Lost that you can listen to here, by MS MR, feels like the book to me, its mood. It’s a lovely, haunting song. I hope you enjoy it!

(It’s a really haunting song isn’t it?)

Thanks so much for staying in with me Joanna, to introduce After They Go. I think it sounds a super book.

After They Go


A large family saga set in a coastal tourist town:

One sister chained by family tradition.
The second stunted by her sister’s shadow.
The youngest propelled by desperation.

Published by Bare Ink, After They Go is available for purchase here.

About J. Mercer

j m

J Mercer grew up in Wisconsin where she walked home from school with her head in a book, filled notebooks with stories in junior high, then went to UW Madison for accounting and psychology only to open a dog daycare. She wishes she were an expert linguist, is pretty much a professional with regards to competitive dance hair (bunhawk, anyone?), and enjoys exploring with her husband – though as much as she loves to travel, she’s also an accomplished hermit. Perfect days include cancelled plans, rain, and endless hours to do with what she pleases.

You can find her on Facebook or visit her website.

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