Theresa Weir (a.k.a. Anne Frasier) is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of thirty books. Her memoir, The Orchard, was an Oprah Magazine Fall Pick, Number Two on the October Indie Next List, a B+ featured title in Entertainment Weekly, a One Book One Community Read, Target Book Club Pick, and Books-A-Million Book Club Pick.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


 The Orchard was released almost four years ago, but I still get lovely letters from readers who recently discovered the book and want to reach out to me.  When I was on tour for The Orchard, I wrote a lot of different essays. Short ones, long ones, some for a big audience, some for small ones. I always thought I'd eventually put the essays together in an ebook. Never got around to it. Maybe someday...  But anyway, a recent letter from a reader took me back, and got me thinking of my essays again, and I grabbed this one and thought I'd stick it up here.  This is from the talk I gave at the opening breakfast for the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association yearly conference. It about killed me because...not a morning person. :D 


 The Orchard is probably the most important book I’ve ever written. But little did I know that the nonfiction account of my life on an apple farm would be considered more compelling, more horrifying, and more thrilling than any of my thrillers.

Did you know that apples are part of the rose family? And like apples, it takes a lot of spray to create a perfect rose.  But the big difference is that we don’t eat roses. 

The Orchard opens with a chilling story I used to hear when I worked at my uncle’s bar in Illinois.

Back in the seventies, herbicide salesmen traveled the Midwest and would put on these free feeds. Farmers would get a free lunch, listen to a sales pitch, and hopefully put in an order for chemicals for the upcoming season. At that time, one particular company encouraged its salesmen to drink the herbicide in order to demonstrate its safety. The salesmen would pour it in a clear glass and drink it.  This really happened, and you have to wonder if any of those poor salesmen are alive today. And did they believe that what they were drinking was harmless? Or were they desperate enough to do whatever it took to keep their jobs?  I think sometimes we simply convince ourselves that things are okay when they really aren’t.

I wrote this book to document 70s and 80s farm culture. I wanted to show people what a farm looked like from the inside, from the heart of a young woman.  But I think The Orchard speaks to everyone. We can all relate to wanting a beautiful life. We can all relate to the feelings of isolation and confusion, of devotion to a cause, of love of family. These are things that resonate with all of us, no matter our background or lifestyle. And we all respond to the path the human spirit takes when presented with danger and challenge.

I’m not the typical memoir writer. I’ve never liked to talk about myself, and I was happy writing genre fiction. But I’d had this unique experience that had taken place in a secret world known only to a small group of people, this weird and awful and wonderful life in which I’d married a farmer, moved to his planet, observed his culture, had babies, and returned to tell people about it.   Along with my experience, I had years of writing under my belt.   How could I not tell my story? As a writer, I felt an obligation to chronicle and share this life I’d lived.

The Orchard is really a tapestry of three stories, the story of surviving a challenging childhood, the story of a beautiful life inside a life, and the story of poor choices people make in seeking perfection.

This is the story about one farm, but it’s also a story about every farm. It’s a story about a nation and big business. It’s a story about people not speaking up. It’s a story about our children and our children’s children. It’s a story about acceptance of things that shouldn’t be accepted. It’s the story about a young woman who falls in love, marries an apple farmer, and never sees the world in the same way again.  And it’s a story about the deepest and most profound love of all: the love of a parent for a child.

While I was working in that bar in Illinois, a handsome apple farmer walked in and he began courting me in the most magical way. We went on horseback rides in the moonlight, picnics at the pond, and sketching in the apple orchard.  He welcomed me into his world, and I easily forgot that other people lived there.

Three months after he stepped into my uncle’s bar, we were married. 

I was twenty-one and he was twenty-three.
I had this romanticized notion of getting back to nature and the land. I imagined myself barefoot with a baby on my hip, raising crops and canning organic vegetables. But farm life wasn’t what I’d expected. From the very beginning, from the moment I stepped foot on the farm, I was shunned as an outsider. My handsome husband began to behave in ways I couldn’t understand. And the farm itself, while beautiful and alive, began to reveal dark secrets.

 I was told to stay away from certain areas.  “Don’t walk in the orchard. Don’t swim in the pond. When I asked why I shouldn’t do these things, faces closed, expressions became hard, and I got no answer.  I finally figured out it was because of pesticide contamination.  But nobody would speak the words aloud.

 At night, pesticides drifted in our bedroom window while we slept. During the day, the poison coated the sheets and clothes I hung on the line. It was all around us.  I was horrified by what I witnessed, but I felt helpless to do anything about it.

It wasn’t just the horrors of pesticide use that I had to deal with, it was coming to terms with the realization that I would never belong on this farm.

Here’s a little snapshot from the book.
Shortly after we were married, my husband quit showing up for supper.  The evening meal is called supper, never dinner.  Dinner happens at noon, and is never called lunch.  But anyway, he quit showing up for supper, and when I asked him what he could possibly be doing out there in the dark, he scoffed and said I knew nothing about farming. I actually began to wonder if there was another woman.

One night I heard his truck, and I followed the sound, and knew that he’d pulled up to his parents’ house, which was a stone’s throw from our little place.  So I walked across their backyard and stood on the patio where I could see in the kitchen window. And there was my new husband —eating dinner with his parents. Yes, there was another woman. His mother.

Living in this isolated world, I began writing genre fiction, and my first book came out in 1988. During that time period, I attended a county fair. The local library was selling three hard covers for twenty-five cents, and I came home with a first printing of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  I read it and began to wonder if maybe I could write about some of what I was witnessing on the farm, but I was told that nobody really cared what happened in the Midwest, and nobody wanted to read about farm chemicals.

But writing The Orchard was something I knew I would do some day; it was just a matter of how and when.

While living on the farm, I learned to assimilate into the culture. In spite of everything, my husband and I were able to carve out our own often-idyllic existence, and create the loving family I’d never had

But at the same time, I was always aware of the darkness that surrounded us. This sense of threat. We might have been breathing poison and eating poison and drinking poison, but so was the rest of the country.  They just didn’t know it.

In the salesroom, apples were sliced and offered as samples, but workers weren’t allowed to wash the apples before cutting them. That might taint the warm, fuzzy feel of a trip to the apple orchard. Nobody wanted to be reminded of why their apples didn’t have spots on the skin, or worms inside. Customers just wanted an unblemished and beautiful apple.

When I finally started writing The Orchard, I didn’t think about the emotional toll it would take. Life (and death) on the farm was a past I’d worked hard to put behind me. It’s possible to recall an event for an hour or an evening, but immersing myself in the details for a year and a half was painful and daunting. And as I said, in the end the truth was more horrifying than any fiction I could ever write.

But I came back to something I’d been told in the eighties: Nobody wants to read about pesticides. Then I realized what I had was a dark, but true fairy tale, complete with the magical land, the handsome prince, the na├»ve bride, and the poison apple.

And along with the fairy tale was a message to the world about what was happening on farms throughout our country, a time undocumented and unexamined. I needed to document it. Examine it.  This piece of my life, this piece of seventies and eighties farm culture that still impacts all of us today.

Most of the events in The Orchard took place some time ago, but sadly not much has changed in the farming world. Apples have once again been named the most pesticide-laden fruit in the country.  But I no longer believe that people don’t care. I think they care, and I think they want to know, and I think they need to know what’s happening and what has happened.

I think it’s also important to keep in mind that farmers aren’t to blame. The market dictates what kinds of crops are raised, and how they are raised. Farmers couldn’t sell imperfect produce, and a lot of farmers paid the price for that perfection. Many men and women died to provide unblemished food for our tables.  The United States as a culture seeks perfection in everything, and no one person is strong enough to stand up to that culture, but fortunately, we have a more educated consumer today.

Apples symbolize home and love and family. There is no other fruit that speaks to us on such an emotional level, marking the seasons with promise and mystery, and that bittersweet feel of a beautiful fall day when the shadows hitting the ground are black and sharply defined, when the air carries with it a loamy, ephemeral scent that smells like the perfume of our lives, and we can feel our history and our future in that single, magical day. In one beautiful apple.

So visit an organic orchard. Pick an apple. A deep red one. Polish it on the leg of your jeans.  Hold it in your hand, and enjoy its beautiful imperfections.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


We're heading into award season and I recently got news that Stay Dead was listed as one of the best suspense thrillers of 2014 by Suspense Magazine.

Complete list of winners in the suspense/thriller category:

Peter May
Jenny Milchman
m.c. Grant
Lisa Unger
Alan Jacobson
Anne Frasier
Jon Land
Allison Brennan
Steven James

Other news:

I finished the third Elise Sandburg book in November. Right now it's scheduled for a July 25 release, but that could change. AND damn if I still don't have a title. :D Nobody's fault but mine. I have a list of possibilities, but nothing feels 100% right. 

What I'm working on now:

This is a long, boring story. This summer I was invited to be a part of a super-secret project involving a big and exciting concept. I can't go into a lot of detail because... secret. The whole concept was so compelling that I couldn't say no. I wrote a post-apocalypse crime fiction story (50,000 words) for this project.

 When will I learn not to get involved with new companies? I should have learned my lesson with Quartet Press. Remember them? Didn't think so. They folded before they started, but not before sucking up a lot of my time and leaving me with nothing to show for it. So it happened again with this super-secret project. I was wrapping up the first draft of my story when things fell apart, and now I've spent a total of five months on this story—first writing it for a high-concept project, then later trying to revamp the super-secret story into straight crime fiction.

 If you've ever done a major revamp you know it can take ten times as long as simply starting from scratch. It's like trying to remove the baking soda from a recipe once you realize you added it by mistake.  Yeah, you could dump it completely, but you used this really fantastic chocolate that you'll never find again.

  So now my post-apocalyptic book has dwindled to 15,000 words of straight crime fiction. And it should be 80,000. Basically I'm starting over.  Sigh. Hope to have it finished by June. It actually DOES have a title, but it's too early to share. Present day crime fiction set in Minneapolis. 

Monday, December 22, 2014



                                                CRACK HOUSE

I live in Walmart. No, really. I live in Walmart.  A few years back I dated a guy who’d been involved in the construction of the Super Walmart on Highway 8 in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. 
            “There’s an anomaly in the wall,” he’d told me. “A crack you can squeeze through.”
            I thought he was lying, and I’d insisted he take me there, show me the crack.  He was almost too fat to squeeze through.  But me, I made it easily.  Once inside, we pulled out our key chains with their little lights.  A room about twelve-by-twelve.  Cement block walls.  Cement floor.  “Somebody could live here,” I’d said, laughing.
            And then the recession hit.
You wouldn’t recognize the place now.  Green shag rug, red lamps, posters, inflatable couch and an inflatable bed.  A small television.   It’s really quite cozy.
            I usually sleep late, then wake up to hit the restroom followed by a visit to the Walmart cafe before taking my usual spot in the traffic outside.   I was still nursing my eggnog-flavored coffee when one of the security guards approached my table near the front of the store.
            “Afternoon, Molly.” 
I’d guess him to be close to my age, maybe twenty-six. He’d asked my name once, and I’d told him.
            “Hi,” I replied.  That one syllable ended in a cautious lilt as I wondered what he wanted.
            “Enjoying your day at Walmart?”
            “Um, yeah.” 
            “I’ve noticed that you’re here quite a bit.”
            “I like to people watch.”
 “Me too.”  And now he was giving me one of those you-know-what-I-mean looks.
He knows.  He knows about my secret room.
I hated to think of moving.  Especially now, at Christmas.   I glanced around, expecting more guards to materialize.  When they didn’t, I calmed down.
“Well, have a nice day,” he said.
  Once he was gone, I remembered I was dressed in insulated Carhartt overalls, a wool stocking cap, and a red scarf.  Not attire for a day of shopping.  I wasn’t fooling anybody.
            Outside, I took a spot on the median so people in cars were forced to look me in the eye as they entered the parking lot.  The cardboard sign I held said Merry Christmas in black magic marker.
            Panhandling was against the law, but nobody could really do anything about saying Merry Christmas.  And it wasn’t as if I didn’t mean it. Christmas was my favorite time of the year.
            Two hours later, I’d had enough of the near-zero temperature.  On my return to Walmart, I passed the Salvation Army worker ringing her bell, shifting from one foot to the other, her breath a cold cloud.  I removed a mitten, reached into the pocket of my overalls, pulled out a ten, and tucked it into the red kettle.
Inside, I sat down at a table near the soft pretzels and popcorn to count my earnings.
Two-hundred dollars. It would last a few weeks if I didn’t go crazy.
“You might want to move along.”
I looked up to see the young security guard standing there, a stern expression on his face, his eyes cold. 
“Sure.  Okay.”  I gathered my money and shoved it in my pocket. A movement caught my eye, and I turned as a group of teenagers sauntered away.
When I swiveled back around, the guard’s face had lost its chill.   I pulled off my stocking cap and tried to smooth some stray strands of hair.
“We’ve had a lot of robberies lately,” he explained.
I’d always taken care of myself, and I didn’t need anybody watching out for me, but all the same his concern felt nice.
“What’s that button?” I pointed to his lapel. 
“This?” He tugged at the blue pin with an upside down V that looked like a roof.  “I’m a member of Have a Nice Day.  It’s a secret society for hidden spaces.”  He was giving me that look again.
 “You know about me, don’t you?” I asked.
 “Your space? It’s not unique. Not a mistake. There are close to ten thousand Walmarts in the world, and all of them have at least one secret space.  Most superstores have more than one, and don’t even get me started about Sam’s Club.  A hidden city.”   He smiled. “We just think of it as reclaiming what used to be ours.”
 “What about surveillance cameras?”  I’d often wondered why I hadn’t been caught.
“We take care of that.” He pulled a pin from his pocket and gave it to me.  A yellow smiley face.
“This isn’t like yours,” I said.
“The blue pins designate the builders; the yellow pins, the occupants.”  In a gallant gesture, he found my hand, almost brought it to his lips, but seemed to think better of it, then said: “Have a nice day.”
Crack House was previously published in Discount Noir.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Rerun—my annual Christmas story

Ah, nothing like Christmas memories.

I posted this back in April, but it's such a warm and tender and 100% true holiday story that it just begged for a rerun.  Some people thought this was piece of fiction. It's nonfiction. It happened to me.


A phone call on Christmas Eve.

I answer.

A strange man's voice on the other end. Kids are lying on the living-room floor watching TV, the tree a few feet away.

"I hate to tell you this," the man says, "but your husband and my wife were having an affair. I found his name and phone number in her purse." His voice is deep and flat. Menacing without the menace.

I say nothing.

"I just killed her. Blew her brains out. And I know where you live. Tell your husband that I'm going to do the same thing to him. Tell him that as soon as he steps out the door Christmas morning I'm putting a bullet between his eyes."


My thoughts race. Christmas Eve. Some sick prank. But not a kid. The voice belonged to a man, probably someone in his forties. Who?

The back door opens and a cold gust of wind comes in, wrapping around my ankles.

The children shriek and run to their father. "Can we open a present? Just one?"

I don't say anything about the phone call. Not at first.

But later, after the kids are in bed, I tell my husband. And he reacts in the way I thought he would. He gets out his rifle, loads it, and begins pacing the house.

"I wish I hadn't said anything," I say. "I shouldn't have told you. You're acting crazy."

"I have to be prepared."

"Are you saying the woman is real?" I pull up a stock image of a murdered wife, and I imagine her looking like someone who might sell real estate. Very put together, with a white suit, high heels, caramel-colored hair, and a big shiny bracelet. Her purse, the purse with the name and phone number, is white leather.

"Of course not, but there's a nut out there."

"It's Christmas Eve. It's some sicko making random calls. He most likely doesn't even live around here."

We call the cops and tell them about the strange man. A couple of weeks later someone from the police department stops by.

"The guy who called you on Christmas Eve? He was caught," the cop says as the three of us stand clustered inside the back door, the door where my husband was supposed to have met that bullet. "The man was a telemarketer in California. Do you remember getting a call from a tool salesman?" the cop asks.

My husband nods. "Yeah, I gave him a hard time. I put the phone down, walked away, ate something. When I came back he was still giving me his sales pitch. I put the phone down again, did some other stuff, then hung it up about thirty minutes later. The guy was still talking."

"Well, he kept track of every person who treated him badly and he spent his Christmas Eve making phone calls. Complaints were filed all over the country."

Monday, June 23, 2014


Some people have worried that they've missed a book in the Elise Sandburg series because the second book, Stay Dead, begins after a traumatic event in Elise's life.  Maybe I'm getting soft, but the Tremain incident felt too horrible to put on the page as it unfolded, but I'll most likely revisit the event once Elise is finally able to face the atrocities that took place.

You haven't missed anything. There is no book between Play Dead and Stay Dead. Thanks for the emails, thanks for looking for that mysterious book that hasn't been written, and thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I used to interview my characters. I had a list of questions that were lame. I think the list originated from some celebrity interview thing in Parade Magazine. Remember that snooze? The questions were things like favorite movie and favorite food and favorite music and favorite color. The idea being that even these simple questions, once answered, would give the writer insight into her characters. But the questions were so boring that I gave up on the idea way back in 1988, before electricity. A few years ago, when I had the run-in with Agent Orange (a.k.a. add a murder to your memoir), he suggested I interview my characters. I'm sure he was just going over the bullet list he held in his hand because his delivery had that telemarketer drone to it. Words to speak to writer 8,988. I really wanted to say I didn't need his Writing 101 pep talk, but I didn't. I kept my mouth shut.  But I digress…

Today I read this:

Proust Questionnaire 

And then I decided to condense the questions and use them to interview my characters. Here's the list:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Where would you like to live?

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

Who are your favorite heroes of fiction?

Who are your favorite characters in history?

Who are your favorite heroines in real life?

Who are your favorite heroines of fiction?

Your favorite musician?

The quality you most admire in a man?

The quality you most admire in a woman?

Your favorite virtue?

Your favorite occupation?

Who would you have liked to be?

Your most marked characteristic?

What do you most value in your friends?

What is your principle defect?

What to your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

What would you like to be?

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite flower?

What is your favorite bird?

Who are your favorite prose writers?

Who are your heroes in real life?

What is it you most dislike?

What natural gift would you most like to possess?

How would you like to die?

What is your present state of mind?

What is your motto?

Would you like to provide any additional information?

And I realized these are just as boring as my original ones from way back whenever. THERE IS NO EMOTIONAL PAYOFF. I NEED EMOTIONAL PAYOFF.

So…I made a list of my own. Here it is. Feel free to copy and paste and use it yourself. Or better yet, make up your own questionnaire, one you feel passionate about. 


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Short Fiction

Blood Moon
Anne Frasier/Theresa Weir

I was born under a blood moon. At least that’s what my grammie always tells me.

“Girl, you came shootin’ out like you couldn’t wait to start raisin’ hell,” is what she says.  And then her face darkens and she reaches for the bottle.

It ain’t easy knowing your birth killed your own ma. And not a day goes by but Gram doesn’t remind me that I’m a murderer. And not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could turn back the clock and be unborn. But it don’t work that way, and when the townspeople come to the swamp to have their fortunes told, I cling to their soft, perfumed hands longer than I should because I want to feel something besides my life with Gram. And even if I sense bad things, I don’t tell the customers. I look for the positive and happy.  I want to see their shoulders relax in relief. I want to see them smile.  And it don’t hurt that they tip more for good news.

Once they leave, I take the money to Gram and she puts it in a jar and we sit down by the bed, one on each side. And just like we’ve done for the past sixteen years, Gram rubs olive oil on my mother’s leathery arms and legs while I brush our dead darling’s hair, lightly, barely touching so I won’t do any more damage.
Short story and image by Theresa Weir
Please respect the author and do not copy or reprint image or text.