Please welcome Karen to the chair. Karen has a beautiful voice that takes you deeply into the minds and emotions of her characters.
Karen, please tell us a little bit about the circumstances that lead to Red Rock North...
In a universe teeming with galaxies, nebulas and black holes, our dinky planet is far less conspicuous than a feeble speck of dust. Add in the seven billion people populating earth—plus and minus daily births and deaths—and the chances of finding your one true love amidst the chaos of humanity are less favorable than winning the lottery.
And yet, despite this immense convergence of human souls, invisible energy somehow finds its mark. Unlike celestial bodies, two souls that collide with the force of passion are meant to stay, not break apart.
In Red Rock North, the odds already lean heavily toward disaster. Two people, years apart in age and life experience, fall in love. They go their separate ways,and perchance reunite, embracing their meager time together with abandonment. A pivotal moment of misunderstanding guarantees to keep them apart forever…unless, nearly six years after their wrenching, fate has its way.
My reasons for writing Red Rock North began as a dire need to know the outcome for Kristina Sumner and Jake Weatherby. The future was left hanging in ambiguity at the end of my novel, Big Lies in Small Town, which takes them as far as the year of 2008.
I wanted to discover if life and circumstances finally united them. When I started Red Rock North, I had no idea if their ending would be HEA. The novel unfolded on a melancholy note, with Kristina too busy to find love, and too in love with Jake Weatherby—after nearly six years—to invest energy in an activity counter intuitive to her extremely self-disciplined personality.
I felt it important that my characters find a way to grow, not just in their daily lives, but also in their feelings and interaction with each other. Obviously a first love can be memorable, especially if the emotional and sexual connections are deep. The question is then, can a relationship, so easily shattered by a perceived slight, be resurrected, and endure?
While the expectation for Kristina to be chaste following her breakup with Jake in 2009 might be unrealistic for most, her personal history was a guarantee that sleeping around was extremely out of character.
Kristina met Jake when she was sixteen, and a high school junior in a rural community in northeastern California. Their first encounter occurred in 2008, inside the Lassen County Jail, where Kristina’s mother, Kate, was being held for questioning following the shooting of a white supremacist who had attacked the family—Kate, husband Paul, and sons Charlie Kat and Dakota—at roadside. Jake, a journalist for the Great Basin Register, was at the jail to obtain a scoop for the paper, and happened to be present when Kristina arrived to reunite with her family.
Life in a small town meant that Jake was well aware of Kristina’s notoriety. Fame for Kristina had come with a cost, when in 2007 she was forced to kill a male classmate. Tucker Parker, weirdly obsessed with Kristina, had intended to kill her at a school-wide assembly. In the struggle for the gun, she managed to stomp Tucker to death, a boy twice her size and weight.This act implied that Kristina was a very focused individual, willing to use deadly force if necessary.
Following the shocking incident, Kristina attended therapy sessions meant for victims of psychological trauma, and subsequently developed a deep distrust of males outside of her immediate family unit.Consequently she learned to direct her focus on academics as a means of survival—reasoning that she alone had the power to direct her life.
As a contributor to the high school newspaper, Kristina’s rare objectivity had netted her a coveted position in the apprenticeship program with the Great Basin Register. During her tenure with the Register, Kristina proved a difficult ward for Jake, who’d been put in charge of her tutelage. Still damaged by her experience with Tucker Parker, Kristina doggedly kept the world at arm’s length. Only after she’d developed a professional working relationship with “Mr. Weatherby” did trust come into play—and deep affection.
Before Kristina reached the age of consent, Jake departed Susanville for good, determined to allow her the latitude to concentrate on her education, and pursue a career. As he argued, “I won’t destroy your chances for making something important out of your life. I've passed that point myself, but you have a brilliant future.”
When Kristina turned eighteen, and attending Berkshire University, less than sixty miles from Jake’s employment with The Washington Post, she tracked him down. She opened her heart to Jake, and shared six months of unbridled passion with the only man she trusted implicitly—but the moment she assumed Jake was unfaithful, she abruptly ended their affair. She compartmentalized her feelings; school, and then career were the center of her world. In the end, Kristina’s true success was in creating an emotional prison.
Their six-month love story began and ended too quickly, until November of 2014, when Kristina returns home for a surprise visit with her family, and discovers that Jake has returned to Susanville—this time, with a new woman in his life, setting the stage for Red Rock North.
How will Kristina handle her extreme feelings for Jake, while he shares his world with someone else? Can she forgive Jake for a long-ago perceived indiscretion, or will she continue to repeat the mistakes of the past?
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