I sure love a well-written novel! Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Tilia Klebenov Jacobs’ riveting novel, Wrong Place, Wrong Time. Ms. Jacobs shares our passion for the outdoors; her story combines two of my great loves – literature and the wilderness. Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a gripping story of a hostage situation that takes place in the mountain wilderness of New Hampshire. It is a tale of survival and a story that unravels the deepest questions we ask ourselves in life. I highly recommend Ms. Jacobs’ work and am excited to share with you our questions and answers exchange. Don’t miss her fun outdoor game suggestions at the end of our conversation and information on how you can get your own copy!
Your beautifully detailed and vivid descriptions of the outdoors reveal a personal history with nature. How did your life experiences within nature/wilderness contribute to the shape of your novel?
I had the privilege of being a park naturalist for the Fairfax County Park Authority in Virginia a number of years ago, where my office was over 1,500 acres of woods and wetlands. I had always been drawn to the natural world, so even though I had a degree in English and religion, the job was a good fit; and my appreciation of the power and intricacy of nature only deepened the longer I stayed in thatcareer. Much of my job involved teaching school groups and summer camps, so I had the deep satisfaction of going to bed every night knowing that I had made the world just a little bit better. I also studied and taught wilderness survival and basic tracking skills.
As a result, it was important to me that Tsara not be squeamish and particularly that she not be afraid of the forests where she finds herself during her capture. Although she doesn’t have the extensive outdoors background that I do, she keeps her head as she makes her way through the wilderness, using common sense and basic orienteering. For example, she knows to follow water because it will lead her to civilization. In real life, keeping your head is about 80% of what you need to survive in a wilderness situation. I remember a colleague of mine telling me about an outdoor survival seminar he had run over the preceding weekend: one of the participants was blind, but because he had to observe by touch and make his way slowly and carefully, he actually did better than anyone else in the class. That has always stuck with me, and I tried to give that kind of sensibility to Tsara, even though she is not blind.
You will also notice that I did not have her getting kidnapped in a gown and high heels. I don’t know anyone who wears high heels on a daily basis, and yet that seems to be the only footwear available to women in adventure stories. My strategy seems to have worked: I think the reason so many people have told me they relate to Tsara is that I kept her real. She is an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation, forced to find out what she’s capable of.
From a parents’ viewpoint, your book pulls at heartstrings on many levels. Wrong Place, Wrong Time raises questions regarding compassion, understanding, justice, and so much more. Can you tell us about your inspiration to weave these deeper themes throughout the story?
Yes indeed, because without these themes the book wouldn’t exist. A number of readers and reviewers have said that these questions that you pinpoint were the mostcompelling aspect of the story for them, which is very gratifying.
In real life we all have a back story that we carry with us as we move through life; and I think in addition that most of us want to leave the world better than how we found it. And of course we can only do that in the context of our own experience, including whatever events shaped us most profoundly. I set out to make that an underpinning for my book: Tsara is a quietly but profoundly moral person, and in the crucible of her crisis her beliefs are tested beyond what she could have imagined.
To some extent my inspiration was Judith Guest’s extraordinary novel Ordinary People. If you know the book you will remember that it is about a family with two teenage sons who are involved in a boating accident. One of the boys drowns, and the other one subsequently attempts suicide and is sent to a mental hospital—all of which happens before the novel begins. In Guest’s capable hands, the aftermath is the most gripping part.
Similarly, I often feel that the end of a typical crime story is not the end. I find myself thinking, “OK, so we know whodunnit. Now what? How does that affect you, the survivor? What kind of impact does it have on you emotionally? Psychologically? Spiritually? How does it affect your relationships?” Tsara is the victim of a violent crime, and I wanted to explore how someone could fold that experience, including her relationship with her kidnapper, into her new normal.
As a wife and mother to young children, while I read the book I felt I could relate to Tsara, the heroine of the story. That feeling, however, did not make the book a predictable one! Please share with us about her character development. As a mother yourself, do you relate to her and how she responded to the dramatic situations she faced?
Absolutely! It was very important to me to avoid the typical (in fiction) scenario of Tsara and Mike, her kidnapper, falling in love. Tsara is in her early forties, happily married, and the mother of two young children. She has a great life, and it’s shattered when she becomes a pawn in multiple power plays set up by her uncle and one of the men he has victimized. As Tsara flees through the mountain wilderness of New Hampshire, she is determined to survive not only for her own sake but for her children’s. My reason for this was, as you’ve guessed, quite simply because I am a mother myself. When I have Tsara grit her teeth and say, “Stay cool and keep walking. Because I’ll be goddamned if my kids are going to grow up without a mother,” it’s because I can only imagine that I would feel that way in the same situation. Our children are always with us.
Although I was determined to avoid a clichéd love story,however, I made sure that Tsara and Mike have a lot in common, not the least of which is that they are both parents of young kids. And since they soon find themselves facing a common enemy, they forge the kind of bond that only those who have survived peril together can truly understand. As a result, Tsara can’t disregard Mike even after the crime is solved. She needs to address him within the context of larger questions: is redemption possible?
When I finished the book, I had that wonderful yet sad feeling one experiences after the last book in a wonderful series or the last episode of your favorite show! I’d love to read more of your work! Do you have any other works on the horizon?
Thank you so much for asking! I’ve just finished my next novel, Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café. It is not a sequel to Wrong Place, Wrong Time, although it does explore some of the same themes, especially the possibilityof justice and redemption. Here’s a brief teaser:
Dating is hard. Where do you go? What do you order? And when is the best time to tell your date that you’re out on parole?
Things are going well for Emet First: freshly released after a decade in prison, he has a job and a new life. But when his new girlfriend’s psychotic brother discovers his secret, Emet has everything to lose.
I’ve gotten some great feedback from my trusty trove of beta readers, and I think that people who enjoyed Wrong Place, Wrong Time will fall in love with Emet and his story.
Lastly, having been an outdoor educator what words of wisdom would you pass on to parents who wish to use the classroom of the outdoors as a tool to both teach and delight?
Get outside and get dirty! The entire world is new for young kids, so they will be just as impressed with worms in puddles on your driveway as they are with bald eagles in a national park. Try these simple games:
Go to a place of nature. (Your back yard is fine for this, as is your local park.) Sit with your kid or kids, and have everyone close their eyes. Then have everyone hold up onefinger for each sound they hear. Do this for about thirty seconds, or more if the kids seem to be really focused. Then ask what everyone heard. They will love to tell you! (In a big group you may have to reassure the last kids who speak that it’s okay if other people heard the same sounds they did.)
Play “Camera.” You are the camera, and your kids are the photographers. Close your eyes and allow your child(ren) to lead you through a natural setting. When your photographer sees something to photograph, he or she will position the camera and take a picture by tapping you on the shoulder or some other place that is easy to reach. At this point you open your eyes to see what the “picture” is.Keep them open as long as the shutter is down (ie., as long as your kid keeps pressing on your shoulder). I recommend three to five seconds. When you get home, the two of you can talk about your photos and even draw pictures of them with crayons for a photo album.
If you have kids who are learning to read, stroll around the neighborhood with an actual camera and find at least one natural item for each letter of the alphabet. (You may have to cheat a bit with X; one possibility is crossing twigs over each other to make the shape of the letter.) Take pictures of each item. Don’t censor your child: things that we think are repulsive are flat-out wondrous to young kids, and a picture of road kill may just give you “P is for Possum.” It will probably take several days to accumulate pictures for each letter, so this is a good long-term project. When you have an entire alphabet’s worth of nature photos, make an photo album using Shutterstock or iPhoto. Be sure to include a caption for each one! “B is for Bees, Brilliant and Beautiful.”
If you like these activities, I recommend the books of outdoor educator Joseph Cornell, author of Sharing Nature with Children and Sharing the Joy of Nature.
Of course, you don’t have to do anything special either. These games are fun, but so is padding through the squishy mud after a rainstorm. Remember—dirt is your friend!
Where to check out Tilia Klebnov Jacobs and Wrong Place, Wrong Time:
Thank you, Tilia Klebenov Jacobs and the JKSCommunications team who generously provided us with a copy of the novel, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, as a part of the Blog Tour!
We loved the book and would like to pass on our copy to one of you! Leave a comment below to enter into the drawing; tell us why you’d be interested in reading Wrong Place, Wrong Time.
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