Guest post: Into the Dark Places with Katherine Owen

when i see youToday, Katherine Owen stops by on her Chick Lit Blog Tour to talk about her new novel, When I See You and going into the dark places.

 

I strongly believe in the adage:  art imitates life. I strenuously believe in this. (I’m adding a little Demi Moore there, if you remember the movie A Few Good Men.) Writing for me begins with life experiences and goes from there. I’ll ask myself the what-if questions in the beginning, such as what does a woman do who has been left behind? This premise began in my novel Seeing Julia. One of the scenes I cut from that novel metamorphosed into this novel When I See You because the idea of the soldier story just wouldn’t go away. At first, I started out with just Jordan Holloway’s point of view, but then, it became obvious as the characters formed that readers would also need to hear from Brock Wainwright. Two points of view from both a male character and a female one made the whole story that much more complex. I also wanted to explore the idea of two accomplished people who seemed to have everything; and yet, beneath the surface something seems to be missing within them. I think readers get that sense with both of these characters early on.

So, let’s talk in general terms about the dark places. I can effectively put people into two different places in their lives. It’s what I call the dark zone and the white area outside of the dark zone. The dark zone is that place where all the bad stuff happens in the world. You lose a loved one—someone close to you. It can be a husband, a brother, a father, a mother, a sister, a child…I could go on, but you get the picture. Yet, there are those people around you who haven’t experienced the dark zone. They go about their lives oblivious to the damage that grief does to a person’s soul because nothing bad has ever happened in their world. In the time of someone else’s crisis, they do the right things. They send the sympathy cards and the flowers, attend the funerals, and wear black, and even hold your hand. They make you casseroles and tell you how sorry they are, but, in the end, they really don’t get it, until it happens to them because people don’t like to spend time in the dark zone. Truly? They don’t even really want to talk about you and your loss or find out what it’s like or how you feel.

As it relates to my novels, it seems I have three types of readers: empathetic ones who’ve been to the dark zone, sympathetic ones who’ve never been but still get it and me, and a third kind who don’t even know what the dark zone entails and don’t want to. Those are the ones who read my work and conclude this stuff just doesn’t happen in real life, let alone fiction. Yet, it does; and, someday, they’ll find that out for themselves when they land in the dark zone at the unexpected loss of a loved one and their insulated world is blown to bits. Going to the dark places is relatively easy for me because there are many stories to be told from there because I’ve been to the dark zone in real life and many of my readers recognize this in my work.

Katherine Owen is the author of SEEING JULIA (debut novel and Zola Award Winner), NOT TO US and WHEN I SEE YOU.
Katherine Owen is the author of SEEING JULIA (debut novel and Zola Award Winner), NOT TO US and WHEN I SEE YOU.

My writing is not for the faint of heart. It will rock you to your soul if you recognize that kind of pain of heartbreak and loss, but at the heart of it, I think it gives people a little hope. At least, that’s what some of the reviewers of my work have said. Here’s a snippet from one of the most reviews of When I See You that states it quite nicely:

“…This is a story that is going to stand out for me in my memory for a very long time. Owen has written this book very well. The story is magically woven with and drew me in from the start. This isn’t a fluffy romance. This isn’t the book that makes your panties bunch and the steam factor is off the scale. This is a realistic love story, one that doesn’t necessarily paint the characters as fabricated. I am surprised that this story hasn’t received more praise and has not left a dent in the world. When I compare some of the books I’ve enjoyed to this, I have to shake my head. I enjoy reading for entertainment and sometimes value fluff and sugar to keep me happy. This isn’t that kind of book. This is a story that will make you feel anxiety, make you feel sad, make you hope that they find a happily ever after. This is a book that grows hair on your chest and makes you look at your life. This is synonymous with this website’s name, it is a GoodRead…” Obsessed – Goodreads Review

Buy at any of these online retailers:

Amazon (Paperback & Kindle):  http://bit.ly/WISYbuyme
Barnes & Noble (Paperback & Nook ePub): http://bit.ly/WISYbuyBN
Kobo (ebook): http://bit.ly/WISYbuymeKobo
iBooks (ebook):  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/when-i-see-you/id588905242?mt=11

Excerpt from When I See You, part of Chapter Two – Show me what I’m looking for ~ Jordan

when i see youHere’s the set-up: Jordan Holloway is married to Ethan. His best friend Brock Wainwright has come to spend the last four days of their leave (Ethan and Brock are U.S. Navy SEALs and part of a sniper team) with them in Malibu, CA. Ashleigh is Jordan’s best friend. She’s pretty carefree and has already developed an interest in Lieutenant Brock Wainwright. This is the next day after a big goodbye party at the house. In this section, readers get a glimpse of the underlying tension that exists within Jordan and Brock. Here’s the excerpt from When I See You:

An hour later, the household has been fed French toast, and all the adults have been replenished with multiple cups of Brock’s strong black coffee. Max is busy showing off his swing set and sandbox to the clearly hung-over Ashleigh and his daddy. I watch my son as he constantly pulls at Ethan’s outstretched hand. His unmet need for Ethan’s attention brings tears to my eyes, but our child’s enthusiasm is contagious. I can’t help but smile, when I hear Max call out, “Look at this, Daddy; look at this, Ashleigh,” in his sweet, elf-like voice. I gaze at the three of them through the open French door that leads to the backyard and feel this surge of love for my little family.

A half hour later, Brock peruses the Los Angeles Times, while I decorate cupcakes for Max. Decorating cupcakes has become my signature specialty within this small community of Malibu. It’s kind of a sideline hobby to my real job as head chef at Le Reve.

I look up. Brock watches me with the rapt interest similar to that of a small child. It reminds me of Max when he’s mesmerized with a television program like Big Bird or Barney. The newspaper is folded up and lies next to his forearm.

I slip up with the icing under his studied scrutiny and attempt to refocus upon the task at hand by breaking eye contact with our unexpected house guest.

“Ethan tells me you studied at CIA,” Brock says. “That you’re a head cook, here in Malibu. At Le Reve, is it?”

I glance up from what I’m doing and nod, but looking at him is worse. The man continues to interfere with my ability to concentrate on the cupcakes for some reason. I glance away from him, intent on getting back to looping blue icing across the little cake’s surface in a circular pattern, making ocean waves. I’m going for a Finding Nemo theme, per my three-year-old’s request. He’s taking the cupcakes to his play date with his friend, Davey. I hold my breath in an attempt to drape the icing in a steady wave pattern.

“Head chef at Le Reve. Before that, head chef at Rivera,” I say. “And before that, I worked at L’Ecole in New York, even a summer in Paris.” I lift my chin in defiance and can feel myself blushing. Why do I feel the need to provide my resume to this guy?

“Chef,” Brock says with a wide smile. “Sorry, you gourmets are so touchy about titles.”

“It’s a big deal in the culinary world to be a head chef. It takes years to get that title and the responsibility that comes with it.” I shrug, trying to give off an air of indifference, but even I can hear the edge in my voice.

“Okay,” Brock says. “Head chef at Le Reve. Tell me what that’s like.”

I put down the pastry knife, somewhat disconcerted to be asked about the restaurant. Ethan sees it as a drain of my time away from Max, away from him when he’s here. Le Reve is a source of tension between us every time he’s home.

“There’s a certain energy and excitement in running a restaurant every night. You spend your whole day preparing and planning, and then, the satisfaction of execution on a nightly basis is exhilarating. Almost spiritual.” I smile over at him. He gets this disconcerted look. “There’s nothing quite like it. Le Reve is small, only eight tables, but people come from all over to eat there. We have a good thing going. My boss, the owner, Louis DuPont, is from Paris. He’s amazing and gives me a lot of flexibility. It’s close by. Ashleigh or Mrs. Richards watch Max in the evening, and I try to be home by midnight or so.” My voice trails off at the thoughtful look on Brock’s face. “What?”

“Isn’t it kind of hard to juggle all of that with Max?”

“It works. I don’t know any other life. Of course, Ethan would prefer me to work part-time and be home with Max more.” I hesitate, before saying, “Running a restaurant, making decisions about food, and preparing it is cathartic for me. I need to do it.” I pause, experiencing misgivings about saying anything more, but somehow, needing to. “Ethan was gone when Max was born. He’s been home three times in the past three years. I have a life. Here. In L.A. It works.”

I sweep the pastry knife across the air in agitation and openly blush, knowing I sound too defensive. I take an unsteady breath. I’ve given too much away. “We make it work,” I say in a low voice.

I look over at him. He’s shaking his head. I’m unable to look away.

“You just don’t know how rare you are. I think it’s great that you have a career and still manage things with Max.” He frowns. “Most women wouldn’t put up with the long tours away from home. It wreaks havoc on a relationship. It takes commitment. Trust. It’s rare.”

“Relationships are hard, no matter what the circumstances,” I say.

“You think so?” Brock asks. There’s discernible disquiet in his tone.

The ground seems to shift beneath me. I reach out for the counter to steady myself. Yet, I’m unable to stop myself from saying more. “We sailed into marriage with all these dreams and made all these promises. We were so naive. Within fifteen minutes of meeting him, I knew how I felt about him and how he felt about me.” I try to smile. “He swept me off my feet and I didn’t hit the ground, until I was standing at the airport and watching his flight to Afghanistan take off.” I smile, but then, it fades.

“At that moment, I’d never felt so alone in my life. And, there have been other times when I have felt pretty much alone.” I stop, take an unsteady breath, and close my eyes, remembering the death of my parents and that exact moment when Ethan left the first time. I open them and he’s staring at me intently.

“Alone. Eight weeks pregnant. Ashleigh and I had been in L.A. for a couple of years already. Then, I’d met Ethan and everything changed,” I say in a low voice. I gaze over at Brock and then shrug my shoulders, attempting to lighten the mood at seeing the disconcerted look on his face. “But nothing really changed. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes.” Brock looks even more troubled.

“What?” I ask with growing trepidation.

“I was engaged once. It didn’t work out.” A shadow crosses his face. “I dropped out of my last semester of law school and signed up for SEAL training, then sniper school. My father wasn’t too happy.” Brock gets this bleak look. “Relationships are hard whether you’re in L.A. or Austin.”

Ethan and Brock both grew up in Austin. I pause in mid-air with my pastry knife, realizing that this is one more thing that Ethan hasn’t really shared with me. I don’t really know much about his life in Austin, before me. We rarely go there because his time is so limited when he’s home.

“I’m sorry. About the fiancée. About your dad,” I say.

“I got over it. I moved on.” He shrugs and looks indifferent.

“Is that why you go through women like they’re an endless supply of shaving razors? To defy your father? To prove you’re over her?”

I blush at my bluntness.

“I suppose so.” He tries to smile but it doesn’t reach his eyes. I sense this profound sadness in him. “But razors aren’t as sharp. Never disappoint. Never maim. Not intentionally, anyway; and don’t require commitment.”

Connect with Katherine Owen:

 Website: www.katherineowen.net 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KatherineOwenAuthor

Twitter: @katherineowen01  line: https://twitter.com/KatherineOwen01

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