Katy Lee asked me to talk about my journey as a writer and explain how my newest novel, Unsafe Haven, came to be.
Forty-five pages later . . .
No, I won’t do that to you all, I promise! But I’d love to share a bit about both.
I used to live in Alaska. Hubby Don and I took our daughter, Sue Ann, then in grade school, to Fairbanks in 1988. Sue Ann and I were iffy about the whole thing, but Don had a fabulous new job there and so we went. Originally we anticipated two, maybe three years in The Last Frontier. We had no way of knowing we’d not only stay for sixteen years, but that we’d love it so much. Yes, the winters are harsh and long. Yes, the summers are all too brief. But Alaska is just so breathtakingly beautiful. Everywhere we traveled across the state, each new wonder we beheld, made us realize there’s no place like Alaska. Sue Ann is still there, married to John and raising granddaughter Faith Charlene. We don’t see them nearly enough, and we miss Alaska a lot. But we followed our own dream and while it might not always be perfect, we have discovered it’s not that hard to fly into Fairbanks a few times a year and visit our kids.
Now, remotely gorgeous Southwest Alaska, where Unsafe Haven is set, well . . . that’s a different story.
First of all, you need to understand Alaska is roughly two and a half times the size of Texas. Got that firmly in your mind? Okay, now populate that massive area with less than a million people. Yep, you got it. Less than a million.
Southwest is one of the least populated regions in Alaska, for a very good reason: it’s loaded with lakes, rivers, and mountain ranges large enough to raise transportation problems. Tundra and permafrost can cause ground shifting making it difficult to build roads, never mind the expense and impossibility of connecting those roads for more than a few miles. Tiny villages scattered here and there along waterways and nestled at the base of mountain ranges exist by subsistence, living much the way Native Alaskans lived a hundred years ago. Some have no electricity or plumbing. Rough-hewn cabins and Quonset huts, some split-cedar homes and even a few cinderblock houses are the norm. Roads are narrow and often dirt or gravel, go a few miles and then just stop. If a village is lucky enough to exist near a zinc or other mineral mine, they fare better inasmuch as the mining company will often build housing and roads. The village reaps the benefits of what the mine builds.
I wanted explain some of this to help set the stage for Unsafe Haven. My heroine, Kendall, escapes a dangerously unstable and abusive fiancé by hiding out in the small Southwest Alaskan village of Staamat. It’s not easy to get to Staamat and once there, she finds a new life—and love—with Denn, a local cop. For the first time in years Kendall feels safe, and her future with Denn looks bright.
But here’s the thing about remote Alaska: it may be difficult and time-consuming to get there, but it’s just as difficult to get out when danger comes to find you, as Kendall will discover. Alaska isn’t called “The Last Frontier” for nothing. There are roads but they don’t go anywhere. Bush planes land all the time but they’re not always readily available with a pilot standing by. Waterways can barge you out but not when there’s ice locking up the river. In other words, Kendall can hide, but she can’t run. And her nightmare past is only a few thousand miles away, a drop in the bucket for a determined sociopath.
Choosing Alaska for a setting was a no-brainer for me. I’ve always wanted to write about it, always wanted to set a story in Fairbanks or Anchorage, both of which I’m familiar with. Setting it in Southwest where little is known and the life is hard yet so very rewarding, was a challenge I couldn’t resist. It’s not easy to research the region for a book, unless an author is fortunate enough to sit down with a SW villager and pick their brains. I wasn’t, so I played ‘hunt ‘n peck’ with the Internet. And had some help in the form of hubby, Don, who dug up information on roads, basic village structure, and other necessaries.
Within its many regions, Alaska’s cities and towns are each so unique, it’s like traveling to another country. Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Nome. Talkeetna, Skagway, Homer, Bethel, Aniak. Kodiak, Matanuska, Barrow. Deadhorse, Sitka, Seward. They roll off the tongue and conjure images of wild forests, deep rivers, soaring mountains, impossible winters and fleeting summers. How could I not write a story based there?
Unsafe Haven will be released the last week of August. It’s a novel so very dear to my heart, and I hope everyone who reads it takes from it a taste of what Alaska is all about. Then again, with so many diverse regions, Alaska is different for everyone who crosses its state line looking for adventure.
As for me: I began my writing journey in Fairbanks, on a clunky Hewlett-Packard and a keyboard that often stuck on the letter N. Writing long letters to family thousands of miles away led to writing Victorian poetry. The poetry led to short stories and then a novel that, as my hero Denn Nulo would say, “sucked crude oil.” I wrote during long, dark winter days when it was forty below outside and our furnace labored to keep our house warm and our water pipes from freezing. I wrote at two in the morning on summer nights with the windows wide open and the sun low in the sky. I started my first novel, Promises to Keep, a year or so before we left Alaska, and I cried when I wrote the words, “The End” because we were already in New York and I wanted to take the manuscript over to daughter Sue Ann’s house and show it to her. Instead, I called her long-distance and we laughed for about three hours.
I used to think writing letters to family and friends was the sum total of my efforts to put words on paper. Now I can’t imagine a day without writing, without that creative flow of energy and satisfaction that only a writer understands.
Look for Unsafe Haven from Soul Mate Publishing, then Amazon and Barnes & Noble!
Book Trailer for Unsafe Haven:
My website: http://char.chaffin.com
Thanks to Katy Lee for hosting me today, and thank you, Scribes, for letting me ramble on!
For Kendall Martin, a small, remote village in Southwest Alaska seems like a good place to start over. On the run from an abusive relationship, she leaves everything familiar behind and begins a new life as owner of a small souvenir and sportsman trading post in picturesque Staamat.
Denn Nulo knows everyone in town: he’s the Chief of Police in Staamat. He’s lived there all his life, except for his college years, spent in Anchorage. Originally planning on practicing criminal law and living in Anchorage permanently, Denn is forced to change his plans when he receives word that his widowed mother has passed away, leaving his young sister, Luna, alone. Denn comes back to Staamat to care for Luna.
When Kendall meets Denn, she begins to believe there are truly good men in the world. Denn is everything she wants: strong, loving, dedicated to family, protective. . .and patient. There is instant attraction between them, but Kendall is leery of men, and Denn craves a serious relationship that includes marriage and children. Their courtship is a conflicting mix of hesitancy and passion, with Luna, desperately needing a mother figure in her life, cheering them on.
As Kendall learns how to trust again and her romance with Denn grows more intense, a local woman who’s had her eye on Denn for years releases a torrent of damaging jealousy. . .and the nightmare from Kendall’s past discovers where she’s hidden herself.
More About Char:
Char Chaffin started reading romance, science fiction and horror at a very young age. Her love of books is directly responsible for her overflowing bookcases, and the bounty stored on her Kindle threatens to eclipse her entire paper collection. Char currently writes mainstream and contemporary romance filled with family, rich characters and engaging plots. For her, it all comes back to the love.
Char began her writing odyssey as a poet, crafting Victorian-style poetry, then went on to writing short stories. She found her niche when she began writing longer and longer short stories, until she wrote her first novel. It might never see the light of day, but writing it taught her a lot. Over the years she worked a variety of jobs, from farm hand to costume designer to fiscal accountant, before deciding a writing career was her true focus.
In addition to writing, Char is also an editor for Soul Mate Publishing.
A native New Yorker, Char lives Upstate on a sixty-acre farm with husband Don, rat terrier Daisy Mae and two barn cats who constantly slack off on the job of keeping the barn free of varmints. The Chaffin extended family is scattered all over the United States and Alaska.
When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard or burying her nose in books and Kindle, she tends a huge vegetable garden and helps Don maintain their farm.
Readers: Be sure to leave a comment with Char. It can be a question, a word of encouragement, or anything at all. And thanks, Char for being here today!