Thursday, September 6, 2012

UNSAFE HAVEN - The Book of My Heart

     Hi all! AKRWA member Char Chaffin here, one of those displaced Alaskans now living in the Lower Forty-Eight and missing Alaska like only a sourdough can. I’m in Upstate New York on a sixty-acre farm that hubby Don and I love, but let’s face it, it’s not Alaska.  (::cries::)
     When I started writing in earnest, I still lived in Fairbanks and I always knew someday I’d write a novel set in Alaska. I decided I’d set it in the town I knew the best. Sixteen years in Fairbanks made me an expert of sorts, right? I also figured I’d still be living in Fairbanks when I was ready to plot it out.
     Plans change and life tosses you curves all the time. We moved, and my plotting ideas changed, too, so I put my Alaskan story on hold.

     I began UNSAFE HAVEN last year when I was visiting Fairbanks, helping daughter Sue Ann, son-in-law John, and newborn granddaughter Faith Charlene. I had two wonderful months with my girls and my guy, and I savored each and every day because I knew I’d have to make it last quite a while until I could get up to see them again. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can extend the warm fuzzy being home gives me, by starting my Alaskan novel set in the Interior.”
     Alas, wrong region.
     My heroine, Kendall, wouldn’t have felt safe in Fairbanks. It’s too accessible. Anyone can just fly right into Fairbanks International Airport, handy as you please. Easy accessibility to The Last Frontier is a wonderful thing. But not when a character has to escape a sociopathic fiancé and run for her very life. That’s when the remote regions come in handy.
     I decided on Southwest Alaska, creating a small, predominantly Native Alaskan village set about a hundred miles from Bethel in an area surrounded by small lakes and a low mountain range. Because I did want it to be somewhat prosperous, I created a zinc mine near enough to the village that a decent, twelve-or-so mile road would be necessary. Just long enough of a road to hook my village to its slightly bigger (but not prettier) sister village of New Mina (also fictional), on the Kuskokwim River. I researched terrain and tundra to make sure I could describe the flora with enough accuracy that my readers would be able to ‘see’ my village of Staamat.

     Actually, I pictured Staamat as a cross between McCarthy and Skagway with a population of maybe two hundred. Except Stammat isn’t the least bit ghostly.
     Now I had my setting, obscure enough that a person could stay easily hidden but not so obscure that a determined sociopath wouldn’t be able to find my girl. I gave Kendall a lovely face and form but her true beauty is on the inside where it counts the most. She’s tall, slender, with golden brown curls and eyes that have witnessed more than her share of pain and horror. She’s very leery of men, and for good reason. Alaska is a place of sanctuary for her, a final hiding place where she doesn’t have to answer questions about herself, where she can live a safe life. Romance is the furthest thing from her mind when she gets to Staamat.
     Then I threw a monkey wrench into her plans and gave her a hero.
     A Native Alaskan cop with a big heart, a need to protect and a real love of family seemed like the perfect match for my vulnerable Kendall. My hero, Denn Nulo, is tall, muscular, amber-eyed and black-haired, devoted to his little sister, and wants to cherish Kendall. He’s got a dry sense of humor and a strict sense of right and wrong. When he and Kendall meet, there are plenty of sparks: hers are reluctant and his are eager.
     After that, the story kind of wrote itself.

     Writing what you know is a lot of fun, I must admit. But writing in familiar yet unknown territory is even more fun. Especially when Don willingly joined in and helped with some of my research. I’d say, “Here’s what I want to do,” and he’d jump on his laptop, make a few clicks and shake his head. “You can’t do that, but you can do this,” he’d say.
     UNSAFE HAVEN was a labor of love the way any novel is, when it comes from a writer’s mind and heart. You pour your blood onto those pages and hope they’ll gel into a story others will enthusiastically embrace. All along the way, you question yourself: did I put enough cliffhangers and plot hooks into it to keep my readers engaged? Is the romance romance-y enough, are the characters fascinating, the scene settings detailed, the overall tone a real page-turner? Will my cover art make a browser do a double-take? Will my book blurb fire them to fork over the cash to buy it?

Well, here’s my cover, so you can see for yourself...
...and here’s the book blurb, which hopefully will leave all of you panting for more:

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.
     UNSAFE HAVEN is available at Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I hope you enjoy reading about Denn and Kendall, taking a short vacation from your day, and spending it in Staamat, SW Alaska, in the fabulously fabulous Last Frontier.

     --- Char Chaffin

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Janna Shay said...

Great post. I read and reviewed UNSAFE HAVEN, and it is absolutely fantastic. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.

Wishing you much success with your book and your writing.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

I love the way you weave your imagination and reality together with your created towns and all. How fun! Congrats on your release!