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An Interview with Karen Barnett
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An Interview with Karen Barnett

08 May Posted by in Interviews | Comments
An Interview with Karen Barnett

An interview with Karen Barnett, Author of Where the Fire Falls: A Vintage National Parks Novel

Tell us about your new novel, Where the Fire Falls.

I’m excited for readers to experience the second novel in my Vintage National Parks series, Where the Fire Falls. Olivia Rutherford is an up-and- coming watercolor artist who accepts a lucrative contract to paint illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine. Olivia has spent a lifetime recreating her image in order to hide her family’s dark past, but she soon learns that park guide Clark Johnson has secrets of his own.

You paint such beautiful landscapes with your writing when describing Yosemite. What does your research process look like for familiarizing yourself and visualizing the different landmarks and everything in between?

I like to spend time in each of the parks, taking notes on the smells, sounds, and sights. I write down any impressions I get of the landscape, even if they seem silly at the time. I remember standing at Yosemite’s Glacier Point and scribbling down a passing thought of how from that perspective, the granite monoliths reminded me of children’s building blocks left behind in a sandbox. I also remember walking through
Yosemite Valley and sensing the massive cliffs surrounding me like protective walls. Sometimes this imagery goes on to inspire aspects of the story.

The main character, Olivia Rutherford, tries to hide her humble beginnings and fashion her image as an avant-garde watercolorist to appeal to wealthy art collectors. How did you develop her character? Can you offer some historical context for her “flapper girl” image and the pressure she felt as an artist to appear a certain way?

The 1920s flapper image came about as a generation of young women struggled to reinvent themselves, throwing off their mothers’ stiff Victorian/Elizabethan styles and ways of thinking. Also, with so many making easy money in the stock market, people in the expanding upper class were embarking on wild spending sprees. I could easily picture some of them going crazy for new art trends. As I worked on Olivia’s character it struck me that most women wear a mask of some type, but God calls us
to a deeper authenticity with Him and with each other. It’s my hope that Olivia’s struggle to discover who she really is—and what is important—will resonate with women in various walks of life.

Olivia meets Clark Johnson in Yosemite, who also struggles with his identity and has a past he’d like to forget. How does finding our identity in Christ remove the shame and guilt we may feel from events in our past?

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 139 which begins, “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” Nothing in our pasts will surprise or shock our heavenly Father. He already knows it all—every fiber of our being. As humans, we tend to define ourselves through our accomplishments or our failures, but that’s not how God sees us. In His eyes, we are beloved children and He’s waiting with open arms to
welcome us back. I take great comfort in that.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers will be reminded of happy memories from times they’ve visited national or state parks. Maybe it will inspire someone to go visit a new park or spend extra time in nature to grow their connection with their Creator.

What can you tell us about what you’re working on next?

I’m currently finishing up the third book in the series, set at another iconic location: Yellowstone National Park. This story will feature a young man from the streets of Brooklyn whose life changes dramatically when he signs up with the Civilian Conservation Corps and is shipped off to the wilds of Yellowstone. He expects hard work and rustic conditions, but it is a hotel maid with big dreams who might actually
transform his future.

Read the first chapter of Where the Fire Falls here!

 

About the Book:

Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.” Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford has shed her humble beginnings to fashion her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine, including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty. After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the opportunity to become a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling? As Clark opens Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas–a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.

About Karen Barnett

KAREN BARNETT, author of MistakenOut of the Ruins, and Beyond the Ashes, is a former park ranger. She worked as a ranger naturalist and outdoor educator at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Silver Falls State Park, and Mount Rainier National Park. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, and public speaking. She lives in Oregon with her family.

 


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