About the Author:
Jenni Wiltz writes literary and historical fiction, thrillers, romance, and creative nonfiction. Both her fiction and creative nonfiction have won national writing awards. She holds undergraduate degrees in English and history and an MA in creative writing. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, The Portland Review, the Sacramento News & Review, and several small-press anthologies. When she’s not writing, she enjoys sewing, running, and genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California.
Visit her at her website, JenniWiltz.com.
I never went to the prom. I never tried out for a sports team. I was the nerdy kid everyone else called when they forgot to write down the math homework. To top it off, I had a bad perm, glasses, and braces – the early 90s dork trifecta. In other words, high school pretty much sucked for me. So you can imagine how fun it was to revisit those days as a 37-year-old writer working on The Red Road, a novel about a junior in high school who gets caught up in gang violence.
About the Book:
The Red Road by Jenni Wiltz
Decanter Press (January 26, 2015)
Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can’t afford it.
When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he’s sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.
Her best friends, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case try to convince her to focus on school. But school won’t prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what’s more important: doing what’s expected, or doing what she feels is right, even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge. Even if it plunges her into the heart of the gang violence threatening to tear her family apart. (356pp, ISBN #9781942348009)
It did make me realize 3 things:
Realization #1: I was way smarter back then.
To write Emma’s chemistry class scenes, I looked back at my old notes (yes, I still have them) and browsed some textbooks in Google Books. I had no idea what they were talking about. I looked back at my French notes and stumbled over the most basic translations. How had all this stuff fit in my brain at age 16? Why didn’t I remember any of it now? At the time, I was just beginning to see how everything fit together. The Enlightenment principles my history teacher talked about laid the foundation for the scientific principles of chemistry and physics. In French, I read a bit of Flaubert, who influenced pretty much all modern novelists, including Hemingway, who we read in English class. At the time, my brain absorbed it all like a sponge. Now, I can’t even remember to defrost the chicken before I leave for work.
Realization #2: There’s a lot of stuff grown-ups don’t tell you.
When you’re staring down the barrel of an AP Physics test, it feels like the world will end if you get a C. You won’t get into college, you won’t get a good job, you’ll never have any money, and you’ll basically be a bum living in a cardboard box. I sweated so much of the small stuff in high school. What I didn’t know is that people skills and computer skills have as much to do with getting a job as your degree – often more. Instead of slaving over Honors Chemistry and AP Physics because I thought I had to, I would have preferred to slave over them to prove to myself I could do it. Or I would have preferred to use that time to learn a little programming. In the book, I give Emma some of these thoughts, too – she gets overwhelmed by the thought of having to decide her whole life’s trajectory in high school, which is what it feels like for a college-bound junior.
Realization #3: Kids need someone to tell them it’ll be okay.
I spent a lot of time wishing I had a boyfriend (especially during prom season). It felt like the world was passing me by because I was doing something wrong. But what? I didn’t have enough faith in myself to stop and think, “You know what? I’m smart and creative and nice and sometimes even funny. The chances I will die alone are actually pretty small. So chill out and just try to have fun and figure out who you’re meant to be.” My main character, Emma, has a lot of these thoughts before she gets to know Dan, her chem lab partner. She’s never gone the prom either, and when it looks like Dan is going to ask her, Emma’s best friends get jealous. I can’t imagine dealing with AP Chemistry, a potential boyfriend, angry girlfriends, and family drama. Poor Em! What she needs – and what I needed – was someone to tell me it was all going to work out. And that if it didn’t, I could grow up to be an author and write a book about it later
See other posts this week from the author and about the book:
And don’t forget about your chance to win this book plus two more from this author in a bundle. There will be two winners of the bundle and this book will be an autographed copy. Unfortunately its U.S. mailing addresses only, sorry.