Wrong Place, Wrong Time
by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs
October 2013, Linden Tree Press
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TILIA KLEBENOV JACOBS RELEASES WRONG PLACE, WRONG TIME
Award-winning writer uses Jewish faith for new spin on thriller novel
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – A psychological thriller with an unconventional heroine, Wrong Place, Wrong Time by award-winning author Tilia Klebenov Jacobs is a rush of adrenaline.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time (October 1, 2013, Linden Tree Press) introduces Tsara Adelman, a Jewish mother and wife who finds herself abducted and on the run after she learns her uncle is holding several children captive on his property. Originally a project for National Novel Writing Month in 2009, Jacobs’ book is packed with action and emotion, presenting ethical questions and unpredictable drama on every page.
“This is a story of redemption,” Jacobs says. “This is a story about an ordinary woman fighting back in extraordinary circumstances.”
Jacobs was inspired by the 1950 Burt Lancaster film “The Flame and the Arrow,” a light-hearted, Robin Hood-esque story about Dardo Bartoli (Lancaster) kidnapping Anne de Hesse (Virginia Mayo) in Medieval Lombardy as part of a struggle against the evil Hessian overlords, one of whom is holding Dardo’s son hostage to keep the rebels quiet. After watching the movie a few dozen times, Jacobs started wondering, “What if this happened in real life? What if the woman weren’t a voluptuous 20-something but a happily married wife and mother? What if she didn’t fall in love with him? What if she were Jewish?”
Jacobs weaves elements of the real world into Wrong Place, Wrong Time with fight scenes based on her experience as a student in a women’s self-defense course and in-depth interviews with a lawyer, a Massachusetts state trooper, psychologists, an archer, a rabbi and FBI agents.
Jacobs lives near Boston, Mass. with her husband, their two children and a pair of standard poodles. In addition to teaching writing in state prisons, she is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition and a member of Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston. She has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction work.
Biography of Tilia Klebenov Jacobs
Jacobs was born in Washington D.C. and studied at Oberlin College in Ohio where she earned a bachelor of arts in religion and English with a concentration in creative writing. After spending time as a park naturalist with the Fairfax County Park Authority in picturesque Virginia, she returned to school and obtained a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a secondary school teaching certification from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1997. She went on to teach middle school, high school and college. She is a world traveler, having lived in or visited Colombia, Norway, England, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Israel and Jordan, among many other countries.
Jacobs has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction work. Her writing has appeared in The Jewish Magazine and anthologies including Phoenix Rising: Collected Papers on Harry Potter (2008, Narrate Conferences Inc.) and The Chalk Circle (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2012), a collection of intercultural essays.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time was designated IndieReader Approved and the book won honorable mention for the 2010 Joanna Catherine Scott Novel Excerpt Prize.
For the past 12 years, Jacobs has lived in near Boston, Mass. with her husband, two children and their two standard poodles. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition and a member of Grub Street, Boston’s premier writing center. In addition to teaching writing at several state prisons in Massachusetts, she has been a guest blogger for Jungle Red Writers, Femmes Fatales and author Terri Giuliano Long’s website.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
My usual answer to “Where are you from?” is “Do you want the list?” My dad worked for the State Department, and the result was a peripatetic childhood for me and my three siblings. I was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Columbia and Norway. I went to high school in Massachusetts and college in Ohio, then settled in Virginia for a few years while I tried to figure out what to do with all this great education I’d been amassing. During that time I was a secretary, a copy editor, and a park naturalist, to mention but a few of the jobs one finds when one has the poor judgment to graduate with a liberal arts degree in the midst of a major recession. Eventually academia lured me with her siren call, and I enrolled at Harvard to get a Master of Theological Studies and a Secondary School Teaching Certificate. I have taught middle school, high school, and college; presently I teach writing to prison inmates.
I’m very grateful for this potpourri of experiences, because writers need something to write about.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
I had been doing a lot of nonfiction writing, and had had a fair amount of success with it: some awards, a few publications. Then I happened across an old movie about a kidnapping. There’s a romance thrown in, and it’s very lighthearted. Naturally, the kidnapper (hunky rebel with a cause) and his hostage (beautiful, conveniently unattached) fall in love. I found myself thinking, “What if they didn’t fall in love? What if she were already in love with someone else—say, her husband? What if she had kids? How would that change things? And what if she had some feelings for her kidnapper, and had to grapple with the fact that he had done a bunch of really awful things—but for a good reason?” In short, what if this situation had all the emotional complexity of real life, and couldn’t be resolved with a kiss and a fadeout? As soon as that idea grabbed me, it refused to let go until I wrote it down.
How do you create your characters?
I do very detailed character bios before I start writing. Among other things, I write down the person’s age, sex, job or other source of financial support; and friends, family, and love interest (if any). I also describe the person’s living space, which is a wonderful reflection of the individual, and his or her hobbies, ethics, and politics (again, if any). I jot down a sentence or two saying what the person was doing five years ago and one year ago; and then I write down his or her dramatic needs, or goals, at the beginning, middle, and end of the book, as well as what is keeping him or her from attaining them. Then I toss in a physical description. This is really a lot of fun, because although I often have a pretty good idea of what the person is like anyway, adding these details creates a richness that wouldn’t otherwise be there.
By the time I start writing, these are real people to me and I have a pretty good idea of how they will talk and react in any given situation. Of course, the flip side is also true—sometimes they take on a life of their own that I hadn’t anticipated. Mike, the male protagonist of Wrong Place, Wrong Time, absolutely shocked me when he started talking. Frankly, the man is a potty-mouth.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
Confession: I have wanted to be a writer since I learned how to read. During my secretarial days I was always the in-house editor, and as a park naturalist I wrote trail guides, catalogue copy, and whatever else was required. Writing has always been a big part of being Tilia. Even so, the inspiration for Wrong Place, Wrong Time caught me by surprise! When I was a kid I thought I would write fiction; but as an adult I was having so much success with nonfiction that I thought I’d found my calling. Turns out you can do both. Isn’t that neat?
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
Interestingly, the thing I need is not solitude but sound. Complete silence makes me twitch. I do most of my writing at my neighborhood coffee shop, because I love the atmosphere: people come and go, and they have the most astonishingly intimate conversations in full earshot of the rest of the patrons. It’s cozy in the winter, they play good music, and of course it smells great.
If I’m at home, I play instrumental music—never vocal, because the sound of a voice is too distracting. (Please don’t ask me to explain why someone at the next table talking about her weird rash is great, but singing isn’t. It is simply one of the mysteries of the universe.) Sometimes I play ragtime, especially Scott Joplin; sometimes big band; but my default is Bach. His marvelously, symmetrically crafted music is often the perfect soundtrack to my thought processes.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
There is no one place. As you now know, I got the idea for Wrong Place, Wrong Time from an old movie. My current project takes place in and around a coffee shop, and I weave together a great many old family stories and anecdotes that I’ve heard over the years in order to tell my main story.
Of course, the most obvious place to get inspiration is from other writers. I keep a notebook in my purse (and one by my bed), and if I read something that really grabs me I write it down for the sake of its own beauty. For example, in Winter’s Tale, author Mark Helprin describes “a white and silver sound.” That is too gorgeous to ignore. Often I come back to these quotations and find that they have given me an idea for something similar.
What do you like to read?
To quote my depressive friend Hamlet, “Words, words, words.” I read fiction and nonfiction, genre stories (especially crime novels), and others that defy easy classification. I find that the books I am most likely to reread are the ones I fell in love with as a child, such as Knight’s Castle and the Jeeves and Wooster books. In a lot of ways I think those are the best stories: the book gets right to the plot with very little mucking about, and we get to meet the characters as they respond to their situations.
A favorite authors list would include, among many others, J.K. Rowling (goddess), Robert B. Parker, and P.G. Wodehouse. That’s only the start, of course; a complete list would gallop on for all eternity.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring authors in regards to writing?
Set aside a specific time and place to write, and keep it inviolate. Do not tell yourself that just this once you will schedule a doctor’s appointment during your writing time, because that kind of erosion will wear down your precious time faster than you can imagine. When you are writing, don’t do anything else. I strongly suggest you get out of the house to a place with no WiFi, because checking that one little email is instant death to an afternoon of writing. It is way too easy to sabotage yourself this way, because after all, your writing is (probably) not paid work, and a great many people may view it as an indulgence. Don’t be one of them. You love writing and you are good at it, so dignify that reality by granting it some dedicated time.
At the same time, set realistic boundaries. Don’t tell yourself you will write for five hours every day, because you will do that for about a week—maybe—then fall off the wagon and decide that you are a failure. This is exactly what happens every January, when my gym is crazy crowded for about three weeks. Pretty soon each of those New Years Resolvers misses a workout and decides the whole thing is too hard. Don’t do this to yourself! Figure out what will work in the real world. Does your baby nap reliably? Great. Put him down and write for the hour he’s conked out. If Tuesday afternoons while the kids are in soccer is a reliable hour and a half for you to write, use it. Or maybe you have a long commute (on the train, not driving!). Grab the laptop and put those forty-five minutes to good use. A small amount of reliable time can be your best friend, and it’s astonishing what you can produce if you use it wisely.
Anything else you’d like to share?
No one writes a book alone, so get help. Get lots of help. Find a writing workshop, a critique group, a retreat with lots of supportive but honest criticism. Get an editor, even if you are already very good at spelling, punctuation, and grammar. And if you aren’t, then please do your future editor a favor and become an expert at spelling, punctuation, and grammar. If you were a photographer, you would know how your camera works; as a writer, you need to be an expert in language. Your readers will thank you, and since editors charge by the hour, your wallet will thank you too.
Finally, don’t give up. There are many, many avenues to publication these days, so don’t worry if one of them doesn’t pan out for you. Be flexible, and see what suits you best. Then do it. Ultimately it’s all worth it.