This week, I’d like to welcome fellow Astraea Press author K.S. Jones to tell us a little about herself and her new release Shadow of the Hawk, the story of Sooze Williams who sacrifices everything, including love, to save her family during the Great Depression.
I’m currently reading this wonderful, evocative book and I could barely put it down long enough to write this post!
Here’s what others are saying about it:
“During the Great Depression, folks braved one hardship after another trying to hold on to their lives and those they loved. Shadow of the Hawk is the unforgettable story of sacrifice in the name of family, and in the search for true love.” ~ W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors of People of the Thunder.
“With a clarity reminiscent of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, K.S. Jones gently draws the reader into a masterful description of the grit and hard times of one family’s struggles during the Great Depression.” ~ Alethea Williams, author of orphan train novel Walls for the Wind.
And now for the cover and the blurb …
It is May 1932 and life in the timbered rise and fall of Western Arkansas has just gotten harder for sixteen-year-old Sooze Williams. With debt mounting and both friends and family fleeing, Sooze is determined to ‘do the right thing.’ She promises her heart to a well-to-do man believing true love is just another loss along the way.
But when her uncle is murdered and family is accused of the crime, Sooze vows not to be beaten. Is salvation within her grasp by relying solely on truth, or is it in the security of her intended’s money? Sooze must decide before it’s too late.
Karen, what was the initial kernel of an idea that got you started writing Shadow of the Hawk?
My parents were just kids when the Great Depression hit America, so I grew up listening to their stories and the events which shaped their lives. I was fascinated with the time period and the things they did as children. Now, keep in mind, both my mother and father were writers too, so they had great storytelling abilities! I was hooked on their recollections of what life was like during those dark days. But, honestly, being a girl myself, it was my mother’s memories that resonated with me most. Her stories, more than any others, influenced the writing of this book which, by the way, took more than 15 years of research and writing to complete.
Could you tell us more about the historical context and the setting?
This novel takes place in 1932 during America’s Great Depression. The setting for Shadow of the Hawk is a real community called Coaldale. Today it is nothing more than a tiny blip on an Arkansas map, but it still has a few homes, a church, and a cemetery. Coaldale is where my mother was born, and where she lived until she was about 8 years old. I have visited Coaldale several times, including taking my mother on her last trip home. On that trip, we spent two days revisiting the sites she loved so much as a child, and I was totally immersed in her memories. Our visit added a lot of flavor to this fictional story.
What is your heroine’s most admirable quality?
I think one of her most admirable qualities might be considered a little odd! Sooze has great emotional strength. Let me give you an example of what I mean: I think it’s Chapter 27 when Sooze attends a funeral of someone she loved very much. Yet when her fiancé asks if she needs a handkerchief “for crying into.” Sooze tells him NO and says, “I’d just be cryin’ tears for us, and there’s no sense in that.” Then she tries to explain that the one who has died is already on their way to heaven and tears won’t help them on their way. In those days, maybe more so in places like the hills of Arkansas, kids were raised understanding life and death, and living and dying. Not shedding tears was a sign of strength. They prided themselves on qualities such as this one. Now, that’s not to say that Sooze never cries, but if she has a choice not to, she sees no sense in doing it.
Have you started your next book yet, and if so, can you tell us a little about it?
I have recently finished writing a middle-grade fantasy set in the Southwest tentatively titled The Talisman. It is currently under publisher’s review. And I am putting finishing touches on another middle-grade fantasy. After that comes the writing of a New Adult novel set in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas.
And now a little about you. Where do you do your writing?
My home is in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. My home office is a corner room with windows facing west and also north giving me stunning views of a little valley below.
If you could have your dream space to write, where or what would it be?
Actually, I am exactly where I want to be! My husband and I have a few wooded acres overlooking a valley where we watch beautiful sunsets. We are visited daily by herds of whitetail deer. And we have our dogs who love to explore the woods with me when writer’s block hits. I also have a vegetable garden which grows right outside my office window. I like to spend time outside when I can, and many times I get the creative urge to paint rocks. Yes, really! We have a walking path with inspiring words painted on colorful, decorative rocks. I cannot imagine any other place on earth where I would rather be than right here where I am, with my husband, my dogs, my books, and a computer to write my stories.
That sounds truly idyllic! It’s been lovely getting to know you and your writing, Karen. Thank you for visiting!
And now for an excerpt …
The town of Coaldale wound through the timbered valley like a black snake in the dark hole of an outhouse. Folks knew it was there by the grim feeling it posed, but the need to stay overpowered the urge to run.
I had lived my whole life in the low-lying basin between the Arkansas Western Railroad and the Poteau River — the only river in the state which flowed north. Fitting, I suppose. It seemed everything had turned around backwards and was running the wrong way. I wasn’t blaming God though. A lot of trouble we caused ourselves.
Take my older brother, Henry, for instance. Making good decisions was out of his reach. But with my best friend, Leona, bound for California, he’d moved up a notch on my short list of friends. After school, I went looking for him and found him pitching pennies behind Doc’s office. When he saw the sorrowful look on my face, he’d gathered up his winnings and come without me having to ask.
As we stood beneath the lopsided shadow of the Chinquapin tree between the jailhouse and the store, I killed time talking about the school lesson he had missed.
“Miss Stewart says the Panhandle folks can’t even eat a meal of beans without the grit and dust wearin’ their teeth away. Beans and mud. I don’t think I could live like that.”
But some days a bad attitude just popped out of Henry. Mama said it’s because he is itching to be a man. I think it’s because he is tired of being nobody.
“Sooze, what makes you think we’re any better off than those folks?” This being his last year of school, Henry talked like he knew something about everything. “We ain’t got any dirt in our beans, and our lungs ain’t filled with dust, but we ain’t got much else neither.”
Henry wore Daddy’s hand-me-down overalls, and even though he’d rolled the hems twice, they still dragged the ground. He’d spent a lifetime telling me he was “only short for now,” but he’d never grown much taller than my 5′ 5″ height, and that was a far-shot shorter than Daddy. Using his fingers, he combed his reddish-brown hair back from his face, and with eyes as rich as pure honey, he stared at me.
“I’d suffer through a little dirt in my food if I could get me a T-bone and some potato pone, wouldn’t you?” He pulled his ”lucky piece” out of his hip pocket. It was nothing more than an old stag-handled knife handed down to him from our granddaddy, but he called it his good luck charm. Like an ear of corn, he held it up to his mouth, and with a chomp, chomp, chomp, he pretended to eat it. “Heck, Sooze, anything’s better than poke salad and corn.”
Henry always looked at the dark side of things, and I didn’t want to encourage him, so I thought it best to ignore him altogether. I circled the tree, kicking up dust off the bone-dry ground. Keeping one hand on the pine, I pushed my other inside my dress pocket finding a new hole. It had worn clean through the pink, flowery patch I’d sewn onto my green dress trying to hide a stain. Even though I’d mended it many times over, Mama said the dress still looked pretty on me. She said it matched my green eyes and rosy cheeks and made my blond hair “look like an angel’s.”
But it didn’t matter to Henry whether I was paying attention to him or not, he just kept talking anyway.
“Shoot! At least those folks got automobiles, and here we are still with a horse and wagon! We’re about as backward and poor as you get, Sooze.”
“Life ain’t all hard biscuits, Henry!” I said with a stomp of my foot. “We got other things.”
Our family still owned two cows, six prize hogs, almost three dozen chickens, and a field planted full of corn. And every night at supper, Daddy still bowed his head to thank the good Lord that hard times hadn’t stripped us clean. I always listened to the tone of Daddy’s voice, too, because Mama said you could hear defeat in a man’s voice long before it settled in his brain, and I knew I hadn’t heard it yet.
Shadow of the Hawk is available at:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Author K.S. Jones, whose first name is Karen, has been writing most of her life, usually in stolen moments between raising children, caring for elderly parents, and working a real job. She spent fifteen years writing and researching her Depression-era debut novel, Shadow of the Hawk. During that time, she had short pieces published, but it wasn’t until 2014 that her writing took a giant leap forward. One summer morning, an email arrived announcing she had won Southern Writers 2014 Short Story contest. While reveling in the moment, a second email chimed – a publisher was offering a contract on her novel! That same week, two more publishing offers arrived for the same novel, and she hasn’t looked back since. Another novel, a middle-grade fantasy, is now under publisher’s review, and she is putting the finishing touches on a third.
Born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley—the destination of thousands of families fleeing the Dust Bowl during America’s Great Depression—the author’s favorite childhood pastime was reading. She especially loved The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Education of Little Tree, plus all the Jack London novels. Who could expect Shadow of the Hawk to sound any differently than it does? She now lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country with her husband, and their two dogs, Libby Loo and Red Bleu.
You can find Karen at: