Karla M. Jay is the award-winning author of When We Were Brave and It Happened in Silence. She has wanted to write books since she was seven. Originally from the east coast, she makes her home in Salt Lake City. Over the years she has written in several different genres, ranging from humor to noir, but currently is focused on historical fiction. When she's not writing, she's reading, gardening, playing with her dog, or traveling to new places to try to find a story that has never been told. As our Author of the Day, Karla tells us all about her book, It Happened in Silence.
Please give us a short introduction to what It Happened in Silence is about.
Set in a world where women of the KKK betray their neighbors, where horrors of unscrupulous foundling homes come to light, and buried mysteries are not all that hidden. It's Georgia 1921. Mute since birth, fifteen-year-old Willow Stewart has one task to complete—to leave her Appalachian homestead and find a traveling preacher and her brother, Briar. When a peddler kidnaps her, she escapes only to face an unjust arrest and penal servitude. The laws are not on her side. Or her brother’s.
Briar is serving time on a chain gang with four months left. When an immigrant boy asks him for help, Briar must decide if he should jeopardize his freedom to help the penniless boy.
Soon Willow and Briar become ensnared in a world of cruel secrets, savage truths, deceitful practices, and desperate predicaments. Will they be able to reunite and return home?
What inspired you to write this story? Was there something in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I've been intrigued with Appalachia for years and started a book 20 years ago called Frog's Hair. When I delved into 1920 and the happenings of the day I discovered that women joined the KKK by the thousands and that there were baby farmers selling off infants, I knew these themes were what I'd rotate the story around.
Why did you pick 1921 Georgia as the backdrop for this story?
Georgia still had chain gangs and wrongly arrested as many people as they could to help build their cities and roads.
Tell us more about Willow Stewart. What makes her tick?
Willow may be mute, but she is book-smart and kind. Family loyalty above all would be her motto.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I've been a speech therapist for 39 years and still love it.
How much research did this story take from you to make the history part of it ring true?
I read about 12 books covering women of the KKK, women hobos, Black Wall Street, chain gangs, and the undervalued baby.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to write for?
Willow. Being mute, her thoughts and actions had to show what a wonderful, strong girl she is.
Readers say that your characters are very believable. Are they based on any people you know?
No. I tried to imagine each character's plight, and thoughts, hopes, and worries when I was writing their chapters. In other words, I walked in their shoes when I was writing about them.
Your novel touches on heavy topics, including fairness - why did you find this important to write about?
Unless we address history, and its eons of hate and unfairness, we learn from it.
Why did you title this "It Happened in Silence."
I struggled with the title for months as the book was wrapping up. I finally went with this one because the atrocities of that day often took place in silence with little justice to fight the unfair laws.
What are you working on right now?
A WWII book set in Hungary. The working title is The Puppet Maker's Daughter.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
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