Sunday, September 27, 2015

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Paulita Kincer, author of Trail Mix

Thanks for joining us at the book club Paulita.  

Why did you choose to write novels in the women's fiction genre?

We women are such complex creatures. We have more responsibilities than ever, most of us holding jobs, taking care of a household, raising kids, and making time for romance. The richness of female characters allows for lots of emotion and action in a novel. And, since women make up the majority of readers these days, I hope that the readers can relate to the characters’ dilemmas.

In my novel Trail Mix, one character, Jess, wants to hike the Appalachian Trail with her friend. She tells her husband about the idea and he belittles it.

“Actually, I’m thinking about it.” She stretched a little taller and looked up into his blue eyes that had turned cloudy. She prepared to start wheedling, convincing him that maybe she could hike for a month or two, see how things go.

            He returned her gaze for a moment too long, and then harrumphed.

“Jessica, you’re 45 years old. You’re in no shape to hike from here to Clearwater, much less a thousand miles along mountains.”

I think most of us women can remember a scene like this where our hopes are quashed by someone without faith in us.


Where is your book set and why did you choose that location?

Trail Mix is, as the name implies, set on the Appalachian Trail. Friends Jess and Andi decide to hike the trail during a lull in their lives, one where their children are going off to college and they have this sudden space in their schedules. They claim the hike is the ultimate diet plan – a perfect way to lose weight because they can only eat the food they carry on their backs. But they learn a lot more about themselves than the weight they lose on the trail. 


I’d like to know more about Trail Mix.  Can you give us a little background into why you wrote the novel?

I wrote Trail Mix after I found my friends discussing diets one too many times. We middle class mothers do become a bit obsessed about our bodies as we hit 40. Also, I noticed that as children began to creep up to adulthood, many mothers didn’t know what to do with themselves. I hoped that this book would help explore that crucial time since both of the main characters face that predicament. The novel also delves into female friendships. Jess and Andi spend a lot of time together on the trail. That gives them time to figure out what they love – and despise – about each other.


I’d like to know more about your main character. Can you tell us more about her?

Trail Mix has two main characters, Jess and Andi. Andi is an avid exerciser, anything she can do to reduce the size of her thighs! She works as a children’s librarian and has two children of her own, a son about to graduate from Notre Dame, and a daughter who is finishing her freshman year of college. She and her daughter do not get along, and Andi is tempted to hike the Appalachian Trail just to avoid her.
Jess works as an adjunct professor at a local college. She shuns exercise, but she’s a pro at dieting, having tried every one she’s ever heard of. Her oldest daughter didn’t go to college and has instead moved in with a guy named Gator who likes to play video games but doesn’t work. Her younger daughter is headed to college in the fall but snatched up a last-minute study abroad program so will be gone all summer. Jess finds that she and her husband Mark have less and less to talk about.


Can you tell us a little about the other supporting characters?

The women’s families, of course, play pivotal roles in the novel, but on the trail, the women meet some unusual characters. Everyone on the hike has a trail name. They meet a young man named Pretty Boy who plans to hike the trail before medical school, but he keeps getting injured and having to sit out. Andi and Jess end up joining a group of three women hiking. Mayo is the motherly type who enjoys taking care of the other women. Peanut, small with golden hair, is a southern belle who seems out of place on the tough trail. Half-Turtle is a taciturn woman who prefers the trail to life’s necessities, like hotels and flush toilets. As a group, they all throw their own eccentricities into the journey.


They say all fiction books have pivotal points in the book where the reader just can’t put the book down.  What’s one pivotal point in Trail Mix?

I try to jump right into the exciting parts of the book. As a matter of fact, the book begins with Jess and Andi in a thunderstorm on the trail. As Andi hikes ahead to reach the shelter, Jess continues her plodding hike before reaching the peak of a mountain where a bolt of lightning races toward a nearby tree, and everything goes black.


What’s next on the agenda for you, Paulita?

I’m almost finished with my next novel, Paris Runaway. This book tells the story of Sadie who realizes that her 17-year-old daughter has chased after the French exchange student to Paris. So Sadie hops on a plane to track down her daughter. While in France though, Sadie begins to realize that she lost more than a husband in her divorce; she lost her joie de vivre. France awakens that part of Sadie that she has ignored since her husband left.   


What would you like to say to your readers and fans?
I’m so grateful when readers pick up my novels and even more thankful when they write a review for a book on Amazon or Goodreads. Sometimes I’m amazed at the idea that people are actually reading the words I’ve written and picturing the scenarios that I created.

Thanks for your support.


About The Book



Title: Trail Mix
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: August 30, 2014
Format: Paperback / eBook 
Pages: 220
ISBN: 978-1312462502
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure


Buy The Book:





Discuss this book at our PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads by clicking HERE


Book Description:

In the tradition of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, comes a novel of two suburban women who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail, escaping their lives as moms and wives in search of nature, adventure, and the ultimate diet plan.

How does a woman know what she wants after spending 20 years thinking about her husband and children? Sometimes it takes a distraction from everyday life, time to examine the forest before the trees become clear. With no previous camping experience, Andi and Jess begin the 2100-mile odyssey from Georgia to Maine. The friends figure life on the trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens home from college, and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives. At the very least, the women are bound to return home thin.


Book Excerpt:

Prologue

Raindrops trickled down Jess’ nose. Her sodden boots plodded along, squooshing the mud with each step.
“Why did I do this?” She threw her head back, her face raised in lament to the sky. The hood of her rain poncho slipped off. The empty forest around her offered no answer, just a steady rain. Then, far above the treetops, she glimpsed a bolt of lightning streaking toward a nearby mountain and heard an answering boom of thunder. She cringed and scuttled faster down the trail.
For nearly two hours, since the wind first whispered its urgency through the leaves, and the raindrops began to fall, Jess had been hiking through the thunderstorm with no place to stop and dry off. No place to get warm. No offer of coffee or a dryer where she could heat up her clingy socks. She walked alone on the Appalachian Trail.
Like being in the middle of labor and deciding she didn’t want to give birth after all, Jess could not turn back. Well, she could turn back, but she would find only more of the same -- woods and rain and an endless trail.
This adventure was all Andi’s idea. As Jess trudged through the forest in the unrelenting rain, she blamed her best friend and hiking companion, Andi, who had pushed the hike as a great way to lose weight. And, when Jess’ teenagers took off for the summer leaving a big gap where the role of mother used to be, she thought a hike with Andi might fill that space. Andi, who, with her long legs, strode ahead, maybe miles away by now, claiming she had to hurry to the nearest shelter to keep the tent dry. Andi had tucked Jess’ poncho around her pack before presenting her back for Jess to return the favor.
“See you at the shelter,” Andi had called. “Only about three miles farther.”
In the city, a three-mile walk might take 45 minutes, an hour if she stopped to window shop. Here, in the mountains, it could last days as she climbed up peaks and descended into valleys. Oh, who was she kidding? She would never walk three miles in the city. She would get in her car and drive.
The thunder crashed louder, and Jess eyed the spiky greenery of a large fir tree. She could take cover under the tree, be a little bit sheltered. Even as she considered taking refuge, she stumbled past the tree, walking, walking.
Tears joined the rain on her face. She felt trapped. No exit ramps in sight. She could only continue to walk.
The wind ripped at her poncho as she climbed slippery stones that had been placed to form stairs. At the top, the wind gusts grew stronger and tried to push her back down. She hurried on along the ridge. Her walking poles dug into the mud that edged the rocks along the path.
On this crest, she stood exposed to the wind and rain and lightning. Rhododendron bushes lined the trail below, but the only plant that dared to peek through the crevices on this crag was a lone sycamore tree. If Jess could escape this bare slope, the trees ahead would provide an arching umbrella across the trail. As she started to descend with the trail, her boot slid across a slick stone, and she toppled backward in slow motion. She wheeled her arms, trying to right herself, but could not stop the plunge until her backpack hit the ground, and she landed – thump – on top of it.
This was supposed to be a diet plan, not a death sentence, she thought, lying on her back like a turtle on its shell, her arms and legs sprawled helplessly at her side. I may drown. The downpour pummeled her full in the face, but she lacked the energy to sit up, free herself from the 30-pound pack, heft it onto her back, and start the hike again.
As the rain doused her face, she slipped one arm from her pack and turned onto her side, away from the sky. For just a moment, she allowed herself to rest, curled into the fetal position beside her pack. A tingle began in her spine, and, in the moment she pondered why—everything went black.



About The Author



Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See France, and Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.


Connect with Paulita:
Author Website: paulitakincer.com


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