Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Painting With Fire" by K. B. Jensen

Painting With Fire
by K. B. Jensen

Murder in the Windy City. Love without trust. Reckless justice.
These are the themes in Painting With Fire, the story of Claudia Wilson, a woman down on her luck living with a stranger, an artist named Tom. After the two of them discover a body on the street corner, buried in a snow bank, Claudia becomes obsessed with the murder and the fact that her roommate is not telling her everything about his past. While police search for the killer in her building, she wonders if she should be searching for a new roommate.
Claudia learns everything she can about the neighbors, as well as Tom. In the end, she makes a startling discovery. When art and violence collide, the results can be explosive.

Steve Jackson was trying to get his Honda Civic through the snow, but the tires spun loudly and the vehicle wouldn’t swim through. “Come on baby, please, please, we need to get out of here now,” he coaxed and swore.
But the Civic couldn’t climb out. It slid back into its final resting place, crooked against the curb. He turned off the ignition and slumped forward with his gloved hands on the wheel and his forehead against the top of it. He felt drained, empty. He had said what he needed to say and it wasn’t wise to linger. They let him walk out the door but they could still change their minds.
“Thank you, God, it’s over,” he said. “Now, please help me get the hell out of here.”
He was surprised they hadn’t stopped him after he gave his “notice.” Drug dealers aren’t normally so courteous. They don’t give you a card and a goodbye lunch before you walk out the door. But the worst of it was over now and he just had to drive home in the storm.
Blinking the snow out of his eyes, he glanced up at the old, three-story brick building through the blur of snowflakes and saw a dark face in the oversized window. It moved back behind the curtain.
He got out of the car and started digging out holes behind the tires, kicking the snow with his boots. He shivered. He was only wearing a puffy black vest over a flannel shirt. He had been too preoccupied to listen to the forecast that morning, too nervous about getting killed to worry about what clothes he’d be wearing when the shots would ring out. Snow had been the last thing on his mind when he showed up to tell them he couldn’t work for them anymore. His conscience wouldn’t allow it, that feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he made a delivery. A 13-year-old girl had thanked him, for what? For helping her kill herself slowly. He knew he had to answer to God one day and the day was coming soon, sooner than he’d like.
He bent down and dug out the snow with his gloved hands. The blur of white snowflakes stung his eyes so he could barely see. He didn’t hear the footsteps in the snow behind him through the whistle of the wind. He didn’t hear the metal slide through the air as it sliced down and cracked open the top of his head. He spun sideways from the blow and fell.
For a matter of seconds, he lay there flat on his back in the snow bank watching the flakes twirl and land on his face. His vision whirled. He had bitten his tongue, but he could still taste the snow melt and mix with blood as it dropped into his open, gurgling mouth. He thought of his mother, what she would say when she found out? Did she know that he had changed? She’d never know.
“Jesus,” he gurgled. It was a prayer this time.
Then the heavy metal blade came down again, and the white out turned to a permanent black out.

When you read the first paragraph or two of a book and feel the pulse of a good mystery based on the happenings of the following page or two, you know you're in for a good read. Add strong characters, most of whom seem suspicious and lead you to thinking you know 'who dunnit' only to find yourself second guessing yourself. The book keeps your interest and pulls you deeper into the story. As the plot thickens and builds momentum, the relationship between Claudia and Tom keeps you guessing as well. You will absolutely not be able to put the book down as an action packed finish will rivet you to its pages and very effectively pull it all together for you.
Congrats to K. B. Jensen on her first book. It's a clever mystery.

Interview With the Author
Hi K. B., thanks for joining me today to discuss your debut novel, Painting With Fire.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
Sixteen and over. Adults of all ages seem to enjoy it, but it’s too gritty for children.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I used to work as a crime reporter in the Chicago suburbs and one of the stories I wrote about involved a body found in the snow. The person was lying there for hours and could have lived if they had been found earlier. Many people I interviewed heard the gunshots but didn’t call the police. To my knowledge, the police never caught the murderer, and I always wondered who he/she was. It bothered me. My book is not based on that case, but it started out as a kind of a daydreaming about what might have happened.
Also, I had this clear picture of the villain in my head, this perfect villain and I wanted to explore that.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The characters should always come first. They drive the ideas.
What was the hardest part of writing in this book?
It was like arranging puzzle pieces. Getting everything to click in place just right took a lot of crafting. Also, the journalist in me wants everything to be realistic but you have to take liberties and free yourself as a writer to tell the story.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it gets people to think. I hope it’s also a good time, an entertaining read.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Four years off and on.
What is your writing routine?
I don’t have one. I write when the mood strikes, which is often. The only real routine I have is journaling. That is an every day occurrence and keeps my writing sharp.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m a downhill ski instructor. I also love to travel. I enjoy jogging and biking next to Lake Michigan.
What does your family think of your writing?
My family is very proud. My husband is my number one fan, of course. My dad said it was excellent and he’d tell me if it wasn’t. He said it was “not so predictable.” I liked that, because he’s a smart guy and he couldn’t figure out the killer.
Fantastic! Please tell us a bit about your childhood. Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved reading. I stayed up all night reading. You can see the dark circles under my eyes in my second grade school picture. I look terrible in it. Just five pages more, I used to tell myself, then I’ll turn out the light. But I never did, not until I was finished. That’s the power of good books on a young mind.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in third grade. I told my dad and he told me, “You’ll starve.”
I hope you prove him wrong! Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Not as much as you would think. My childhood teachers influenced it though. I had a third grade teacher at North Star Elementary School in Minneapolis named Mrs. Grein who used to send me to the principal’s office to read my stories. I don’t think I would be a writer if I hadn’t met her.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
That’s a tough question. When it comes to life, I’d say Paolo Coehlo. I like his idea that the universe is conspiring to help you achieve your dreams, if you follow them. When it comes to style, I’d say all the great journalists I’ve met working at newspapers and magazines have really trained me to write in a clean, tight manner.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do hear from readers. They say they liked the twists and turns in Painting With Fire, also the romantic elements. I think that’s kind of funny, because I’ve never envisioned the book as a romance. They keep asking me to write a sequel. I’m thinking about it.
So, what can we look forward to from you in the future?
Currently, I’m working on a collection of short stories, but it’s top secret. The themes are impossible love and other craziness.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your top secret project!

About the Author
K. B. Jensen is an author and journalist. Painting With Fire is her debut novel. As a reporter, she has written extensively about crime in the Chicago suburbs. Jensen grew up in Minneapolis and currently lives in Chicago, with her husband, daughter and rescued border collie/lab mix. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching downhill skiing and traveling the world.