Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview with Paulita Kincer, author of Trail Mix

Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See Franceand 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:

Author Interview

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Trail Mix is a novel about two women who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail as the ultimate diet plan. Although they say they’re doing it to lose weight, the truth is that they are trying to escape their chaotic lives of grumpy husbands and young adult children, and they hope to discover what their lives can be if they aren’t totally devoted to their families.

Why did you write your book?

I wanted to explore women launching a journey that would take them out of their comfort zone. Leaving behind their familiar surroundings, seemed like a good way for these characters to make decisions about their futures, their marriages and their children.

The setting along the Appalachian Trail offered the chance to challenge the characters physically, while assuaging them with new opportunities of natural beauty.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Best friends Andi and Jess are the main characters. Andi exercises like crazy, while Jess has a lot of self-control so can stick to diets with religious fervor. The two decide that the Appalachian Trail would be the perfect chance for them to combine their skills and get in terrific physical shape. But they both have secrets from each other. They feel judged by the other as their children don’t follow the expected paths. And spending every minute together doesn’t let them hide secrets.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The characters generally start based on real people but they evolve. For this novel, I based Jess on my friend Sheila who is a dedicated dieter, and Andi on myself, because I exercise like a fiend. But then both characters changed so much. Andi became really competitive about finishing the hike, and those characteristics come from one of my running friends, Noreen.

Jess became mesmerized by the beauty of everything in nature, and that is also like my friend Noreen. So it’s weird that two different characters took traits from Noreen.

One of my friends who read the novel refused to speak to me for a while because she felt Andi was being mean to Jess, and she couldn’t differentiate between me, the author, and Andi the character. I guess that’s the danger of basing a character on actual people.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I always begin a novel with an inciting incident. For Trail Mix, the incident is a malaise with Jess and Andi’s lives that leads them to try to hike the Appalachian Trail. But just the idea leaves so many details that have to be figured out.  What do their families think about this? What about jobs? What happens along the trail? And I have no idea how the book will end when I begin writing it. Will they hike the entire trail? Will their friendship last through the hike?

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

In all of my novels, the setting has been a major player. For this novel, Trail Mix, most of the hardships come from hiking the Appalachian Trail. But the trail also provides so many beautiful experiences to help put everyday life in perspective.

Here’s a blurb from the middle of the book to show you what I mean:

She stood on an open patch of ground, the trillium blooming
around her, a rock bearing the white mark of the Appalachian Trail
showed the direction of the trail, and she lifted her face to the sun.
The sun had broken through and warmed the earth. The dirt
 eagerly released its moisture, sending the ever present mist into
 the air as it dried.

“I’m here, now,” Jess reminded herself out loud. The sounds of the
birds twittering in the trees and the sway of the wind through the
branches seemed to tap her on the shoulder, reminding her of the
reason she was hiking in the wilderness. Enjoy the moment, they
seemed to say. 

My two other novels were both set in France, and again, a setting in a different culture puts pressure on the characters so they can focus on their true-life passions and abilities. Each time, the setting becomes part of the plot. 

What do you want the readers to get out of reading your book?

I would love for readers to close my book and feel as if they have been on a vacation, a vacation that made them laugh and cry. I’d like them to learn something, maybe about how endangered the Smoky Mountains are, and mostly, I’d like them to feel something. If readers can connect to an emotion that the characters express, I’ve done my job.

I know so many women who are struggling with the idea of their children growing up and moving away. Some of them are unsure what the next step is. But I’d like for them to realize that we all argue with our young adult children and have different ideas and dreams that they may not fulfill. Our kids will continue to grow and change, and we can too. 

About The Book

TitleTrail Mix
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: August 30, 2014
Format: Paperback / eBook (.mobi format for Kindle)
Pages: 220
ISBN: 978-1312462502
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure

Buy The Book:

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at 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:


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.

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