If you haven’t yet explored Karen Barnett’s Vintage National Parks series, you are missing out! Not only are their covers ‘blow-up-and-hang-on-your-wall’ worthy, the stories inside are just as compelling. The icing on the cake today? Getting to chat with the author of these gorgeous stories, who just so happens to be one of my fave people to chat with! ♥
Karen Barnett is an award-winning author of six novels who draws on her firsthand experience as a park ranger to transport readers to the captivating landscapes preserved in American’s national parks. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, and public speaking. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two teens, and three mischievous dachshunds.
Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”
Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford fashioned her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.
After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the choice of becoming a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?
As Clark helps open Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas– a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.
My Review of Where the Fire Falls for RT Book Reviews:
John Muir considered Yosemite to be “pervaded with divine light” and, after reading this book, it’s easy to see why. The beautiful cover for this second Vintage National Parks novel from Barnett is like looking at a vintage postcard, one that acts as the gateway to the equally beautiful story inside. Through Olivia’s artistic eye, Yosemite National Park comes breathtakingly into focus as it was in the late 1920s. Her brushstrokes on canvas mirror the way Barnett paints words on the page, both artists vividly setting the scene and the mood of the story. The characters’ physical journey through Yosemite is skillfully blended into the characters’ spiritual journeys as well, pointing readers to the divine Creator who cherishes both the nature and the people He has placed there. Olivia and Clark’s backstories — and their secrets — are unique and compelling, drawing interest from the beginning and sustaining through the end. A passionate (but honorable) romance and danger from varying sources keep the tension high, even as the peaceful setting beckons readers to rest in His care. A must-read for historical fiction fans, armchair travelers, outdoorsy and/or artistic readers and for anyone who considers the mountains their happy place.
Ok…seriously… i want a print of that cover!!
Hi Karen! Welcome to the blog! I’m always glad to chat with you! As you may know, I start all my guests off with a ‘fast four’ …
Karen: A high school history teacher once accused me of being a “fence-sitter.” For some reason I’m wired to see both sides of things, and I always want to answer these questions with “both!” But I’ll do my best.
Carrie: haha! I’m pulling for you 😉
Q: Apples or oranges?
Karen: Apples. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we take great pride in our apples and probably couldn’t grow an orange if our lives depended on it. Also, I don’t like the stringy pulp in oranges. Blech. But I do prefer orange juice (uh-oh, there’s that fence-sitter again).
Carrie: lol! I am an apple girl all the way!
Q: Coffee or tea?
Karen: Coffee. I’ll drink tea occasionally when I want to feel cultured, but I like the caffeine jolt that coffee provides.
Carrie: There is something about tea that makes one feel cultured, isn’t there? Which is why I cringe my way through a few sips every once in a while lol
Q: Netflix or Hallmark Channel?
Karen: I’m a Netflix addict. I tend to like grittier stuff than they show on Hallmark—Doctor Who, Criminal Minds, Sherlock, Longmire, etc.
Carrie: Sherlock ♥
Q: Oceans or mountains?
Karen: I’m a mountain girl, but I love the ocean, too. The great thing about living in Oregon is that I am within easy driving distance of both.
Carrie: I’m trying (and failing) not to be jealous of this… said, from landlocked Kentucky with beautiful rolling hills but no mountains. 😛
Q: Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Karen: I’ve always wished I could fly. I’m not a fan of crowds or traffic, so I sometimes imagine that I can just push off and float above things—going wherever I want, whenever I want.
Carrie: oh wouldn’t that be wonderful!
Q: When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?
Karen: I typically start in Christian fiction before wandering over to history. If it’s getting late and my family can’t find me, they know to come search the children’s section. I could spend hours leafing through all the picture books. I enjoyed a short period of time where that felt normal—when my own kids were small. To tell the truth, I did it even before they were born and still do now that my children are teens.
Carrie: You have basically described my trail through a bookstore as well. My favorite class in college (elementary education degree) was my ‘kiddy lit’ class and I still am happiest hanging out in that section of a bookstore and seeing what’s new!
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled while researching a book?
Karen: One thing??? I always warn my husband not to check my Google history. I’ve searched everything from “what it feels like to get shot” to how fast a body might dissolve in Yellowstone hot spring. Don’t worry—I didn’t end up using that last tidbit.
Q: You spent several years as a park ranger, naturalist and outdoor educator. To what degree has that influenced your Vintage National Parks series?
Karen: I would say that my experience as a park ranger definitely inspired the series. From my first day on the job, I noticed a distinct sense of pride among the staff who served as stewards of these natural places. I also became fascinated with the history of our national park system and couldn’t imagine more exciting and romantic locations for a collection of novels.
Carrie: It really is a fascinating history & you do such a fantastic job of bringing it to life!
Q: Speaking of bringing these parks to life … you paint such beautiful landscapes with your writing when describing Yosemite. What does your research process look like for familiarizing yourself and visualizing the different landmarks and everything in between?
Karen: I like to spend time in each of the parks, taking notes on the smells, sounds, and sights. I write down any impressions I get of the landscape, even if they seem silly at the time. I remember standing at Yosemite’s Glacier Point and scribbling down a passing thought of how from that perspective, the granite monoliths reminded me of children’s building blocks left behind in a sandbox. I also remember walking through Yosemite Valley and sensing the massive cliffs surrounding me like protective walls. Sometimes this imagery goes on to inspire aspects of the story.
Carrie: I’ve loved the imagery in both books of this series so far – but the word-painting you did throughout Yosemite in Where the Fire Falls really spoke to me ♥
Q: While in Yosemite on a contract with a travel magazine, Olivia Rutherford discovers the park’s nightly Firefall event. How did you learn about this real event that used to take place in the park, and why did you decide to highlight it in the book?
Karen: I had read about the Firefall in accounts of Yosemite’s history and discovered that my father had witnessed it while visiting the park as a young man. From my own time working for the National Park Service, I knew that the agency frowns on most types of manmade spectacle, yet this one continued for decades. As you travel around the park, you still hear visitors recounting their memories of the event, even though they held the last one over fifty years ago.
There’s an ongoing tension between visitor use and preservation that has been at the heart of our national parks system from its creation all the way to up through today, and that’s something I’m trying to highlight in this series. With every book, I’m trying to discover the character of each park. Yosemite’s character is deeply embedded not just in its incredible landscape, but in its longstanding local traditions. The Firefall is a vivid representation of that truth.
Carrie: I had never heard of the Firefall before reading your book and now I’m fascinated by it!
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes from Where the Fire Falls & why do you love it?
Karen: I’m going to give you two, because I’m annoying that way. At one point in Where the Fire Falls, Clark says, “Scripture says faith can move mountains, but I’ve found time spent in the mountains sometimes moves us toward faith.” I love the quote because even though he is torn between his past (working in a church) and his present (working in Yosemite)—he still trusts God is directing his steps. I want that sort of faith!
Second, writers sometimes put in lines for our own amusement. One of the park rangers is pushing Clark for juicy information about his past and he has this thought: “If he’d learned anything, it was never feed the rangers. It only made them more curious.” I worked as a park ranger for a couple of years, so this line makes me smile.
Carrie: “…time spent in the mountains sometimes moves us toward faith.” THIS. I have this highlighted in my copy of Where the Fire Falls because it so speaks to my heart. And the ‘never feed the rangers’ line made me smile too 🙂
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Karen: I recently turned in the third manuscript for the Vintage National Parks novels, and I’m looking forward to digging into it with my editor. We don’t have a title on the book yet, but the story is set at Yellowstone National Park in 1933 and features the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps. My hero is a young man who’s never been off the streets of Brooklyn until he signs up for the CCC and suddenly finds himself shipped off to the wilds of Yellowstone. The heroine has spent four years working as a maid in one of Yellowstone’s hotels to save money for college. Now she has to choose between pursuing love or following her dreams. Doesn’t that sound fun?
Carrie: oh yay!!! I’m so looking forward to visiting Yellowstone vicariously through your next book!
Karen Barnett and Waterbrook Multnomah are offering a print copy of Where the Fire Falls to one of my readers (US only). This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. It will be open from May 31-June 7, 2018. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? Have you ever been to Yosemite National Park?