I wrote Wrong Place, Wrong Time because I loved the story and I wanted to read it. When I realized no one else had written it, my imperative became clear.
I had been published before, mostly for nonfiction; but the grip that this story had on me was different. It started as a daydream inspired by a movie about a kidnapping. The victim is a young, beautiful woman (surprise!); the man who steals her away is hunky and devilishly insouciant. It’s very light-hearted, and only the bad guys got hurt.
But what if this happened in real life? I thought.
How would the characters be different? What would happen after the crime was solved? In movies, the happy ending occurs when people stop responding to the story. In real life, we carry our experiences around with us every day. I would suggest that by the time any of us is about eight, we have enough life experiences under our belts to fuel at least one novel if not a whole series.
What if the kidnap victim were Jewish? Not Hollywood Jewish, meaning either a Holocaust victim or New York neurotic with thick glasses. What if this person were a smart, funny, tough Jewish woman who might conceivably live next door to me and carpool her kids to Hebrew school at our synagogue?
Soon my head was full of people I had never met but always known. They were in a desperate situation none of them could have imagined (but I did). I walked around with them all day. I took them to bed with me at night. We were constant companions.
Eventually, perhaps out of self-defense, I decided to let them out. In other words, write their story.
The first step, of course, was creating character bios so that when the action started I wouldn’t have to wonder how my people would respond.
Meet my cast.
Tsara Adelman. Tsara is the kind of person who writes “overeducated housewife” on forms that require a job description. She is devoted to her husband and their two kids, Josh and Abbie, who are five and three respectively. The fact that Tsara is a good mother is in many ways the backbone of her personality, and it was a conscious choice on my part because generally speaking, Jewish mothers in popular culture are a contemptible ethnic joke. The ones I know in real life do not overfeed their children and smother them with inappropriate love, thereby damning them to a lifetime of therapy. Like Tsara, they are reasonably sane people attempting to raise strong and loving children.
Tsara’s happiness is adumbrated by a decades-old family tragedy that makes her all the more grateful for her current serenity.
…You just know it’s not going to last, don’t you?
Mike Westbrook. Mike is a former Marine with a criminal record, a battered soul who plays by his own rules. He has frequently run afoul of the police force in his small New Hampshire town, so when his only child is in peril he stops at nothing and no one to save the boy. That includes the cops, the local bad guys—and, when she gets in his way, Tsara.
Erin Spaar and Victor Galen. The two FBI agents who are called in to solve the case when Tsara goes missing posed an unexpected challenge for me: when I first conceived of the story, they were minor characters whose main function was to unearth plot points. As the story unfolded, however, and especially after I had the extraordinary privilege of interviewing two real FBI agents, Spaar and Galen took on lives of their own. Which was a problem, because I hadn’t given them backstories and therefore didn’t know them well enough to script them properly. In the end I went back and retrofitted biographies: Spaar grew up the only child of an abusive marriage; in college, she fought off a would-be attacker and realized that she could defend herself. This insight led her to a career in law enforcement. Galen, I decided, was the oldest of ten kids in a Catholic family. This gave him both a specific moral compass and a strong need to protect the vulnerable, especially children. Once I figured all that out, Spaar and Galen began to work together beautifully as a team.
Thus was Wrong Place, Wrong Time released from my cranium; and this is what happens in the story:
When Tsara Adelman leaves her husband and two young children for a weekend to visit her estranged uncle, she little dreams he is holding several local children captive on his lavish estate. Mike Westbrook, father of one of the boys, kidnaps her to trade her life for the children’s. Soon Tsara and Mike are fleeing through New Hampshire’s mountain wilderness pursued by two rogue cops with murder on their minds.
I hope you enjoy it.
Writer Tilia Klebenov Jacobs has mastered the art of keeping readers in suspense with her newest release, Wrong Place, Wrong Time (October 1, 2013, Linden Tree Press).
Jacobs was born in Washington D.C. and studied at Oberlin College in Ohio where she earned a bachelor of arts in religion and English with a concentration in creative writing. After spending time as a park naturalist with the Fairfax County Park Authority in picturesque Virginia, she returned to school and obtained a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a secondary school teaching certification from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1997. She went on to teach middle school, high school and college. She is a world traveler, having lived in or visited Colombia, Norway, England, Venezuela, Bulgaria, Israel and Jordan, among many other countries.
Jacobs has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction work. Her writing has appeared in The Jewish Magazine and anthologies including Phoenix Rising: Collected Papers on Harry Potter (2008, Narrate Conferences Inc.) and The Chalk Circle (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2012), a collection of intercultural essays.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time was designated IndieReader Approved and the book won honorable mention for the 2010 Joanna Catherine Scott Novel Excerpt Prize.
Tilia’s book Wrong Place, Wrong Time is also a recipient of book awards from London Book Festival and New England Book Festival.
For the past 12 years, Jacobs has lived in near Boston, Mass. with her husband, two children and their two standard poodles. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition and a member of Grub Street, Boston’s premier writing center. In addition to teaching writing at several state prisons in Massachusetts, she has been a guest blogger for Jungle Red Writers, Femmes Fatales and author Terri Giuliano Long’s website.