I've always loved to travel, so I'm particularly drawn to novels set in
interesting locations or featuring characters who take a journey of some sort.
It's my way of exploring the world even when I need to stay close to home. I've
heard people refer to it as "armchair travel." It's the perfect escape from the
daily demandsâ€”kids, job, friends, billsâ€”you name it.
Back when I was first dreaming of being an author, I remember reading a whole
stack of Robin Jones Gunn's delightful Sisterchicks books. As I closed the final
cover, a thought jumped to mind. "This writer has it figured out. She must
travel to all of these exotic locations to do book researchâ€”and it's probably a
business expense!" I realized the same was probably true of many of the other
authors I made a habit of reading. Professional vacationers. Wouldn't that be
Now that I've been on multiple book trips, I can tell you for sure: it is
incredible. Traveling for novel research is a dream come true.
It's also a lot of work.
My current series is set in some of our country's most beautiful places, our
national parks. When I first proposed the Vintage National Parks
Novels, it was more a case of "write what you know" instead of
"write where you want to go." The first book was set at Mount Rainier National
Park. I'd grown up nearby, spent family vacations there, and had the honor of
working two summers as a seasonal park ranger. It felt like home to me.
But the next two novels were set in Yosemite and Yellowstone. The time had come
to realize my book-travel fantasies. I informed my family that we'd be hitting
the road. They weren't as excited as I had anticipated. You see, national parks
are my dream. I'm the outdoorsy one. My teenagers? Not so much.
And traveling for research is a little different than family vacations. I
frowned at our packed calendar. My high schoolers were busy with activities. My
husband's work schedule was demanding. And then he pointed out something I
hadn't considered before. "To be perfectly honest, wouldnâ€™t we just be in the way?"
That was an uncomfortable thought, but I spent some time pondering it. I love my
husband and my kids, how could they ever be "in the way?" But I can't deny the
fact that when I dive into a story, I'm pretty single-minded. I can spend hours
focusing on tiny aspects of the setting or the characters. For a kid or a
mostly-patient husband? That would be boring, with a capital "B." Would I be
able to focus on my research and them at the same time? Could I be the involved
mom I love to be? Or would my heart be with my book?
They were honestly relieved when I scheduled the trips on my own, but I still
felt a little guilty. Shouldn't I be sharing these places with those I love?
As strange as it felt to go solo, I spent my time walking the trails, touring
historic lodges, snapping pictures of wildlife and waterfalls, and soaking in
the sounds and smells of the placesâ€”all so I could bring it to life in my
novels. The freedom to go where I wanted, when I wanted, was a strange
experience for a mom. But it was empowering, too.
I discovered that the parks had research libraries and archives. This history
geek was in research heaven! I pored over documents carefully typed by park
administrators in the 1920s and 30s, now saved in giant binders or on aging
microfiche. Every nugget of information made me giddy. At one point during my
Yellowstone trip, I texted my husband a picture of a report I found particularly
"What am I looking at?" he texted from our home in Oregon.
"Eeeee! The men on the 1933 CCC crew were all from Brooklyn and the Bronx!"
"Andâ€¦ that's good?"
I typed as fast as I could. "It means my hero is from New York! Isn't that cool?"
"Uh, sure. How long have you been in the archives?"
"Ten hours. They're going to kick me out soon. I"m coming back first thing in
There was a long pause, and I went back to thumbing through papers filed during
the Great Depression. Had anyone looked at them since?
My phone vibrated, and I glanced at my husbandâ€™s text. "Don't take this wrong,
but I am SO glad I'm not there."
At that moment, I understood. Traveling for book research is not exactly how I
pictured it years before. Rather than a vacation, it's diligent work. I scarf
down protein bars on the run instead of sitting down to a meal. I'll walk the
same path three times to figure out a plot problem instead of opting for a bus
tour to the next scenic vista. I spend hours upon hours digging through dusty
files to find one little interesting factoid. Standing on the boardwalk at
Yellowstone's Norris Geyser Basin, I closed my eyes and breathed in the
sulfur-scented air, preserving the descriptions for use in Ever
As a wife and mom, my mind is often on others' needsâ€”lunch plans, bathroom
breaks, sunscreen. But when I'm doing research, the book is my baby. Its needs
Do I love traveling for book research? Absolutely. It's a dream come true.
But do you know what I'm doing this month? Ever Faithful
is done and out on store shelves. I'm taking the whole family to
Yellowstone and leaving my research binder at home. It's time for a real
vacation. And the teenagers will just have to deal with it.
Vibrant historic Yellowstone National Park comes to life
in this romantic mystery about a man hiding the truth,
braving the west to become something moreâ€”and the woman who must confront his
A man who can't read will never amount to anythingâ€”or so Nate Webber believes.
But he takes a chance to help his family by
signing up for the new Civilian Conservation Corps, skirting
the truth about certain "requirements." Nate exchanges the
harsh Brooklyn streets for the wilds of Yellowstone National
Park, curious if the Eden-like wonderland can transform him
Elsie Brookes was proud to grow up as a ranger's daughter, but she longs for a
future of her own. After four years serving as a maid in the park's hotels, she
still hasn't saved enough money for her college
tuition. A second job, teaching a crowd of rowdy men in the
CCC camp, might be the answer, but when Elsie discovers
Nate's secret, it puts his job as camp foreman in jeopardy.
Tutoring leads to friendship and romance, until a string of suspicious fires
casts a dark shadow over their
relationship. Can they find answers before all of their dreams go up in smoke?
Historical | Mystery Historical
[Waterbrook, On Sale: June 18, 2019, Trade Size /
e-Book, ISBN: 9780735289581 / eISBN: 9780735289598]
Inspired by Godâ€™s devotion to His people and her own passion for research and
learning, author Karen Barnett creates historical romances that explore her
charactersâ€™ faith and how their experiences impact the way they view God.
A graduate of Valparaiso University and Oregon State University, Barnettâ€™s debut
novel, Mistaken, was released in 2013 and earned her the Oregon Christian
Writers â€śWriter of Promiseâ€ť award. A former park ranger, she loves getting out
into Godâ€™s creation. She spends her free time taking photographs, dragging her
kids through dusty history museums, decorating crazy birthday cakes and watching
Karen, her husband and their two children live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
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