Friday, April 3, 2015

A Heroine for the Ages Meets a Bizarre Loner

by Linda Rodriguez

When a group of writers decided on Twitter to put together an anthology—Feeding Kate: A Crime Fiction Anthology (—to benefit our friend Sabrina and the Lupus Foundation, I was in on it from the start. After all, I love Sabrina, and I deal with lupus every day myself.

The two main characters in my story, “Rivka’s Place,” could hardly be more different. They are a true odd couple of disparate ages and experiences and yet with great respect for one another and love. I’m a big believer in courage and in love.

One, Rivka, is an elderly Holocaust survivor, a woman who refuses to be bullied as her shop’s neighborhood becomes more and more dangerous and insists on helping everyone around her. The other, C.J., came of age many decades after World War II by killing two men as his father had trained him to do, only to learn that everything he’d been taught was a lie, a man who wants nothing more than to be left alone in peace to do his work, read, and hide from his memories and those who hunt him.

Where did this bizarre partnership of Rivka and C.J. come from?

I gave Rivka a background similar to that of a well-known Kansas City woman, who had escaped from the death camps of Nazi Germany twice as a child and had indeed insisted on continuing to run her bakery in a deteriorating neighborhood, feeding many who couldn’t afford to buy her goods. She’s dead now, and Rivka looks and sounds nothing like her. Rivka came out of the folds of my brain, but her background owes a debt to this remarkable real woman I never met. I have always found her story inspiring. As I have found the stories of so many who live with lupus an inspiration.

To my knowledge, however, there is no one anywhere remotely like C.J. He sprang full-blown into my mind and demanded to be written. I have often wondered what would happen with a young person who’d grown up in one of these cults or cult-like families, indoctrinated in fear of civilization and government, trained to defend the family against that “dangerous” government, if that young person later learned that everything he or she had been taught was a lie. C.J., I suspect, arose from these idle wonderings.

Bringing the two of them together left me in a quandary when I first tried to write this story. Where could it go? How could it end? I didn’t want to lose either of these people I had come to value as I created them, but I didn’t see any way that this could end well. These two characters were on a collision course with tragedy. Eventually, I wrote the ending scene through tears. Yet in some ways it is a happy ending because each person is true to her and his inner self.

Do you like to read of characters who make difficult choices? Are there people you’ve known or just heard about who have inspired you with their courage or their love?

This blog post originally appeared on

Linda Rodriguez’s third novel in the Skeet Bannion series, Every Hidden Fear (St. Martin’s Press), was a Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second novel featuring the Cherokee campus police chief, Every Broken Trust (St. Martin’s Press), was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Premio Aztlan Literary Award. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and an International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, was featured by Las Comadres National Book Club, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.

For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger (Scapegoat Press) and Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press), Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.

Rodriguez is 2015 chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writer’s Caucus, immediate past president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, a founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on Facebook at, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http:, Writers Who Kill, and her own blog

REPLY TO COMMENTS (since Blogger still hates me):

Reine, I think the discovery that our parents have, in some way, deceived us when we were young and that the world is not the way they presented it to us--something almost every child learns when grown to at least some extent--can be a devastating discovery, especially if the deception was not the usual sugarcoating of reality but a huge disconnect with the truth. So in one way or another, I think many of us can identify to a certain extent with CJ's situation, extreme as it is.

Mary, it's more powerful and darker than my Skeet books. I suspect I will write more with these characters, however.


  1. I do like to read about characters who make difficult choices. While reading for entertainment is my goal, I've learned that I am not entertained by books that don't reflect the kind of struggles that I might face in life.

    It doesn't matter to me if it is anything specific that I might experience, but the elements of the situation will move me if they speak to the kinds of experiences I have struggled with or questioned when considering relationships in my experience.

    Misunderstanding others and their motives can have a devastating effect on our lives. But realizing the truth that we have failed to see can, while painful, release us from bad circumstance and more pain.

  2. Difficult choices make the reading more interesting and offer valuable lessons. I'm already intrigued and want to read this story.


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