Contra Costa Times

Excerpt from an interview with Janice De Jesus

Contra Costa Times, October 4, 2013

“People who knew me knew that all my life I wanted to write a novel,” Kaulkin said. “And out it all came.”

Just after Kaulkin moved to the East Bay from Washington, D.C. where she raised her family, she heard about a woman who had been raped and killed on one of the local trails.

“The news shook me; my heart ached for her and her loved ones, for women and girls everywhere who are raped, maimed, battered, murdered. I didn’t know this would be a theme in the novel I would finally write but that is what happened,” Kaulkin, now of Walnut Creek, wrote on her website.

Kaulkin, who’s enjoyed a long editorial career including time as managing editor for U.S. Pharmacopoeia, and as an editorial director for McGraw-Hill’s aviation group, said she welcomed the creative freedom of crafting a novel. Aside from getting to know Brenda, the main character, through her journal entries, her daughter and her friends, readers will also get to know the supporting characters.

“All of the characters really developed lives of their own,” said Kaulkin, who rewrote a play she wrote about China’s Empress Wu as a musical with composer Michael Kaulkin (her son). “The Ghost of Wu” was a finalist in an East Bay competition, received staged readings in Los Angeles, and several songs were performed by Not Quite Opera in San Francisco.

“I didn’t plan the life of each character ahead of time. I allowed them to each have their own voices.”

The author said that readers often wonder if her book was “autobiographical.” She said the novel isn’t based on her own experience and that while the story was reported on the news, Kaulkin fictionalized another woman’s real-life experience.

“We have to create our own safe haven in our lives with family and friends,” Kaulkin said.

Readers will get to know the character’s lighthearted side through her journal entries, her dreams and her friends. Mount Diablo is also a character in the novel, she said.

“I loved writing my novel. I laughed and cried just like a reader would,” Kaulkin said. “Sometimes I forget I was the one who wrote it.”