Zacharias on tour promoting new novel

Karen Spears Zacharias
Karen Spears Zacharias

Karen Spears Zacharias said Tuesday writing "Mother of Rain" was the most frightening thing she has done as an author.

It is her first novel.

The Columbus High graduate, who teaches journalism at Central Washington University, said she felt as if she was trying to jump over the Grand Canyon as she took her "haunting tale of hardship and war" from one point to the next.

"I wanted to get it right," she said of the book she has worked on intermittently since 2005.

She is currently on tour promoting the book and will be at The French Market in Pine Mountain, Ga., at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Author Ann Hite, who wrote the novel "The Storycatcher," will be with her.

Zacharias, known nationally for her non-fiction works "After the Flag Has Been Folded" and "A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder," has had her writing featured in publications such as USA Today and the New York Times.

The new book is published in paperback by Mercer University Press.

Zacharias toiled on this book while writing others.

"As a former newspaper reporter, I am used to working on several projects at once," she said.

Though the book is a work of fiction, Zacharias said she did almost as much research as with her non-fiction books.

Much of that research involved learning about the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment because part of the story involves the invasion of Normandy in World War II.

She said research has allowed her to give an accurate description of Appalachian life in the 1940s. The setting is the rural mountain community called Christian Bend in Tennessee, "a holler," where she would visit relatives as a child.

The lead character is Maizee Hurd a woman whom a character in the book describes as "an easy target for hard times."

The story centers around the troubled Hurd, her soldier husband Zeb and their deaf son Rain.

"Maizee can't silence the demons in her own head," Zacharias said.

The book has received some reviews of which Zacharias is proud.

Lee Smith, author of the novel "Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger" said, "Zacharias has carved a brilliant gem of a novel out of hard, uncompromising times and lives. Her remote mountain setting conceals misery, mystery and madness but also love, which comes in many forms. She is a wonderful writer."

Zacharias has been encouraged by those reviews.

"I'm working on the sequel now," she said.