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Hello all, I hope everyone had the merriest holiday! I know that I promised more interviews, but... Well, to be honest, Santa, a dear friend, was in a bind and needed my assistance. It seems that the reindeer had played in one too many reindeer games and were a bit under the weather, and there was no way he was going to cancel Christmas. So Santa and all those cute little elves loaded up my plane with his bounty. It was a blast delivering all those toys to the kids, big and little, young and old. I did notice a few from here that were on Santa's naughty list, but he let that pass this year. He did say that he would be keeping a closer eye on a few of you...just thought I should warn you. Now, on with the interview.
This week I am talking with Kat and Rand from Lacey Schmidt's A Walk Away. If you haven't read the book, hopefully this interview will pique your interest enough to give it a try. It is very much worth a read, this gentle romance, and with Lacey's flair for words, it was a true pleasure to escape to their world for a few hours.
Diana: You gals both have a very special relationship with U.S. National Parks. What ideas of romance, adventure, and history do you connect to U.S. National Parks? Why?
Kat: For me it was love at first sight. I grew up in northern California with access to so many great national parks like Yosemite, Lassen, Lava Beds, the Redwoods, Kings Canyon, and Point Reyes. There was so much life and such a variety of it these park’s ecological systems that I became fascinated with discovering it all. I think in a way the parks also gave me an uncomplicated place to escape. The views are so majestic and nature’s demands are so immediate when I hike or camp that just going and seeing what’s around me takes so much of my focus that I don’t have time to worry about anything else right then.
Rand: The parks were my father’s passion at first. He was determined to visit all of them. That made me wonder what was so important about them, and then the memories we made visiting them also made them nostalgic to me. The national parks are a place I can go to be close to my father and the best parts of our relationship.
Diana: Over the course of A Walk Away you both have to make several big decisions. How do you usually go about figuring out what you really want to do? How do you decide if your choices make sense?
Kat: I take a walk and try to let my decision just sit on me. It doesn’t cause me heartburn, then I keep trying it. If the decision distracts me from enjoying my walk, I know it doesn’t make sense for some reason so I try a different option.
Rand: I make a spreadsheet of course, and if possible, I consult a focus group of my closest friends and family. Sometimes I talk to myself--say what my decision is out loud and see how it sounds. If I can’t say it out loud to myself without sounding stupid, then I take that as a sign that I need to go gather more information or rethink my options one more time.
Diana: Which of these two American idioms best describes your ideal relationship: “birds of a feather flock together” or “opposites attract”? Why?
Kat: Birds of a feather. As a biologist I know it is only natural for critters with common interests to pair up well over any length of time. That said, I think if the driving common interest is the same, then a couple could appear to be opposites in any number of ways.
Rand: Um. I think Kat just said both.
Kat: Sort of.
Rand: Right, well I’ll second that both bit anyway. I think it's more than having a driving common interest though--it’s having a common intelligence, attractiveness, values, sense of compassion. All of those things that matter, and then having lots of interesting opposites you’re open to exploring together.
Diana: What is your biggest fear in love?
Kat: Being a burden on those I love. Causing them grief.
Rand: Getting so wrapped up in preparing for what might happen next that I forget to enjoy loving and being loved right now.
Diana: You’ve both had to deal with the tragedy of losing someone you love, someone who is central to your life. What helps you deal with that grief?
Kat: My dad’s girlfriend has a saying, “Heartache and bitterness should be beaten, but if you want it done, you have to do it yourself.” I think that means that I have to choose to focus on making the most out of the love I was given by my mother during her lifetime--rather than on how much I miss her or how much I would have loved having her daily influence on my life.
Rand: My grandmother used to tell me “life is for the living, and you can’t shake your dead anyway.” She lost both of her parents when she was young, so I think she is a good authority on the subject. As hard as it was to deal with the grief of losing my father and one of my best friends so unexpectedly, I think finally giving myself permission to take the time to mourn helped. It also helped me realize that I still felt loved by them, that as my grandmother was saying I couldn’t really shake their love and influence just because they were dead.
Diana: Career is so important to both of you. Why? What makes you go back to work each day?
Kat: I don’t really care about my career in wildlife conservation and natural resource management as much as I care about the work. I do the work because it is a calling. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to preserve and promote our natural resources. For me, the connection to the outdoors and nature is a very spiritual thing. I think you could say the beautiful glens, mountains, and beaches were God’s original chapels, churches, and temples for us and maintaining those sacred places is as essential to our physical and spiritual health as maintaining our ties to our religious communities.
Rand: I can’t articulate my reasons as well as Kat, but my work as an engineer is also a calling. I like figuring out how things work and helping make things work better. I feel like I can make a difference to people by helping solve problems that are important to society, or at least by helping solve part of problem that helps someone else solve part of the larger problem. I think I’m also eager to go back to work each day because I truly work on a team and other people that I love and respect depend on me to show up every day.
Diana: Now for the juicy stuff. What makes your heart skip a beat?
Kat: It’s all in the smile. A genuine, full intensity smile directed at me always gives me great pause. Just like Rand’s.
Rand: For me, it’s all in the eyes. I love a good, sincere look of brooding passion. Eyes that say “there’s way more to me than I could tell you in the time we have, but I’d like to start by showing you” make my heart skip a beat.
Diana: Rand, I know you savor your Scotches. What’s your favorite?
Rand: I’m always discovering new favorites, thanks to my friends and business partners, Ben and Joey always buying me new scotches as presents. I have always enjoyed Macallan’s 12-year old Sherry Cask Scotch Whisky though. It is very smooth and has a complex after-taste of vanilla, ginger, sherry and toffee that I love. I like to think it’s a good after-taste to carry to a warm kiss.
Diana: Kat, what is your favorite song to play on your violin and why?
Kat: Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. It’s graceful and catchy, and it really does remind me of a spring sunrise in Shenandoah National Park, where I worked for a while. The American folk song, Shenandoah is a close second.
Diana: Kat, when and how did you first realize that your attraction to Rand went deeper than a friendship?
Kat: I’m sure I should have realized it the first hour we spent time together alone on Cadillac Mountain, but my emotional baggage and the force of denial were just too strong to overcome at that point. Looking back on it all, I knew our relationship was really important, undeniably important in some way I didn’t yet understand, when I glanced at her on the drive to the Common Ground County Fair. I’ve noticed other women were beautiful before, but that was the first time I felt a physical jolt from noticing a woman was beautiful.
Diana: Rand, why is the story of your romance with Kat called, “A Walk Away”?
Rand: It goes back to some advice my best friend, Joey, gave me. She uses the phrase “A Walk Away Deal” at work to describe projects where you find you have nothing unique to offer a client that the client will value. At first, I really thought that Kat wouldn’t value any romantic interest I offered, and even if she did, I was worried it would be a heart-breaking deal for both of us. And I think the phrase also describes my journey away from my daily life and how I needed to take a walk away from everything to find out what I was missing and what priorities I was willing to take risks to pursue.
Diana: If readers could learn one thing from your experiences, what do you want that to be?
Kat: The toughest thing for me was learning to let myself be vulnerable. I didn’t want to burden anyone. For so much of my life I thought that giving love was the greatest gift I had to grant anyone else, but I discovered that it is actually accepting others’ love, appreciating their right to share my burdens and joys, that is the greatest gift I have to give.
Rand: If I could help everyone realize any one thing I think it would be that even not taking a risk is taking a risk--taking the risk of missing out on something. Sometimes that is perfectly justified, if you believe that what you’re might miss out on isn’t as important as what you’re doing with your present time. In my experience, life requires sufficing and sacrificing one happiness for another, and adapting to the new balance of happiness’s. I just learned that sacrificing or sufficing for a chance to love was my greatest happiness, and once I knew that, the outcomes weren’t as important as taking the risk.
There you have it folks, a little insight into Kat and Rand. These women are really as sweet as they seemed in their story, A Walk Away. It's always a joy to me to be able to feel and see the love between the women I interview. And Kat and Rand just had that 'glow' around them. Having read the book, and especially after talking to them, I now feel a need to travel and see some of the National Parks mentioned.
I hope all my readers had a fantastic Christmas and are looking forward to 2016 as much as I am. From looking at the schedule planned by Affinity, I certainly won't disappointed in reading material!