The Red Road
by Jenni Wiltz
Release Date: January 26th, 2015
2015 Decanter Press
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Mystery
Honor student Emma knows more about galvanic cell diagrams than guns. College is the only way out of her gang-ridden hometown, but her parents can't afford it.
When her unemployed dad lands a job as a census taker, things start looking up. But he's sent deep into East Malo Verde, where gang members rule the streets and fear anyone with a badge who knocks on doors. One night, a gang member mistakes him for a cop and beats him savagely, leaving him for dead.
Her best friends, her chem lab partner, her mom, and the detective assigned to the case all try to convince her to focus on school. But school won't prepare her for a world that ignores a crime against a good man. Emma must decide what's more important: doing what's expected, or doing what she feels is right . . . even if it leads her down a dark and dangerous path of revenge.
Putting History into the Here and Now
by Jenni Wiltz
I love history. I own a Marie Antoinette costume, wig and all. It really bums me out when the History Channel puts on car shows or pawn shows because they’re not about kings or queens or warriors or revolutions or far-away countries. When I started to write my latest book, The Red Road, I knew it couldn’t be a historical. It had to take place in the here and now because it’s the story of my own family (well, with a few teensy additions…like guns and gangs). So what’s a history lover to do? Turns out, it was easier than I thought—and better for the story—to put echoes of history into the book.
In the book, 16-year-old Emma is in AP US History. In all the classroom scenes, I made sure to match up the subject material with what’s going on in Em’s life. Early in the book, a boy named Dan starts hanging around Emma’s locker, which makes her friend Via jealous. They have a hard time talking about their feelings, and find it much easier to argue over the material in history class—the Missouri Compromise. The two girls argue over whether the North or the South got the short end of the stick in the Missouri Compromise, but the reader knows they’re really arguing about themselves.
On the day the teacher, Mr. Parker, tells the class about the Alamo, Emma’s father has just been beaten and left for dead by a gang member. In Em’s hometown of Malo Verde, California, Mexican gangs rule the streets. When Em comes to class after finding her father barely alive, the first thing she hears is the story of the Alamo. Mr. Parker tells them that Americans had been settling in greater numbers in Mexico and the Mexican government wanted them to stop. When the settlers wouldn’t leave, the two countries began to fight over territory. This reflects the tension in Malo Verde, both between the two gangs present (Norteños and Sureños) and the gangs and the townspeople. Emma gets to see how the historic situation unfolded (here’s a hint: it’s bad), and the reader can only hope she’ll keep her personal situation from turning to tragedy, too.
I hope these parallels make the story even richer and deeper for history nuts like me. I had such a good time going back to high school history and finding new ways past events echo the events in our lives today. If you enjoy dramas with a touch of romance and suspense, I hope you’ll check out The Red Road!
About the Author
Jenni Wiltz writes fiction and creative nonfiction. She’s won national writing awards for romantic suspense and creative nonfiction. Her short fiction has been published in literary journals including Gargoyle and The Portland Review, as well as several small-press anthologies. When she's not writing, she enjoys sewing, running, and genealogical research. She lives in Pilot Hill, California. Visit her online at JenniWiltz.com.