New novel explores the antebellum era

click to enlarge New novel explores the antebellum era
(Hailey Davis/contributor)
Karen Klink penned “At What Cost, Silence?” the first in a trilogy inspired by the writer's life.

A new novel by a local writer is now appearing on the shelves of Tucson’s bookstores.

Here’s a hint about the story:

Two Texas antebellum plantations; two neighboring families, both slave owners; two sons, two daughters; a slave; and trust betrayed.

“I am an abuse survivor, and that’s pretty much what the book is about,” writer Karen Klink said.

It’s an uneasy but gripping story that’s told in “At What Cost, Silence?” the first in a trilogy.

Written over the course of 15 years, the novel is told from a young man’s point of view. That character, Adrien, is based on someone Klink knew when she was young. To read the novel is to get a sense of Klink’s life, even if she didn’t grow up prior to and during the Civil War, nor on a plantation.

“When I was a kid, where I grew up, there was a young boy who used to strut around our neighborhood in his mother’s clothes,” 78-year-old Klink said.

“This was in the ’50s. You can imagine what guff he got about that. My sister and I were two of his only close friends, and I always felt for him. Because of the dysfunctional family my sister and I came from, we were always sort of on the outside, so I tend to write about people who are on the outside, too, and have to face a lot of challenges as they grow up.”

Klink has a deep interest in history, particularly the antebellum period of the United States, and that interest dictated the world she wrote about.

“It’s so rich with emotion and drama,” she said.

Because Klink writes in several different characters’ voices, she prepared herself to speak authentically with reading and her own life’s experiences.

“I did a lot of research,” she said. “Reading books by and about gay men, by and about Black writers.”

In addition, because of the era when she came of age, she knew many Vietnam veterans very well. She was friends with people of color and worked with many gay men.

All that research accounts for the 15 years it took to write the novel. Of course, because it was so long in the writing, the page count grew, and that’s the reason for the trilogy.

Contemporary events also helped shape the novel.

“When I started writing this, it was during the time when the military was, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’— that whole thing,” Klink said. “I combined it all and decided to write this story about a person who would eventually be in the military, but he’s gay or bisexual.”

This first book, “At What Cost, Silence?” is about the protagonist growing up and what happens to him. The second in the trilogy is about the protagonist in the military in the Civil War, but don’t look for that until late next year.

Klink wrote the novel, because she wanted to take dominion of her own narrative.

“One of the reasons I write, I think, is to establish control, because I had no control when I was a kid with my father,” she said. “This is a way to control the situation that happened. I’ve written a lot of articles and in my blog about how writing about what happened to you helps you establish some control over what happened to you, so writing, it helps you get a lot of that out and take control.

When Klink reflects on her life, she thinks about the people she has known and how others might have judged them unjustly.

“I always felt sort of a camaraderie with people who were unacceptable at the time,” Klink said. “I just really felt I wanted to write a story where maybe people can see the point of view of this person, this young man and what happened to him, and maybe learn to accept what these people go through and accept them as persons.”

“At What Cost, Silence?” by Karen Klink


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