Tilia Klebenov Jacobs holds a BA from Oberlin College, where she double-majored in Religion and English with a concentration in Creative Writing. Following an interregnum as an outdoor educator with the Fairfax County Park Authority in Virginia, she earned a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Secondary School Teaching Certification from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Tilia has taught middle school, high school, and college, and has won numerous awards for her fiction and nonfiction writing. She is a judge in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and she teaches writing in two prisons in Massachusetts. Tilia lives near Boston with her husband, two children, and two standard poodles.
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Guest Post

Without Burt Lancaster, Wrong Place, Wrong Time would not exist.

Let’s start with the basics.  I am mad for Burt Lancaster, whether I am drooling over him in his early roles (so manly and heroic!) or sighing at the depth and grace of his later performances (Field of Dreams, anyone?).  So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when he helped me write my first novel.

It all started with The Flame and the Arrow, a jolly, Robin Hood-esque movie starring Burt Lancaster as Dardo, a hunky guy in tights who kidnaps a woman in order to rescue his son, who is being held by Count Ulrich, the evil Hessian overlord.  (Film buffs will not be surprised to know that the hostage is played by Virginia Mayo, a lovely blond who is reliably in peril by the second reel of any movie she appears in.)

Part of what makes this movie so much fun is that Mayo’s character, Anne of Hesse, is never afraid of Dardo.  He is unquestionably bigger and stronger than she; but she stands up to him at every encounter, and during the course of her durance vile she never stops trying to get away.  Reluctantly, Dardo finds himself respecting her, and the film ends on a kiss and a fade-out.

Alas, however, the movie is very much a product of its times, and although Anne refuses to be cowed by Dardo, she also never effectively fights back.  The kidnapping scene is particularly egregious in this regard:  removing her from her bedroom presents all the mechanical and logistical challenges of hoisting a sack of potatoes.  Watching the movie (repeatedly), I wanted her to hit him!  Hard!  Even if she  lost, I wanted her to fight.

Which got me thinking.

What if she did fight back?  And actually knew how to?

What if she didn’t fall in love with him?

What if instead she were married, and loved her husband very deeply?

What if she had a couple of kids?  And were fortysomething instead of twentyish?

What if she were Jewish?  Popular culture only knows two kinds of Jews:  Woody Allen-style neurotics and Holocaust victims.  Neither of these lives in my neighborhood.

What if this happened in real life?  I’d have a thriller with a happily married fortyish Jewish mother of two young children at its heart, that’s what. I know a lot of women like that  in real life, but I don’t see them in fiction.

So I named my heroine Tsara, and set to work.

The next piece of business was Burt’s character, Dardo the mountain man, an antihero morally superior to Count Ulrich, the ostensible keeper of law and order in the wilds of Lombardy.  In Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Dardo morphed into Mike, a former Marine with a criminal record.  Mike is a bruised soul, a man’s man who will risk all to do what’s right.

Mike is a good guy.  But he’s not always a nice guy.

Mike and Tsara have a lot in common, much more than their movie counterparts.  Both are fighters.  Both are parents of young children who are about the same age.  Most important, they share an unwavering moral compass.  These are not people who take ethical shortcuts.

And yet, they are on opposite sides of the law.  That creates a tension between them that fuels the book even as Mike and Tsara bond through joining forces against a mortal enemy.  This tension is the rocket fuel for the book—any scene with Tsara and Mike in it is my favorite, because even when they’re on the same side, they are enemies with a common goal.

And that was the font of my inspiration.  I started with The Flame and the Arrow with its jolly, irreverent tone, and ended up with a high-stakes thriller.

Thank you, thank you, Burt.  I owe you so much.


When Tsara Adelman leaves her husband and two young children for a weekend to visit her estranged uncle, she little dreams he is holding several local children captive on his lavish estate. Mike Westbrook, father of one of the boys, kidnaps her to trade her life for the children’s. Soon Tsara and Mike are fleeing through New Hampshire’s mountain wilderness pursued by two rogue cops with murder on their minds.


Number of Pages: 406 pages
Publisher: Linden Tree Press; 2 edition
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
ISBN-10: 0989860116
ISBN-13: 978-0989860116



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