Early in the writing of my third novel,Seven Wings to Glory, I reached out to watercolorist, Jenny Zovein, whose work I’d admired on Facebook. Her whimsical style appealed to me and I wondered if she could paint a few scenes to inspire me as I worked to bring the story to life. She agreed and we arranged a time to discuss the project by telephone. Each time she sent me a completed painting, I propped it up in front of my computer and felt the spirits of my characters come to life.
Author’s note: In the following passage from my novel, Johnnie Come Lately (Camel Press), the protagonist, Johnnie Kitchen, is standing at the kitchen sink reflecting on her mother who’s been missing for twenty-three years. Johnnie’s husband, Dale, spotted Mama at the war memorial the day before.
Her mind drifted to the empty bench in front of
the war memorial a few blocks to the west. She imagined a
woman, limber and lithe, making her way to the bench. Once
seated, the woman tilted her head and said something to the
soldier. Then the birds scattered and the woman rushed away,
leaving nothing behind. As if she’d never been there.
“What are you thinking so hard about?”
Startled, Johnnie turned from the window and caught Dale
gazing at her.
The cherry tomatoes were still cupped in her hands. Water
My name is Jenny Zovein. Colorado has been my home for the last 47 years. I was born in Pennsylvania in 1949. Shortly before my first birthday, my family moved to Colorado. During my childhood I lived throughout the United States in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Utah, California, Alabama, and Maryland. Doing a full circle brought me back to Colorado in 1969. I am retired and spend many hours doing my artwork. I started when I was a little child but only started watercolor painting in 2014.
I am the mother of two grown children. My son and his wife live in San Francisco and my daughter lives near me. They both give me inspiration to continue what I love doing.
I was fortunate to travel to Europe and visited Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, and England. This trip was a big factor in my love for art and culture.
To see more of Jenny’s work, click on the following links:
A war memorial plays a significant role in my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately.
Siobhan Fallon, Army wife and author of the critically acclaimed collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone, says this about my novel: “Johnnie Come Lately evokes the pathos of family life—secrets, betrayals, misunderstandings, heartbreak, and just enough love and forgiveness to make it all worth it. Kathleen M. Rodgers treats her haunted characters with keen insight and empathy, offering them the second, third, fourth chances that all of us flawed human beings need.”
I’m up here at Soldiers Park, hoping you might come
swaying by with the breeze. Most of the leaves have dropped
and it’s getting cold. I asked the old soldier, the one you talk to
from time to time, if you’d happened by here lately, but he just
stands high on his pedestal, armed and ready, and gives me the
He’s not about to give up your secrets—the secrets you pour
into him from this bench. Dark things hidden behind bronze
Johnnie Kitchen is finally living her dream, attending college and writing a column for the local paper. She adores her husband Dale and chocolate Labrador Brother Dog, and they reside in a comfortable home in the small town of Portion in North Texas. Their three children are thriving and nearly grown.
But Johnnie is rattled when her youngest boy Cade goes to fight in Afghanistan. The less frequent his emails, the more she frets for his safety. On the home front, Johnnie learns that Portion is not the forward-thinking town she believed. A boy Cade’s age, inflamed by a liberal bumper sticker and the sight of Johnnie’s black friend Whit, attacks them with the N-word and a beer bottle. After Johnnie writes about the incident in her column, a man named Roosevelt reaches out with shameful stories from Portion’s untold history. More tears and triumphs will follow, as Johnnie’s eyes are opened to man’s capacity for hate and the power of love and forgiveness.