Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Kara Was Here"

William Conescu was born in New York and raised in New Orleans. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned an MFA in Creative Writing at North Carolina State University. He is the author of the novels Kara Was Here and Being Written, and his short stories have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New Letters, and other publications. Conescu lives in Durham, North Carolina.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Kara Was Here and reported the following:
Page 69 of Kara Was Here actually sets up a scene I like to read at book events—one of Kara’s many ghostly appearances. (She has a lot of dialogue for a character who died before the novel opens.)

A little context: Kara Was Here tells the story of a failed actress whose sudden and mysterious death at 34 unhinges the lives of those who loved her most. Set in North Carolina and New York, the novel follows three people: Kara’s college best friend, who begins to suspect Kara might have been murdered; Kara’s 18-year-old sister, who was supposed to have spent the summer with Kara and instead starts taking dangerous steps into Kara’s secret world; and Kara’s college boyfriend, Brad Mitchell, who thought they’d be together forever. Instead, he ended up in a happy—if strained—marriage with someone else. Kara wound up dead on somebody’s couch in Brooklyn. Now Brad keeps seeing her ghost.

It’s hard for Brad not to wonder “what if,” and that’s what’s happening on page 69. He’s reflecting on his attempt at a long-distance relationship with Kara:
After she moved to New York, Brad felt inspired to show Kara that their chances were better—or at least decent—in North Carolina. He found an agent in Raleigh, someone who worked with TV and film companies on the coast in Wilmington. She got Brad a couple of commercials and two lines in a teen soap opera. Kara insisted she’d “done Wilmington” because in high school she’d worked as an extra in two movies and had a speaking part in an episode of a detective show. But the odds of getting work in North Carolina had to be better than in New York. To this day, he still received small checks from the soap opera when his episode was replayed on cable.

He did alright in the local theater world, too. He worked temp jobs by day, and at night always seemed to be in rehearsal for something. Kara was vague in the descriptions of her failure. She’d sent out headshots. She’d gone on another audition. She’d heard about something that was coming up. She waited tables. That’s what she’d done in Chapel Hill too, he thought. Sometimes he reminded her.
Then we learn how Brad was temping in a real estate office and eventually traded his acting life for real estate. He imagines what his life would have been like if he’d moved with Kara to New York in his mid-twenties. He can’t help but think of all that would have been different, for both of them.

In addition to the suspenseful elements that help drive the novel, Kara Was Here is, in many ways, about forks in the road—looking back and looking forward, considering paths not taken and possible futures. On page 69, we see a key decision point for Brad and Kara, a choice that defined their respective and very different futures.

It might be more fun for a reader skimming through my book to pause a few pages after 69, when Kara appears as a vision during a client meeting and, while smoking a cigarette and ashing in inappropriate places, challenges Brad’s assessment of their respective paths. But page 69 provides essential backstory to the rift that developed between the two of them—long before she died, and then started visiting him again.
Learn more about the book and author at William Conescu's website.

--Marshal Zeringue