Santa Fe is one of those places that changes lives. I should know. On a whim, two decades ago, my husband Hank and I were married there during a 3-month road trip. We’d been happily living together in Pennsylvania, committed to the relationship but feeling no need to seal the deal with a marriage certificate. Then suddenly, there we were, saying our I-do’s before a justice of the peace in the Santa Fe City Hall. Two years later, we moved 2,000-miles across the country to begin a new life in New Mexico, where we’ve lived, off-and-on, ever since.
Earlier this year Nancy King, a New Mexico author, released her newest book Changing Spaces, a novel set in Santa Fe and built around the story of a woman who attends a conference in Albuquerque, discovers she cannot force herself to return home to her husband of 40-years who has recently asked for a divorce and makes the spontaneous decision to build a new life in Santa Fe.
Intrigued? Learn more about the story behind the story in this author Q&A.
Why Santa Fe?
Although I live in Santa Fe, this is not the reason I chose to have the protagonist, Laura, a grant writer and corporate wife who lives in Oberlin, Ohio, go to Santa Fe. Rather, I thought of the contrast between the tight controlled world of her marriage, the contained culture of the Midwest, her black and white wardrobe, and the colorful world of Santa Fe, a place of many cultures, where countless women make meaningful lives for themselves in a variety of ways.
What part does place have in Changing Spaces?
There is something indefinable about Santa Fe. Perhaps it’s the effect of three cultures living in the same space or the energy no one can quite describe. Some people say that Santa Fe either kicks you out or challenges you to choose to stay. Given that Laura has lost her sense of self, that she doesn’t really choose to go to Santa Fe, but lets chance take her there, I thought Santa Fe would be a place where she would have to confront who she is and who she wants to be. Laura’s journey to recover her lost sense of self begins when she meets Bounti on the shuttle and is confronted by a woman who is dressed and talks like no one she’s ever met.
How does Santa Fe affect Laura?
It’s a totally strange world for her. The menu items are often in Spanish, a language she does not speak or read. Women dress with color and flair according to their tastes, not convention. Even the physical environment, the 7,000’ plus altitude is challenging. It forces her to confront her lack of physical stamina. To use an apt cliché, she is a fish out of water and gasps for her metaphorical and physical breath. She is so disoriented by what she finds in Santa Fe, she might as well have traveled to a foreign country.
How is Laura’s inner journey to find herself affected by her outer journey—living in a place she would never have chosen?
In Santa Fe, Laura meets three dynamic women, friends for years, who confront Laura, asking her who she is and who she wants to be. Although they offer friendship, support, help, and insight, they also challenge her to question her past and present choices. Their lives, so different from hers, force her to look at and accept possibilities beyond her experience and dreams. Laura’s relationship with the three Santa Fe women, who embody strength, humor, and wisdom, helps her to face what she’s run away from, depending on their kindness and caring to accompany her as she travels through the sterility of her inner emotional desert to the home of her heart.
What brought you to Santa Fe?
The short answer is my son and I were having a road trip in NM and the morning of our last day in Santa Fe, our hostess suggested we let her realtor show us some houses after lunch. Since my son sells house in San Francisco, I agreed. The first house we saw was old, ugly and expensive. I thought: Good thing I’m not planning to move to Santa Fe. Then she asked if the owners agreed, would we mind looking at a house nearby, that had just come on the market two days before. I was only looking. What did I care? The house, an equilateral triangle was so spectacular, I bought it a few hours later and the next day, went home and quit my teaching job at the University Of Delaware. I never had a moment’s regret. Although I’ve had my share of bumps, the road is always worth it.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new novel, Opening Gates, based on my experience working as a recreational therapist in a large mental hospital in New York City when I was 19. I had no idea how to deal with mental illness or any training so I just treated everyone as if they were healthy. It worked amazingly well for both the patients and me despite all the tensions and challenges I experienced.. The novel follows Rennie, a young woman who takes the job because it pays $60.00 an hour and then discovers a world in which her moral compass is the only guide she has when making decisions about her patients’ lives.
Nancy King, PhD, has written 7 books of nonfiction and four novels. All of her writing involves stories—the stories we have been told about ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell others. In Santa Fe, she writes, weaves, and hikes in the mountains—her spiritual practice. Excerpts of Changing Spaces and other novels by Nancy King can be read and ordered on her website: www.nancykingstories.com, online and from local bookstores.