Rift Zone

Sarah Blanchard

is an award-winning writer based in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Born on a dairy farm in Connecticut, she has always had a strong sense of belonging to the land and the rhythm of the seasons. After living most of her life in New England, she moved in 2003 to Hilo, Hawaii, where she taught at the University of Hawaii and later worked in administration at Gemini Observatory.

A lifelong horse owner and rider, Sarah has written many articles for equestrian publications as well as three non-fiction books on training horses. Now focused on writing fiction, her stories frequently feature people who must make choices based on their relationships with the natural world as well as with each other.

Follow Sarah at sarahpblanchard.com

Fiction

Rift Zone

written by Sarah Blanchard

When Kilauea volcano erupts in May 2018, back-to-the-land farmers June and Lani must decide whether to evacuate, or stay and protect their Big Island homestead against everyday threats like feral pigs and potential looters, or flee the dangers they cannot control. In the process, they learn where the fault lines are in their own relationship, and whether they can survive a disaster that may be immediate and cataclysmic. 

© 2021 Sarah Blanchard | Recording © 2021 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

June sits in half-lotus on the edge of the mattress and narrows her eyes against the volcanic glow. She finger-combs her short, dirty hair off her forehead and watches him load the gun, sliding a single shell into the chamber.

After months of seismic warnings, Kilauea Volcano blew up. A mushroom cloud of molten rock, ash, and toxic gases erupted from the lava lake in Halema‘uma‘u, the hundred-thousand-year-old crater at the summit.

 

Evacuate now! came the order from Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Follow the coastal roads

Like most people in Puna district, they know how to live off the grid. Their generator runs on gasoline, the stove and refrigerator are connected to a propane tank. Both kinds of fuel, of course, will explode if the lava arrives on their doorstep.

rift zone

Sarah Blanchard is an award-winning writer based in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Born on a dairy farm in Connecticut, she has always had a strong sense of belonging to the land and the rhythm of the seasons. After living most of her life in New England, she moved in 2003 to Hilo, Hawaii, where she taught at the University of Hawaii and later worked in administration at Gemini Observatory.

A lifelong horse owner and rider, Sarah has written many articles for equestrian publications as well as three non-fiction books on training horses. Now focused on writing fiction, her stories frequently feature people who must make choices based on their relationships with the natural world as well as with each other.

Follow Sarah at sarahpblanchard.com

Q&A with Sarah

Tell us about your story...

Two people from very different backgrounds—a young woman from a conventional small-city background in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a young man born to a many-generations local family in rural Hawaii—fall in love and decide to build a life on a small, self-sustainable farm on the Big Island. When Kilauea volcano erupts under their feet, destroys their farm, and turns their neighbors into desperate refugees, June and Lani must decide whether to cling to their land, or attempt to rebuild a life elsewhere, together or separately.

What was the inspiration for this story?

My husband and I lived for seven years on Hawaii Island (the Big Island).   Through my interest in all aspects of riding and horsekeeping, I met many people who created homesteads and small farms in the more remote corners of paradise. The volcanoes on the east side of the island are constantly reshaping the island, even as residents continue to build and rebuild their lives there.

My husband and I had moved back to the mainland by the time Kilauea volcano erupted in 2018, but friends and social media kept me up-to-date on the devastation and disruptions created by the eruptions in lower Puna.

Through this story, I wanted to highlight the large, small, and very personal decisions that everyone must make in the face of a large natural disaster. I am fascinated by the different paths that people choose to take when faced with great but essentially unknown risks.

Who has most influenced your writing?

I’m a huge fan of Ann Cleeves, Joyce Carol Oates, and especially Barbara Kingsolver—any writer who can express a close personal relationship between well-developed characters and the natural world.

What have you recently read that you loved?

Barbara Kingsolver’s magnificent Unsheltered and Joyce Carol Oates’s Cardiff by the Sea, a collection of novellas. I love especially the fully realized characters in Unsheltered, drawn from different centuries and different cultures, yet bound by parallel events, current histories and their connections to the same ramshackle house. And the amazingly complex internal lives of Oates’s main characters, plus her ability to challenge her own constructed realities, are always fascinating.


What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Ride my horses, garden, walk in the mountains, enjoy a really good chardonnay.

What's the best thing that's happend to you recently?

Ummm…got my Covid vaccine? Seriously, feeling safer and knowing there will be an end to this pandemic is one of the best gifts possible.

Anything else you'd like to share?

The sun is out so I’m going to go ride a horse.

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