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August 2014

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Pewaukee native and author of 'Drowning Ruth' Christina Schwarz writes fourth novel

Christina Schwarz was born and raised on rolling acres of land along the edges of Pewaukee Lake. The pristine parcel of fields and woods has been in her family for generations and helped inspire the setting for her first novel, "Drowning Ruth."

Published in 2000, the book would become a #1 New York Times bestseller and was selected for Oprah's Book Club Collection. Schwarz also wrote "All Is Vanity" in 2002 and "So Long at the Fair" in 2008.

Her latest work, "The Edge of the Earth" is a return to the historical setting of the early 20th century when women often found themselves trapped in the unbending social expectations of the period.

Once again, the well-known author draws upon her deep Wisconsin roots to set the stage as she intricately weaves together a spellbinding, gothic drama of self-transformation, family histories and the closing of the American frontier.

"The Edge of the Earth" begins in 1897 Milwaukee, where Trudy Schroeder has just graduated from Milwaukee College for Females and is caught up in a predestined life, carefully laid out for her by her family. Schwarz rescues her character from an orderly and unfulfilled future, taking her on a journey across the country to an isolated and mysterious lighthouse that stands off the jagged coast of California's Big Sur.

Schwarz and her husband and son, along with a gaggle of pets live in Pasadena, Calif. To be able to conjure the multifaceted and mysterious setting for "The Edge of Earth," Schwarz and her family rented a guesthouse on the edge of Carmel. It was there that she was able to hike and explore and fully immerse herself into the place that would inspire her to write her latest novel.

"After spending two months exploring this place, I knew it would be the setting, but I still didn't know what the story would be. I was getting nervous," admitted Schwarz, laughing. "It was one early morning, and I sat down with some paper and this character just popped into my head. I think she was just waiting for me to be ready for her. And I knew she was going to be from Milwaukee."

A sense of place

"My great aunt grew up in Milwaukee and her story is one that I know very intimately. This book is dedicated to her. I had a sense of the house on 9th Street, and the neighborhoods and of taking the streetcar," Schwarz explained. "And I had a sense of the ghosts that are there and of this dream place underneath the city. That felt really good to me."

Schwarz's parents, Donna and Tony Meyer, still own and lovingly care for the land where they raised their three children in Pewaukee. Tony's great-grandparents traveled from Milwaukee and spent summers enjoying the natural beauty of a bucolic Lake Country area. The family purchased the wooded acreage along Pewaukee Lake, as well as the adjacent land up on the hill.

"My family, especially my grandmother and my great aunt, were big storytellers. And I remember my dad driving us around and pointing things out and telling us stories about the people and places and the history and geography. Having heard all those stories I feel is a big reason why I became a novelist," said Schwarz.

An intimate connection with the wildness and mysticism of nature seems to play a vital role in both "Drowning Ruth" and "The Edge of the Earth."

"My great aunt and my mother are naturalists. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside. They both taught me a lot about looking carefully at things and appreciating nature," said Schwarz. "I like books that have a lot of drama. The weather, especially the extremes of Wisconsin weather, can be very dramatic. It influences the way I think about my stories and settings and my characters' feelings."

Schwarz will discuss her new novel "The Edge of the Earth" during an author talk and book signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Books & Company, 1039 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc. For more information, visit www.booksco.com.

Meet Schwarz

Where: Books & Company, 1039 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 10

For more information: Visit www.booksco.com.

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