Ten years ago, the novelist played saxophone. “Guess I’ve found new ways to channel my creativity,” laughed Kristin Anderson, on the phone from her home in The Hague, remembering her days as the horn section of early-2000s S.B. folk-pop duo Antara & Delilah. But this week, Anderson steps out of band lineups and embraces the tentative headlights of authorial fame, when her novel Green, an eco-romance, is officially “released” in downloadable form on Amazon. “The great thing is that I’ve already gotten five reviews, and I must admit I know some of the people, but others? I wonder how they found out about this book,” she said.
It’s a story of passion and DIY determination, but it began as a headline-shock call to action. Anderson, a UCSB English grad, who admits to a number of 60-page false starts on other novels, began Green in Santa Barbara, the town where the Santa Ynez native moved (after Idaho grad school) and worked in for the last decade. She started her own eco-friendly hankie company and did wordsmithing for the late architect and art collector Barry Berkus. “It was during the Gulf Oil Spill, and I was feeling really overwhelmed,” Anderson said. An onlooker powerless to do much, the idea of writing something that might spur activism in others warred in her mind with an innate fear of seeming preachy. “I wondered how I could convey how this would feel — the struggle between an extremist and someone who wasn’t.” The idea of a romance, “You know, where opposites attract?” popped into her head. Three drafts later, after consultations with other writers and a marathon of Nicholas Sparks books, Anderson had a story made up of characters she herself believed were wrestling with questions that absorbed her, too.
The story is set in Los Angeles, which also provides a platform for contradicting tensions: How can everyday life in the megalopolis give birth to an environmentalist sensibility? Ellie, who works on a magazine called Duomo meets Jake whose passion is living as far off the consumer grid as possible, from dumpster-diving to educating inner-city kids on the glories of tree embracement. Of course, he’s got smoldering eyes and she, as the novel puts it, brushes up good. The story begins with a randomly conceived hike through Temescal Canyon in Pacific Palisades — where, of course, our lovers meet — and ends after what Anderson calls “many curves” where romance novels of the ecological persuasion should end. Although, the many pleasures of the book derive from the unlikely partnering running its course.
Anderson knows she wasn’t writing Moby Dick, even though she was more steeped in Melville than Danielle Steele growing up. But she never patronizes the form, either, and, perhaps more surprisingly she gets the local color down, though the only time she ever spent in L.A. was doing gigs with her friend’s band years back. The other major accomplishment is the characters. “I’m a lot more like Jake than Ellie,” she said. Her own enviro credentials are a bit less than those of her protagonists, too. “I grew up in the countryside,” she said. “My mother, who was a librarian, wrote a packet about Santa Ynez wetlands.” The idea for the novel, to do something to counter darkening future tides of disaster, was enough inspiration to help her fabricate a world.
The rest was determination, she explained. Looking up the publishing schedule of A-list authors, Anderson realized in the best circumstances it could be three years before her book got released. “If this had been the Great American Novel, that would be one thing, but this was a timely book, and I wanted it to come out in time.” Using Amazon Create, the former saxophonist, journalist, and Santa Barbaran now living in The Netherlands with her husband, Arie Jan Van der Boom, spent more money on the cover art than the actual printing or distribution of her firstborn book. “The most important part of all of this was that I wanted to use romance as a tool to explore what I can do,” she said. It’s the idea of connection used to link the everyday aspects of life to the overall health of the world we live it in.