The Six Train to Wisconsin, by Kourtney Heintz: a novel interview

SixTraintoWisconsin1600The Six Train to Wisconsin is the best novel I’ve read this year. Here’s a glimpse of the book’s cover copy, to prepare for our interview and discussion of Kourtney Heintz’s first novel.

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Sometimes saving the person you love can cost you everything.

There is one person that ties Oliver Richter to this world: his wife Kai. For Kai, Oliver is the keeper of her secrets.

When her telepathy spirals out of control and inundates her mind with the thoughts and emotions of everyone within a half-mile radius, the life they built together in Manhattan is threatened.

To save her, Oliver brings her to the hometown he abandoned—Butternut, Wisconsin—where the secrets of his past remain buried. But the past has a way of refusing to stay dead. Can Kai save Oliver before his secrets claim their future?

An emotionally powerful debut, The Six Train to Wisconsin pushes the bounds of love as it explores devotion, forgiveness and acceptance.

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IMG_0891Now, on to our interview. Novelist Kourtney Heintz has become, during the last year, a great blogging friend. I depend on her writing insights and enjoy her lovingly documented, hilarious relationship with her Grandma H. Kourtney’s down-to-earth, persistent pursuit of excellence in life and writing has buoyed me more times than I can count. I’m a more determined, flexible and insightful writer because of her encouragement.

And the girl can write…

Today, I’m pleased to host a discussion of her first, indie-published novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin. From page one of this story, I felt the beyond-caffeinated jolt of fresh, honest storytelling and a depth of human insight that makes this one of the great, suspenseful love stories I’ve ever read. Kourtney, welcome!

Kelly, thank you so much for inviting me here today! You’ve been such a tremendous supporter of my book. Thank you!

1.  It’s been a pleasure, Kourtney. I was wondering, what part of the story, a moment or phrase, holds the deepest meaning for you?

The entire book is so meaningful to me. It’s hard to pick just one part or line. These lines are the first that come to mind:  “But hope is a tricky thing. Too much and you don’t see the catastrophe coming. Too little and you surrender to the inevitability.”

They really resonated with so many aspects of my own life from past loves to spine injuries to job layoffs.

Death Valley, CA: Dante’s View: The wedding

2.  I love that line, too, among many others, even underlining it in my copy of the book! How or where did you first envision Kai and Oliver, the loving and conflicted couple at the heart of the story?

I was actually cleaning my bathroom and trying to come up with a concept for a short story. I find I do my best creative thinking when I’m doing chores. I need something to occupy my bored mind.

I didn’t actually have names for them until months later. That’s part of the reason why I don’t refer to either character by name in the first 19 chapters. I wanted them to be defined by their relationship with each other, first and foremost.

The same opening scene graces the original short story and the recently published novel. I always felt the story started in that moment where Oliver is being awakened by Kai’s emotional turmoil.

3.  In another interview, you expressed the idea that love is a journey, and never just a destination, for your characters. Would you build on that?

I grew up reading romance novels. I really enjoyed them, but they left me frustrated because they always ended as soon as the couple got together. I think that’s the easy part–finding someone. But staying together, growing together, and navigating the world together–that’s the truly epic journey.

New York, NY: Times Square:
The City

4.  Which character from the novel remains most vividly in your mind even now, after publication? What does he or she still have to say to you?

Kai. Because she still has so much she needs to digest. The revelations from the end of the book are still reverberating through her. And she’s stuck in that perpetual moment until I begin writing it down and allowing her to move forward.

5.  From your research and life experience with human personality, do you think there might be a correlation between extraordinary sensitivity and challenges in maintaining intimate relationships? Whom do you believe usually plays the primary role in helping or hindering gifted individuals to form lasting bonds, in childhood or adulthood?

The relationships we form with family and friends at a young age forever impact our ability to form future bonds. These people are the building blocks for all future interactions.

Highly sensitive people feel things more acutely. I think that’s why it takes longer for them to rebound from hurt and betrayal. They are the most capable of forming deep bonds, but the most injured by them. So as they gain experience, they grow more cautious because they know how deeply they can be hurt.

There has to be a correlation between extraordinary sensitivity and early betrayals/positive relationships impacting relationship development later in life.

6.  Memory plays a key role in the love and conflict that form Kai and Oliver’s relationship. Are there any cherished memories of your own that transposed into their story?

I definitely mined a lot of my life for theirs. Things filtered through into the fiction in very distorted ways. For example, I did get lost looking for Peterskirche, and I did call it Peter’s Kirch (Peter’s Cherry). But I didn’t kiss anyone there nor did I think about getting married there.

Ever since I first visited Death Valley way back in 2003, my dream wedding was to get married at Dante’s View. I gave that to my characters because it felt perfect for who they are.

Deer Haven Lodge, Butternut, WI: Kai’s Oasis

7.  Did you experience any “happy accidents” or unanticipated discoveries that enriched your storytelling? (People, places or events?)

When I first set the story in Butternut, I knew I had to go out there to gain a feel for the place. I met the most lovely people there and had such wonderful experiences. I fed the deer at Deer Haven Lodge. I hiked beside Copper Falls. I explored Turtle Flambeau Flowage. These were places that felt so important to the setting that I incorporated them into my manuscript. They were not originally there. So being in Butternut, definitely shaped my story world.

Thanks, Kourtney! Readers, you’ll find The Six Train to Wisconsin a fascinating  book you won’t want to put down. Kai and Oliver will remain in your heart and mind, as well, long after you’ve finished reading!

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 The Six Train to Wisconsin paperback is available from:


Barnes and Noble

The Six Train to Wisconsin ebook is available from:


Barnes and Noble




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About Kourtney

Kourtney Heintz writes emotionally evocative speculative fiction that captures the deepest truths of being human. For her characters, love is a journey, never a destination.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, her supportive parents and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amuck at night, imagining a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

Her debut novel, The Six Train to Wisconsin, was a 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Semifinalist.




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  1. Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to put together this fabulous interview. I loved how you laid it out too! Gorgeous. It was a blast doing this interview with you!

      • LOL. I’ll get to work on it soon. 🙂 Definitely this summer. And when you’re ready, you have a spot on my blog anytime.

        • Good. As for my story, I look forward to an honest review, of course hoping that you’ll enjoy the experience.

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