Kelly Wacker is a inspiring new author who blends, creativity romance and love of nature in her new novel Aspen in Moonlight, she was kind enough to share some time with us

What made you decide to jump into writing?

Since I’m a professor of art history I’ve been writing for decades, but for an academic audience.  The real question is why I decided to start writing fiction. It’s something that I had wanted to do for a long time. Over the years I made many false starts and then pretty much put it aside until my dear friend, Karen F. Williams, a novelist and superb writer whom I admire greatly, encouraged me to write. I’d send her drafts and she’d send them back with comments that usually concluded with, “Tell me more.” And I did! What started out as a short story ended up as a novella, my first published work of fiction, Holding Their Place. Writers are readers and I’m writing stories that I’d like to read. Hopefully, others will enjoy them, too.

I saw on your blog that your grandfather had served in World War I, is that why you set Holding Their Place in that time period?

In part, yes. I have a sense of that time period from having heard stories about his experiences. When I was a kid I once put on his uniform and was fascinated by the puttees, the leg wraps, but less enamored of the scratchy wool fabric. I have his souvenirs from France, including photos and his service ribbon. That era always seemed real and palpable to me, maybe because of that direct connection. But I’m also fascinated by it for other reasons, too. The Great War, as the British call it, changed society deeply. No one living in Europe emerged unscathed and people, in general, became less trusting of institutions, more cynical, and dark humor became more mainstream. But it was also a time that produced good outcomes. Suffragettes, like my two main characters, worked hard to demonstrate what women could do. Helen and Julia were inspired by real British women who served as ambulance drivers and ran all-women staffed military hospitals during the war under the motto, “Actions Not Words.” In addition to saving lives and advancing medical techniques, they collectively changed a lot of hearts and minds about women’s capabilities.

You just finished your first novel Aspen in Moonlight, is there anything you know now you wished you had known at the beginning of the book?

That’s a great question. Writing the novel was such an evolutionary process for me, I learned so much about the craft of writing. I also deleted and re-wrote much of what I wrote, too! One of the things I learned (I hope) was how to get to the heart of the story and to maintain tension to keep the reader interested. I’d like to think that when I’m writing my next novel, I won’t do so many rewrites. Fingers crossed.

You seemed to have downplayed some the thrills of most paranormal romance for a more grounded take, was this a conscience decision or did the characters lead you that way?

Both. You know, once your characters are established, they kind of take over and the story’s not your own anymore! You follow their lead, as it were. From the start I wanted to write a story that placed emphasis on the natural environment, to treat it almost like a character in that respect. I also wanted to focus on the experience of curiosity and discovery relative to art, place, people, and love, of course, since it’s a romance. Some reviewers of the book have commented on how they had to shift their expectations once they started reading. There’s a hazard to not neatly fitting into a genre, but I’m hopeful that I’m helping to expand the category. One reader said she neglected her daily chores because she had become so absorbed in the book. That’s the highest praise a writer could ever expect to hear.

You (and your Christmas tree) seems very connected to nature, does this influence your writing? And if so in what way?

Ha! You noticed all the woodland creature ornaments on my tree. I love them! To answer your question, the natural world fascinates because it is so full of amazing things. We live within a complex, dynamic, living world yet we far too often lose sight of that. I do some of my best thinking while on nature walks, it clears away the cobwebs and settles my mind and body. I often describe it as like hitting the reset button. Long walks make my dog happy, too. Most descriptions of nature in my writing—light, clouds, the movement of trees in the wind, the scent of rain—are based on real-life observations. I hope that bringing this element into my stories will appeal to readers who also enjoy spending time in nature, but it would be wonderful if it resonated with readers who don’t. If my writing inspired someone to go for a walk, to look closely at the texture of bark on a tree, or ponder the scent of rain, I’d feel really good about that.

What is your next project you are going to be working on? Is there a sequel coming or do you have plans for something new?

I’m tempted by writing a sequel and I’d like to know what readers think about that. There’s room for the story to grow and I’ve considered the directions a sequel could go. Also, I really like Sula, Melissa, and Betty and I wouldn’t mind spending more time with them. I’m working on other stories, but they’re in the formative phase so I can’t really go into much detail at this point. However, I can safely say that adventure, animals, curiosity, wonder, and love will be involved.

If people want to pick up your book or find out more information about you where should they go?

My website is a great place to start: I blog occasionally and visitors can sign up to get notifications when I’ve posted something new. There are links to my Facebook page and Instagram account there, too.

Final four questions –we ask everybody

Q) When the zombies take over the world where will you be?

Hopefully in a well-stocked cave with a large library, a bar, and a cozy fireplace. I’d prefer to just wait it out. The virus will mutate into something benign eventually…right?

Q ) How do you identify Jedi, lesbian, Ninja, gay, vampire, bisexual, were-wolf, transgender,  pirate, asexual, fairy, aromantic, sith, intersex, Spartan, non-binary, wizard, genderfluid, time lord, queer…? 

Human with strong bear tendencies.

Q) What piece of art, be it in the form of music, a book, a film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?

I hesitate to choose a single work because the experience of art, in whatever form it takes, can be so idiosyncratic. What moves me might not engage another person. Instead, what I hope is that everyone has an experience of encountering a work of art that transforms them in some meaningful way. The power of art is the power to transcend ourselves. Good art leaves us in a new place and it makes us think, feel, and marvel at previously unconsidered possibilities. I hope that people experience this as early in their lives as possible. It makes us better humans.

Q) Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?

That I’m fascinated by airplanes, especially old ones. As a kid, I once had the chance to take a ride in an open-cockpit biplane and it was quite spectacular. I’m intrigued by what it would be like to actually fly the plane.

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