Please welcome Ava Wilson, author of the Driftwood Diaries and Under a Klondike Sky. These books are written with the premise of a bookstore owner who finds old diaries and letters and tells the stories through her discoveries.
Driftwood Diaries Synopsis: Three women’s stories are revealed in their diaries found by a book store owner. An abused wife finds herself lost in the wilderness of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Marie discovers love and bravery in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Another young woman travels by wagon to Colorado and Texas after the Civil War, hiding a scandalous secret. Susan’s diary reveals a husband’s betrayal, and her struggle to make a home for her children on the tall grass prairie of Texas. Margaret, as an aging grandmother, remembers a special Valentine’s Day while growing up poor during the Great Depression.
Under a Klondike Sky Synopsis: Letters found in an antique sewing box describe Abigail Parker’s journey to the Klondike gold fields in 1898. The long trip by stagecoach and railway from central Oregon to Seattle is just the beginning of a story rich in detail with harrowing adventures and poignant love. Soon after her steamboat arrives in Dawson City, Abigail is forced to deal with disaster and betrayal in the hostile environment. Befriended by dressmakers Molly and Esther, performer Klondike Kate, and the beautiful half-breed Etta, she survives her first ice-bound winter in a small log cabin. The clamor for almighty gold shapes the town’s inhabitants, causing men and women alike to justify the means to acquire it. Three very different men come into Abigail’s life, but only one deserves her love.
Many family histories have been unearthed by such discoveries. Where did your ideas come from and how did you decide to write your books in this format?
My husband and I owned a rare bookstore for several years, and discovered many personal items among our estate purchases: letters, invoices, old photos and vintage greeting cards. When I decided to write my first novel, The Driftwood Diaries, I liked the idea of having a bookseller find old diaries that revealed astonishing lives. Reader comments encouraged me to follow the same idea when I wrote Under a Klondike Sky. Most of the stories I write have been simmering in my brain for years, the results of an over-active imagination! However, my new novel is inspired by an obituary I read last year.
When did you first discover you were a writer? I’ve always been a voracious reader, and from a young age I thought, “I can do that!” Short stories dominated my writing for decades; however, when a major magazine paid for my travel article in 1991, I began to take it seriously.
What has your writing journey been like up to publication? Slow! Once I started writing The Driftwood Diaries I was still insecure in the construction of the story. I knew readers would be intrigued by the settings and history, but worried about my character development and plot. When the book was ready to publish, I worked through the self-publishing process. I chose to form my own publishing entity, Crooked River Publishing, and hired a terrific printing company for designing the cover and format. They also printed Under a Klondike Sky, and will take care of the new novel. Of course, being my own publisher means that I house the inventory and handle marketing, orders, and shipping.
Both of your books feature stories set in Alaska. Have you lived there? Yes, we lived in Alaska 38 years, and were fortunate to witness the wilderness in all its extremes. My experiences there are especially reflected in the story about Kodiak Island. When my husband asked me to marry him, I said I didn’t want a boring life, and I’ve certainly had many adventures since then.
Did you base the books on actual people? Several historical characters come and go in my second novel Under a Klondike Sky, but my stories are about fictional people. For one of my stories in The Driftwood Diaries I used a memoir written by a great-aunt, who described a journey to the unsettled Texas prairie in 1877, for information about settlements, hardships, and children’s roles in the westward movement.
Is there a message in your stories? My goal is to reveal how regular women of their time in history discovered untapped “gumption”, or bravery, to solve the oppressive or dangerous situations into which they’d been thrust. A sweet romance is usually just below the surface of my stories, since I am a romantic at heart.
What books or writers have most influenced you? As a young adult I became a passionate reader of Australian writer Nevil Shute and frontier writer Janice Holt Giles for their amazing character development within dynamic historical events. Later, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Prodigal Summer, made me want to be the best writer I could be.
What was the hardest part of writing your books? For many years, I would find all sorts of excuses for not finishing my first novel since I wasn’t sure of my skill. When it was finally on paper, I kept editing over and over, and almost overworked the story. After six years, I finally turned loose of the manuscript, publishing it for better or worse! Under a Klondike Sky was completed in a year and a half.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? I encourage aspiring writers to join a local writers group, whose mentoring and critiques are valuable sources for understanding the writing process and self publishing. Being in the company of other writers always gives me a boost!
Are you working on another project? A new novel, yet unnamed, which takes a young woman from depression era Fort Rock, Oregon, to the killing fields of WWII, should be in print by late winter.
A short bio: Raised in the panhandle of Texas, I married young, and we headed north to Colorado. Following college, we moved to Alaska in 1965, driving the muddy Alcan, which was a precursor of the life I’d have over the next 38 years. We raised three daughters, hunted, fished, and explored while engaged in making a living. I began experimenting with short story writing and magazine articles, with my first paid acceptance in 1991. Owning a rare book store prompted us to travel across the US in search of elusive titles, and opened up a new interest in early 20th century cover art illustrators. During this time I always had a work in progress, but was eager to get one particular story published. We moved to central Oregon in 2005 to be closer to our extended families (and Alaska was getting too cold for our aging bones!) With encouragement from my husband and daughters, in 2010 The Driftwood Diaries fulfilled my dream of having a book in print; Under a Klondike Sky followed in 2012. Two short stories have won awards in contests sponsored by Central Oregon Writers’ Guild: The One-Eyed Goose in 2011 and Weekly Rats in 2012. My third novel is slated to be in print by late winter. When I’m not writing (with my yellow lab, Sophie, at my feet), I’m in the garden or making cookies for the grandkids.
Where can we find your books?
Check your local bookstore or use the following: