Amazing Women and their Amazing Books

Congratulations to our YA! 2015 winners. What an honor to get to know these terrific women. Their stories are such perfect examples of how everyday people manage to create great stories in the middle of real life.

Jessica Kelley – 1st Place – The Mercy Killers
Jessica Kelley, lives in Virginia. I feel so lucky to have gotten to know her a bit. She’s a tax accountant, mother to two boys, and a military wife. Any one of these jobs are enough, but she managed to carve out some time during the last year and a half to complete her first novel, The Mercy Killers. For six months of that time, she actually put the book on pause while her husband was home to focus on family. She spent that time exploring hobbies, such as shooting her crossbow and learning about throwing knives, which is reflected in her characters.

In what was very poignant to me, AUTHORS.me was lucky enough to receive her submission just before the New Year’s Eve deadline. Her husband was deployed, so she found herself at home missing him, but making the best of the New Year by submitting her work to our contest. “If I hadn’t been alone that night, I wouldn’t have entered.”

When I asked what she does to get in the right frame of mind to write, she replied, “If I get stuck, I turn on music, clean the house, daydream a bit and then get back to work.” The easiest part of writing for her was letting the characters come alive individually. The hardest part? I’m sure most of us can relate to her biggest challenge: cutting and editing!

I can’t wait to hear what happens next for Jessica and her first novel. I predict great things.

Lara Dunning – 2nd Place – Aleutian Pearl
I was amazed to learn that Lara wrote Aleutian Pearl twice—once from the perspective of another character, then rewriting it to this current version. I was super-impressed and thought about how our best stuff usually comes in the rewrites. This led me onto a million other questions about how she created this book. Similar to Jessica, Lara spent about a year and a half crafting her book. She spent a good three months just envisioning, outlining, and following the Hero’s Journey as a method. She wrote for another six to nine months then spent the rest of the time working on structure.

Her family has roots in Ireland, Scotland, and Scandinavia and she spent six months backpacking through the land of the leprechauns. She also lived in Alaska for 10 years, three of which were on a very remote Aleutian Island. These experiences combined to connect her with the landscape and selkie mythology, leading her to create her wonderful book.

One of the judges was so impressed with the vivid action and terrific storytelling in Aleutian Pearl, that they envisioned this as a surefire movie success!

Catherine Hogarth – 3rd Place – Dora Finching
Our third winner is a bit of a mystery. She appears to have used Catherine Hogarth as her pen name, which coincidentally is the name of Charles Dickens’ wife. (this explains the Catherine Hogarth picture we used to represent her) Her novel, Dora Finching, is set in 19th century London and has a cameo appearance by Dickens himself. Catherine has no photo and hasn’t responded to our emails. Could it be that JK Rowling has done it again?! Could it be that Jessica or Lara wrote two books?? Is she off hiding with Waldo or Carmen Sandiego? I think this one might belong in our next contest, Operation: Thriller. Give us a call Catherine; inquiring minds want to know. We’ll update when she does!