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May 5, 2015

Anne A. Wilson: Writing in Black and Pink

Posted by emily

Former navy pilot Anne A. Wilson never expected to be a romance author. Her mother, who was raised during the Depression, only kept practical books around the house --- books with black covers and the occasional Tom Clancy. But when she found herself at sea on the way to the Persian Gulf and desperate for something to read, she reluctantly turned to romance novels and has been hooked ever since. Her debut novel, HOVER, comes out on June 2nd; it’s the story of a helicopter pilot who gets recruited for a top secret SEAL mission…and finds love along the way. And guess what? Even Anne’s mother loved it.

Honestly, I don’t know how I ended up as a writer of love stories.

My mother heavily influenced my love of books --- we had floor-to-ceiling shelves of them bracketing the walls of our living room --- and the color scheme was overwhelmingly black.

Funny how this would stand out in my child mind. The colors of the books. Blacks. Browns. Some grays. Some reds. But other colors? No. Absent from my mother’s bookshelves were the light blues, the soft greens, the sunny yellows. And there was absolutely, positively, no pink.

You see, my mother preferred the serious stuff. Nonfiction mostly. War histories. Solzhenitsyn.That kind of thing. It fit her personality, I suppose. Raised during the Depression, she was just a teenager when she worked in a factory that manufactured gas tanks for B-29 bombers during World War II. She also became a physician, way back when women populated medical school classes in only ones and twos.

In a nutshell, my mother was hardcore, pragmatic and seriously intelligent. So as a youngster, I was encouraged to read practical things. Tomes for the erudite. Books with black covers.

If my mother ventured into fiction, she picked up thrillers, historicals, Leo Tolstoy and the like. Oh, and anything by Tom Clancy. But other types of fiction? Cozy mysteries? Fantasies? Or --- god forbid --- romances? Pink covers? Oh, no. No, no, no. That wouldn’t do at all.

So off I went to college. Not normal college, but the U.S. Naval Academy. Majored in --- surprise --- engineering. Got commissioned. Entered flight school. Flew helicopters. My mother was proud. Yes, cut from the same cloth.

I then deployed to the Persian Gulf. It’s a long transit. Six weeks? Seven? We received care packages en route, and maybe it was a joke, I’m not sure, but one of my female squadron mates sent me a box full of romance novels “to keep me company on the ship.”

I was appreciative, don’t get me wrong. But me? Are you kidding? Romances?

I rolled my eyes. My mother would have done the same.

But here’s the thing. When you’re on a navy ship in the middle of the Pacific, it’s just you and 64 million square miles of ocean, and you’re stuck in the middle of it on this giant hunk of steel without much in the way of entertainment.

I thought I had brought along enough reading material to keep me occupied for the transit. I read every black book I had. Even some gray ones. And when I ran out, I turned to the New York Times crossword puzzle books that I had thrown in at the last minute. But when I completed those, we were still at sea.

And I was desperate.

So…I pulled out one of the romance novels. I remember cringing as I opened it to the first page. “I can’t believe I’ve been reduced to this…” I thought.

I started reading, dead set against liking it…

And oh. Damn.

Damn. Damn. Damn.  

There I was, lying in a bunk bed that was bolted to the bulkhead, sweating and gross, because we were cruising near the equator and it was hot as Hades, and I was feeling a bit nauseated, too, due to the rocking and pitching of the ship…and I was transported. Whisked away into a fairy tale, swept up in a love story, rewarded with a happily-ever-after --- a blissful escape from a smelly, noisy, crowded, stuffy navy ship.

I devoured the rest of the volumes --- never telling my mom, of course.

Books for escape. Pink covers.

[Insert re-wiring of author’s brain, new synapses created and connected, and all in rainbow colors].

I dived into science fiction, fantasy, romance, young adult, you name it. The good stuff. The fun stuff.

Which led me to escaping into a story of my own creation. Action, adventure, a highly classified Navy SEAL mission, a story about a woman’s growth. But really…a love story.

I printed the first draft of HOVER and gave it to my mom --- she had to put Dostoyevsky aside to read it --- but she obliged me. And it struck me then that she was the reason, the influence, behind being able to write a book like this. A military story. A love story. Part black. Part pink.

She loved it, by the way. But then, my mom’s heart is the best color of them all --- gold.