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Author Interview: Anne A. Wilson

Clear To LiftI am very excited to share with you my interview with author Anne A. Wilson. If you are a regular visitor to my blog, then you might have picked up on my absolute adoration for Anne’s books. They are fantastic!!! So, it was wonderful when Anne graciously agreed to answer my questions about her own experience in the navy and her writing process.

Anne is the author of Hover, which was released in 2015 and Clear To Lift, which is due for release in July 2016. Both books are thrilling stories of action and romance, about strong, courageous women and their careers in the navy.

In Clear To Lift, Navy helicopter pilot Lieutenant Alison Malone has been assigned to the search and rescue team stationed in Sierra Nevada. Alison is strong, determined, a rule follower and feeling constrained after being deployed to an area she considers the end of her commander dreams. Her team plan to educate her in working outside the rules, while the ruggedly handsome Will Cavanaugh challenges her to evaluate her life and take risks. Romance, action, suspense and family secrets make this a wildly addictive story. 

You can find my full review of Clear To Lift here, and if you haven’t already read Hover, check out my review of it here.

anne-wilson-350Hi Anne. Welcome to my Library.

Thanks so much for answering my questions (and writing really fabulous books).

Firstly, describe Clear To Lift in five words or less.

Adventure, search and rescue, romance.

Both your books Hover and Clear To Lift come loosely from your own experiences in the navy. How much is fiction and what can you tell us about your own adventures in the Sierra Nevada?

In Clear to Lift, the plot and characters are fictional, but the aircraft maneuvers are pretty accurate. The last rescue scene was based on a rescue that I did during the “100-Year Flood” that affected Yosemite Valley, the city of Reno, Nevada, and surrounding areas. Hover had more scenes than Clear to Lift did that were “real.” I used the journals I kept while deployed at sea to write Hover, and pulled directly from those pages for several scenes. The Shellback ceremony in Hover is almost word-for-word from my journal.

Being stationed near the Sierra Nevada was a dream. Not only did we fly over the range routinely to do our rescue work, but my husband and I played there in our off time, too. We did backcountry skiing, where you hike a mountain and then ski down. Still do, in fact. I enjoy telemark skiing, which is a nice ski set-up to have in the backcountry since your heel is free in the binding, which allows you to hike up more easily. We also did a lot of rock climbing and my husband even trained as an assistant mountain guide. So we enjoyed plenty of adventures both on the ground and in the air while stationed there.

So that’s why the scenes in Clear To Lift, when Will is free climbing up huge cliff faces sound so realistic!!!

HoverWhat inspired you to join the navy?

I was in my high school counselor’s office and saw a catalog for the United States Naval Academy on the coffee table in the waiting room. I picked it up and was intrigued by the prospect of the travel and adventure that might accompany going to a university like this. When you go to the Naval Academy, the tuition is free and you receive a four-year degree just like any university. You pay back the cost of your schooling by giving years of active duty service to the navy, so I served for nine years flying helicopters after I graduated. The travel was as advertised, by the way. I was able to see and experience so much of the world that I otherwise would not have.

What did you prefer as a pilot, search and rescue or deployment at sea? Which did you prefer writing?

I preferred search and rescue. The high altitude flying and the rescue work we did—and the setting in which we did it—was just spectacular. And then, of course, the mission itself was extremely rewarding. We were helping people in need, which I loved. Plus, I was stationed inland, so when we weren’t flying, we were living a pretty normal life. Flying on deployment could be exciting, also, but in a different way. It just depended on the operation or the mission. Flying with the SEAL teams was always fun and doing vertical replenishment—transferring crates and pallets under the helicopter via a long pole and sling—was a great test of flying precision. But I would say there was a lot more monotony when flying on deployment. Most of the time, you were just flying ship to ship and looking at endless miles of ocean. There’s just no comparison between that and flying over snow-covered peaks at 12,000 feet.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada

Gosh, which did I prefer writing? That’s a tough one! They were both equally fun to write, I would say. I like writing action scenes and dialog, and both books had these in spades, so I was happy to be at my computer any time I was writing either book.

Where do you like to write? Do you have any writing habits or things that have to be just so before you start writing?

I’ve set up shop in our guest bedroom and this is where I do most of my writing. Although, I’m always out and about because my husband and I own a triathlon coaching company (coaching swimmers, cyclists, and runners) and this is a full-time job. Also, I have twin boys that I’m shuttling to taekwondo practice and school and all of their other activities. So I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, and I do a lot of writing long hand while waiting in my car for pick-up or in medical office waiting rooms. Places like that.

Writing habits . . . I would say coffee. Must. Have. Coffee.

Medical waiting rooms…nice to hear you are continuing your dangerous, exciting life even after leaving the Navy.

You are obviously passionate about promoting strong women, in your books, in you blog posts and in various articles you have written about successful women. How did you find being a woman in the Navy? In Hover, challenging the women-not-welcome view is something Sara is confronted with, while in Clear To Lift Alison is generally accepted and applauded for her skills, did you have similar experiences?

That’s great that you noticed the subtle difference between the two books in this regard! For Hover, I was cognizant of including a woman-in-a-man’s-world theme, but that was not the aim for Clear to Lift. It was just a different story. For me, personally, it was a little tougher on the acceptance scale when deployed on ships in the sea-going fleet. This was due in large part to the era when I deployed. This was 1993. Women weren’t yet serving aboard combatants or flying tactical aircraft. There were only two women on my ship and only four in the entire battle group. So for the sailors, this was a new thing. For sure, once we got into our operational tempo and they saw that we could do our jobs just as capably as anyone else, it was mostly okay.

For an inland squadron, like my search and rescue squadron, I found a little more of an open attitude. But still, there were definitely moments when you’d run into someone who was not hip to having women in the service or in the cockpit. But overall, being a woman in the navy, for me, was not so bad. I was fortunate to have had outstanding commanding officers who set the proper tone for my squadrons and ships and that made all the difference.

A H-46 Sea Knight, the helicopter Sara pilots.

A H-46 Sea Knight, the helicopter Sara (and Anne) pilots.

In Clear To Lift, Alison flies a H-1 helicopter, and mentions training with an H-60 Seahawk and in Hover, Sara flew a H-46 Sea Knight. Did you fly with all these helicopters and if so which one was your favourite?

I flew the H-1 Huey helicopter for search and rescue and the H-46 Sea Knight for my sea-going squadron. I did not fly the H-60 Seahawk helicopter, but my husband did! I think my favorite was the H-46. Its tandem rotor design made it highly manoeuvrable and it was just a blast to fly. Very seat-of-the-pants, analog gauges, old school. The Huey was even older school. Not much in the way of automatic stabilization capabilities, so it was very much the friend of a good old-fashioned stick-and-rudder pilot. But even though I loved flying the Huey, I think I’d have to pick the H-46, if given the choice.

I loved Sara in Hover and equally loved Alison in Clear To Lift. Which of the two do you identify with more or who is your favourite (if you had to choose and this is probably a horrible question essentially asking to choose between your children)?

They are like my children! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. I identify with both because they are both a part of me. I definitely had to shut down my femininity when in my first squadron, just like Sara. But like Alison, I needed to learn to let go and learn to take chances. I think there is more of me in Sara than in Alison, so in that sense, Sara’s story was a more personal story to me than Alison’s.

What have you read recently that you loved?

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. Night Hush by Leslie Jones. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Nice. Night Hush looks particularly exciting.

What would be the stand-out message you would like readers to take from Clear To Lift?

Live your life fully and with no regrets. Be adventurous. Get out there. Risk a little.

And finally the question I’ve been longing to ask, what are you writing now or what is your next project? And how soon can we read it???

I’ve had too many starts and stops to count with this latest project. Frustrating would be an understatement. But I think I have the right direction now. I think this novel is going to tip a bit in the direction of thriller, but still lots of action like the other two, as well as a romantic plot line. I hate to say it, but it’s going to be a while until I have this in a readable form, but I promise, you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready!

Well, if it has thrills, action and romance and is written by Anne Wilson it is a must-read. I’m looking forward to it. And for now, while I wait, I will content myself with re-reading Hover and Clear To Lift.

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Anne. It was fantastic to learn a little more about the author behind these fabulous books.

If you haven’t yet read Hover by Anne A. Wilson, check it out now!!! And Clear To Lift will be released 12 July, 2016, so put it on your to-read list.

You can find more information about Anne on her website.  You can also find Anne on Twitter @Anne_A_Wilson