I’m so excited to finally share an interview with my beautiful friend about her first novel, Bloodmark.
My high school friend Aurora Whittet has always been the girl who chases dreams. She was never afraid to dream bigger and knew she could do anything she put her mind to. This is something she and I have always connected on. I worked with her for several years at our small town supper club and was lucky to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. We have kept in touch over the years and I got to work with her a bit on the public relations for this novel.
Today, while I’d love to review the book for you, I’d rather share Aurora’s story with you. There are many great reviews on Amazon and throughout the Blogosphere. She is an inspiring, amazing, beautiful, kind woman who is truly chasing her dreams with a full-time job, baby and husband in tow (along with some very sweet furry friends).
Jessica: I’m so excited to finally talk about you and your novel and life with my readers. Tell us a little about you?
Aurora: I’m a wife, mother, daughter, author, and a graphic designer. My mom is so much a part of me and inspired me to be who I am and not apologize for it. I’m lead by my heart and my need to create. From writing and designing beautiful invitations to sewing Halloween costumes for my son, I’m always making something. I’m inspired by nature, simply seeing a hawk flying in the sky on a bad day can give me hope and standing in the wide open with the wind in my face is purifying and grounding. I always say, I love to buy shoes, but I’d rather not wear them. I love the feeling of my bare feet on the earth. I guess I’m just a wild child.
Jessica: When did you decide to write a book and why?
Aurora: I had always written short stories and novels as a child, but it was just something weird I did. I never thought about actually doing something with my talent. I just kept it hidden away, but when my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in 2009, I finally had to leave my child-like naivety behind and face the reality of mortality. When you’re a child you see your parents as perfect and assume nothing can hurt them and they will live to be at least as old as your grandparents, but reality can be a harsh thing.
I had to accept that my mom was sick. I had to accept that I had no control over her health and lifespan any more than I had over mine. So I decided on that day to start living my life to the fullest and to do what I dream, because I had no way of knowing how long my life would be and I didn’t want to regret not following my passion. So I started writing again. Every night when I got off work from my day job as a graphic designer I would go home and work on Bloodmark. Writing into the late night hours. I spent the next three years doing research, character development, outlines and writing and the last year I spent in the editing, proofing and production phase. Bloodmark started because of my love of young-adult fiction, romance and the paranormal, but I wanted to base it with historical places and legends and myths with a strong heroine that I could be proud of and look up to.
Jessica: I’m lucky enough to know quite a bit about your childhood since I was right there with you for many parts of it, but can you please share your journey with us?
Aurora: I grew up in a small town with all the same feelings that all kids everywhere have; that you don’t fit in, that people don’t like you, that you’re an outsider. Children can be cruel to each other and I was often on the end of that teasing so I spent a lot of time alone in my families horse pastures, dreaming up all kinds of wild stories and adventures. Riding our horses bareback and you guessed it without shoes. I was shy and awkward and had a head full of messy red hair that even my mother couldn’t tame. I said very little and watched everyone, seeing the people they were on the outside and the ones they hid on the inside.
I watched my fierce mother. She was beautiful, strong, protective and independent and I learned so much of who I am from her. She welcomed everyone and protected complete strangers. She believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. As I got older I started working at my parents restaurant and learned the power of hard work, self-confidence and building something you believe in. I started getting more confident and interacting with people of all ages and one day in my junior year of high-school I finally realized I didn’t care what people thought of me, it only mattered what I believed.
I went on to college at Alexandria Technical College for design and then to Brainco the Minneapolis School of Art and Design for design and branding. I went on to become a national award-winning designer and create many successful and beautiful designs and campaigns for some of the nations most impressive brands; 3M, Delta Air Lines, Walgreens, OfficeMax, Northern Tool + Equipment, American Cancer Society and many more, but I still yearned for the written word. The world has been full of story tellers since the beginning and I wanted desperately to be one of them.
I fell in love with my husband, moved to Minneapolis and have been renovating an old 1900 farm-house, one of the seven original homesteads in Saint Louis Park, MN and became a mother in 2012 after nearly losing my life and my unborn son to advanced preeclampsia. He was born at 30 weeks and was just 2lbs and 13oz. He’s now healthy and strong and the love of our lives.
Jessica: So many amazing life experiences already for you. And some hard ones. I knew your mom. She was one of my very first supervisors at a job and was fiercely protective of us girls working in a supper club with some challenging customers from time to time. Tell us about your experience with your mom’s cancer.
Aurora: I was with my mom when they told her the cancer had come back, and that we would win some battles along the way, but we’d never win the war. We all cried. I went with her to her first chemo appointment. I remember looking around at all the other patients in the small rooms receiving the poison that could save their lives and they were all alone. I decided then that I would never leave her alone, she wouldn’t have to feel the stigma of cancer.
I went with her to nearly every appointment. Sitting by her side, making her laugh and watching her sleep. We fought for my mom’s life day after day, doctor appointment after doctor appointment, chemo injection after chemo injection. We watched the cancer steal pieces of her from us, but never her smile. She never gave up. They told her in November of 2011 while I was pregnant with my son, that she wouldn’t live to see him born. And she proved them all wrong. Not only was she there to see Henry born, but she lived over a year longer spending time with him, watching him grow and holding him in her arms. She fought for all of us and all we could do was watch. We finally lost her to cancer on March 28, 2013. But she’s not gone, she’s the wind in my hair and the beat in my heart.
Jessica: I am crying just thinking of her right now. Tell us about your book, inspired by your beautiful mom.
Aurora: Bloodmark is a young-adult paranormal romance novel and the first in the Bloodmark Saga. It is a classic tale of love and good versus evil with a juxtaposition of an ancient Celtic culture of werewolves and present day. I wanted to write a story with a heroine I could believe in, not a damsel in distress, but a real character with imperfection and strength. I had an idea about the symbolism of a cage. The cage of society, expectations, and culture and the reality of a physical cage and I wanted to have my heroine face them. I researched things I was passionate about legends, Ireland, paranormal and myths around red hair and began taking some real place that historians disagree about their purpose and started to layer in the world of Bloodmark. I believe the best stories began in truth.
Jessica: And you’re writing a second book?
Aurora: I am currently working on writing Bloodrealms, the second novel in the Bloodmark Saga and Bloodmoon will follow. I plan to spend the rest of my life writing novels for the world to enjoy. Even as I work on Bloodrealms, I have another series in the back of my mind waiting to come to life.
Jessica: Thank you so much for sharing this, sweet friend! I read the advanced copy and was able to review the book for the dust jacket. And then I had to get my hands on the hard copy. I enjoyed the world and story you created immensely.
Aurora has several book signings in Minnesota in the coming weeks.
She will also be at McKinney’s in Benson, Minnesota (our hometown) on Saturday, March 29 from 2-5 p.m. Stop by to see her. You will not be disappointed!