Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Five Secrets From Author Donna Wichelman

Bio: Donna Wichelman worked in community and employee relations for ten years. She has authored a number of short stories, essays and articles in various inspirational publications. She now lives her dream writing novels and screenplays. She and her husband live in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Hi Donna, please tell us Five Secrets we may not know about Light Out of Darkness or you, but will after today!

Hi L.A., thanks for hosting me today, I'm pleased to share a few of my secrets with your readers.

1)    The concept for Light Out of Darkness began with a family vacation to northern Italy in the summer of 2001. The trip was a precursor to my 25th reunion with classmates from the United World College of the Atlantic—an international school in Wales, U.K. We stayed at a lovely little boutique hotel in Varenna on the east shore of Lake Como, and I was so impressed with the spectacular view that I wanted to set a book there. The story and plot came much later in my research.

2)    I knew nothing about the Waldensians before Light Out of Darkness. Though I had a potential setting, I spent many hours on the internet in search of a story that could plausibly be set in northern Italy. When I finally hit on this ancient Christian religious sect from the northern Italian Alps, I had an “Ah-hah!” moment. Their real-life story of valor and enduring faith touched me and seemed to be the makings of an epic adventure. Their emblem, a candlestick with six stars surrounding it, contains the Latin phrase, Lux Lucet in Tenebris—Light shining out of darkness.  That became an appropriate title for the book.

3)    At the time Light Out of Darkness was still in the concept stage, I had inherited a subscription for the Biblical Archaeology Review from my mother after she passed away. As I was conducting research for the novel, an article appeared in the BAR about the nineteenth-century British painter, J.M.W. Turner, whose Bible Lands paintings incited tourists to visit the Holy Land. Turner was also known as “the painter of light” and had many followers, including John Ruskin. Ruskin was so obsessed with Turner’s art that he wanted to emulate him. As it turns out, Ruskin was a Scottish Reformer who had grown up in that tradition. He reports in his own personal diary (Praeterita, Volume III) that he took a trip to the Italian Alps for inspiration. When he couldn’t master Turner’s technique, he walked into a Waldensian Church for solace but found little comfort there and walked out in despair. He lost his faith and became known by colleagues as an eccentric. This true story inspired the fictional tale in Light Out of Darkness.

4)    Two of Jamie’s childhood antics growing up with her brother, Jason, in Cleveland, Ohio came from real-life stories told by my now deceased mother. She used to tell me many stories of a wild childhood, running with friends in Lorain, Ohio during the 1930s and 40s. The story about the ghostly apparition, hanging from a tree in the front of her house at Halloween, did in fact cause their neighbor to crash into the tree and had my mother grounded for quite some time.

5)    Jamie grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where her father is a professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, and her mother is first violinist for the Cleveland Orchestra. I grew up on the west side of Cleveland and received my bachelor’s degree from CWRU with a minor in music. I know the area well and have some fond memories of places and friends from college days. At the time I attended CWRU in the late 1970s, music students could buy tickets to Severance Hall’s orchestra performances for a mere 50 cents. My friends and I in the music department took great advantage of those tickets. One memory that will always remain with me, however, still causes me to shudder. That memory is of a bus accident involving a student at the corner of Adelbert and Euclid Avenues. I did not know the student, but observing the horror of that day gave me pause to consider the temporal nature of our lives. That’s why the experience made its way into the book.

A prestigious art exhibition turns into a horrific spectacle when a murder sends an art curator and a professor on a hunt for a highly coveted stolen painting.

Jamie Holbrooke’s painful past follows her to Italy when an assailant, who looks like her dead brother, presses a mysterious riddle into her hand. Soon she discovers that her long-time paragon Dr. Alessandro Marianni may be linked to the enigmatic riddle. Intrigued by her questions, Alessandro’s res must wait when their colleague falls prey to an assassin’s bullet. Convinced the riddle, murder and coveted stolen painting are connected, Jamie and Alessandro set out to hunt the person responsible. 

At stake is a two-thousand–year-old drama, unfolding in the contemporary world of the Northern Italian Alps. Will Jamie and Alessandro stop powerful criminal entities before the painting is lost forever and with it a secret more valuable than the prized artwork? Will Jamie find the courage to face her fears? She will need the persevering faith of Dr. Alessandro Marianni to give her the answers to restore her wounded heart.


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  1. Donna, I'm glad to see you on my blog. Best of luck with your debut novel.

  2. I enjoyed the insider's look at your book and nodded in agreement when I read that your first inspiration was a location. Isn't it wonderful when a place takes root in your heart and simply demands that you set a story there?

  3. Late to the party, but so excited about your new work, Donna. Excited to read it. Love your story of inspiration over years of time. Cheers, Marilyn