Hi book friends! I’m thrilled to have my friend, talented writer, and amazing human, Lisa Wilkes, on the blog today to talk about her latest novel and marrying her passions for books and animal rescue. I hope you have a wonderful time getting to Lisa and her work!
Hi, Anita! Thanks for hosting me.
Way back in January of 2020, our novels were released within a day of each other. Throughout the last three years, we’ve shared countless ups and downs in this crazy industry. It’s been a whirlwind, right? Remarkably, that rollercoaster ride has brought us closer together. I am continually impressed by your perspective on writing, publishing, parenthood, and life in general.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Lisa Wilkes, an American author, flight attendant, licensed social worker (LMSW), and lifelong animal rescuer. I live in Tampa, Florida, with my spouse and three furbabies…plus a revolving door of cute little foster animals.
My newest novel, Mid-Flight, was released on March 31, 2023. The plot for Mid-Flight circulated in my head for months before coming to life. This book is vastly different from my previous writings. It’s dark and moody, with a modest dose of post-apocalyptic humor. Mid-Flight is a chilling tale of loss, set in 2037/2038. It’s also a story of redemption.
During grad school, I completed an eight-month internship in the behavioral health unit of a hospital. Nearly every patient had severe trauma. Often, this was the product of egregious harm inflicted by those in power. Injustice takes many forms, but each of its sinister counterparts incites one thing: suffering.
Mid-Flight was shaped by this internship. I couldn’t ignore the harrowing anecdotes my patients shared. Many of their ailments traced back to societal structures designed to harm them. I wanted my newest novel to depict the consequences of institutionalized persecution and marginalization.
An additional factor influenced the creation of Mid-Flight. During 2020, racial injustice was placed under the spotlight, thanks to body cams and cell phone footage. Bigotry is not a new concept here in America. However, this time it was catapulted to a national stage. People started paying attention. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, this was the push we needed. Perhaps this time, the pendulum would swing toward equality. Due to mounting public pressure, maybe America would stop denying the existence of racism and finally begin to rectify all the damage it has caused.
As 2021 unfolded, I realized that had been an idealistic daydream. Politicians opted for the twisted path of oppression. Lawmakers prioritized wealthy extremists’ archaic, self-serving demands over the basic human rights of their constituents. I was furious. I was also determined to address this absurdity in a fictional piece. My book was going to have a social conscience.
Not everyone will appreciate Mid-Flight. Some might consider it controversial. I figure if this novel gets people talking, if it makes them reconsider the freedoms and privileges distributed unevenly in our society, then it has achieved its purpose.
Mid-Flight tackles two major topics: mental health and racial injustice. While this book includes a love story, that romance is ancillary to the plot. The relationship between Lexi and Jason takes a backseat to Mid-Flight’s primary theme, which is that bigotry will destroy our species unless everyday heroes protect those in harm’s way. Without a deliberate movement to promote equality and inclusion, humanity will unravel.
I also wanted Mid-Flight to show that mental illness is common. And completely normal. The CDC estimates that half of American adults will experience mental illness during their lives. Half. How can anyone attach a negative stigma to a condition so widespread, it affects 50% of the population? I really hope Mid-Flight remind folks that they are loved, respected, and appreciated, regardless of the battles they face within their mind. Mental illness does not make us abnormal or flawed. Quite simply, it makes us human. There are resources and programs to help with this type of struggle. And, most importantly, there is no shame.
Well, that was a lot to unpack! I tend to be long-winded. Can you tell I write novels for fun?!
On a different note, Mid-Flight will be used to support charitable organizations. This felt like a fitting way to mirror the book’s ethical premise. My royalties from the first week of sales will be donated to Rags to Riches Animal Rescue, Inc.
I also plan to sell the book at community events, including a monthly market in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa. Again, all proceeds will be donated to a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit, this time The Barn Rescue, Inc.
I’ve been saving animals since I was a child. In my early thirties, I ramped up my efforts to help homeless dogs and cats. Then, during the pandemic, I was home a lot more often because of a sharp reduction in flight schedules. The entire aviation industry teetered on the brink of collapse.
I decided to make good use of the additional time spent in my house by fostering an adorable black kitty through SPCA of Texas. This cat, named Cupid, went to an amazing home with an adopter who sent me routine updates on his progress. That was the start of my fostering addiction! Over the next few years, I fostered 19 cats, two dogs, two birds, and a bunny. I’m happy to report they have all been adopted into wonderful homes. They are currently living their best lives with their fur-ever families.
In addition, I joined the leadership board for my airline’s animal rescue team, SWATT, in January of 2023. SWATT is a group of volunteers who transport rescued dogs and cats to their adopters. We use our flight benefits to bring these sweet furbabies home. So far, I have completed 17 successful rescue missions through SWATT. I’m incredibly proud of the team’s commitment to saving homeless pets.
With the upcoming release of Mid-Flight, I had a crazy idea: maybe it was time to launch my own nonprofit. As far back as I can remember, my two biggest passions have been writing and rescuing animals. In fact, I wrote my first book when I was eight years old. Unsurprisingly, it was about a rescue cat! I’m still that same little girl, although with many additional gray hairs and laugh lines. My heart remains the same, though, and I don’t see that changing. Ever.
As I prepped Mid-Flight’s entry into the world, I realized the time had come to unite my primary interests. Why not merge these ventures to create something special?
So, that’s my goal. I hope to register as an official 501(c)(3) charitable organization by the end of the year. I’d love to open an indie bookstore where all proceeds are used to rescue animals from local shelters. As most authors will admit, the market is saturated. It’s nearly impossible to establish a presence as a writer. My indie bookstore would give indie authors a brick-and-mortar shop with their books on display for the world to see. In addition, I’d host adoption events on the weekends. The walls would be adorned with photos of the adorable cats and dogs saved from a terrible fate at the local shelter.
Is it a realistic vision? I sure hope so. I’d like to believe that most people want to support charitable ventures, including animal rescue organizations.
I also sincerely hope the public appreciates authors, the creative daydreamers who simply want to share our stories with the world. This cutthroat industry can be brutal. Yet we don’t quit. We strive to connect with strangers and incite emotion, despite all the challenges of being an author. Writers have a calling…although sometimes I wonder if I should’ve sent that phone call straight to voicemail.
All kidding aside, we write because it’s who we are. We bridge gaps and forge bonds, all through the written word. I genuinely cannot wait to give indie authors a platform for their unique creations, while simultaneously saving innocent pets from a precarious situation at the local animal shelter.
Here’s to dreaming big and chasing the impossible. Thanks again for letting me chat about Mid-Flight and my weird/wild/wonderful next steps. Your books have transformed me, truly. I am honored to be featured on the blog of one of my all-time favorite authors. Cheers.
Amazon author page: https://amazon.com/author/lisawilkes
Twitter (hardly use): https://twitter.com/Travelisa1984
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