Ott’s debut novel, “Windswept,” is the opening novel of a series in three parts. According to Ott, it follows the Lindsey family as they “grapple with their past and the risks and challenges of taking in an orphaned child. Set in the rural Midwest, it may feel familiar to local residents even though the characters and backdrop are fictional.”
Ott, a Noble County resident, has been writing professionally for more than 30 years, but this is her first work of fiction.
At the age of 12, Ott said she new she wanted to be a writer and she felt called to do it. She was in love with “Gone with the Wind” and how the author, Margaret Mitchell, fleshes out each character.
After graduating from Manchester College with an English degree, Ott took her first job at The Post and Mail in Columbia City as a reporter. She then followed her husband, John, as he furthered his education, finding editing jobs wherever she went—often by chance.
Ott freelanced at Purdue University for the alumni magazine before getting hired into the school of Industrial Engineering.
According to Ott, when the head of the department learned that she was a writer, he gave her the task of creating promotional materials for recruiting graduate students from universities around the country. At the same time, as word of her writing skills spread throughout the department, she began editing masters and doctoral theses for graduate students and journal articles for some of the professors.
Ott continued editing through brief tenures at Texas A&M University and the University of Memphis. Even then, Ott said, she knew that fiction was her first love.
Ott took several graduate-level courses in writing, but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that she sat down and started putting her ideas onto paper.
“I tried not to do it for years,” she said, “because I thought I couldn’t. I didn’t have the courage to try, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Several mentors have encouraged Ott along her writing journey.
“I was scared to death because I didn’t know if I could do it. I knew I could write well, but storytelling is something altogether different,” Ott said. “One of the greatest thrills of my life was receiving affirming positive feedback from Robert Morgan on the first chapter of a draft of my novel.”
Morgan is the author of “Boone—A Biography, Gap Creek” and a writing professor at Cornell University.
“I spent 45 minutes with him one-on-one at a writing workshop in 2002,” she said. “It was the shot in the arm I needed to keep working.”
Since then, Ott has attended other workshops and received helpful feedback from other writers, including Silas House, whose literary fiction includes “Clay’s Quilt” and “A Parchment of Leaves.”
In the acknowledgement at the opening of “Windswept,” Ott says she wrote the book for John, Sam and Jennie, “who gave me space and time to pursue my calling and my dream.” Sam is Ott’s 20-year-old son who is a Junior at Manchester College majoring in religion and Jennie is Ott’s 18-year-old daughter who is a senior home schooler.
Ott also dedicates her book to her friend Leanne, “who loved my characters and me throughout the writing and believed in me before I believed in myself.”
Ott said she sent the book chapter by chapter to Leanne and used her feedback to hone the work into the final product.
“Writing is never finished,” Ott said. “It can always be worked and reworked, further refined, but at some point the writer has to let go. Each piece takes on a life of its own, has meaning and significance for each reader. It’s one of the beauties and mysteries of storytelling.”
Ott dubs “Windswept” a love story.
“It’s about the hard things that loving really is and what living in a family relationship is really about,” she said.
Amazon customers rated Ott’s book with five out of five stars and one reviewer wrote that the novel is “a wonderfully simple book with complex characters that I immediately felt like I knew, but wanted to get to know better. I loved this book and am looking forward to the next one!”
“I have a problem with any work of fiction that wants to paint a flat picture and not examine relationships,” Ott said.
The characters in “Windswept” are self-aware and are on a constant mission to understand themselves and to be more and do better.
Of all the characters in her book, Ott said she can most relate to Sam Lindsey.
“I really like his imperfections and his struggles in trying to be his best self.”
She also admires Sam and his wife, Grace, for their willingness to love each other enough to want to talk about what isn’t right and to examine their relationship with each other and with God.
“I can relate to all of [the characters] at different levels,” she said. “We’re all human and we all have our struggles.”
“Windswept” is the first in a three-book series. Ott self-published the book in September and recently published a new edition.
The e-book is available for purchase at amazon.com at/www.amazon.com/dp/B0057G4AQM” www.amazon.com/dp/B0057G4AQM or by searching for the title along with the author’s name. It is priced at $2.99 and can be downloaded to a Kindle or any electronic device. Hard copies of the new edition of the book will soon be available on amazon.com and at K&K Video, Books and Clothing for $9.95.
Ott will sign copies of “Windswept” at K&K Video, Books and Clothing in Churubusco on Sunday, December 4 from 3-5 p.m. She is also available for readings or to talk to book clubs about her work and this piece of fiction.