Benson, Minn., graduate pens trilogy; 'Bloodmark' now available
Aurora (Sandstrom) Whittet was 9 years old and didn’t know a soul when her family moved to a lonely little farm near Benson.
Those childhood stories led her down the “fantasy path” and proved to provide the learning ground for Whittet’s latest storyteller adventure as a published author.
“Bloodmark” is the first book in Whittet’s “Bloodmark Saga” trilogy of young reader books.
Geared toward female readers in the 13 to 18 age group, the book blends the popular themes of werewolves, love, family conflict and teen angst.
The 333-page “Bloodmark,” which Whittet compared to “Hunger Games” or “Twilight” books, was published Nov. 1 as a hard cover and e-book.
In a telephone interview from her home in the Twin Cities area, the 2000 Benson High School graduate said it was a “little bit surreal” when she took the book out of the box — fresh from the printer — and put it on her book shelf.
“I just looked at it. Like a nerd,” she said with a laugh.
As a successful graphic designer and avid reader, Whittet, 31, had long harbored the desire to become a professional fiction writer.
Sadly, the motivation that took Whittet from dreaming about being a writer to action happened when her mother received a second diagnosis of cancer in 2009.
In her blog, Whittet said that “mortality finally brought me to reality” and she began writing as her mother began another round of tests, doctor visits and chemotherapy.
The writing process included three years of research and character development.
Whittet said she made spreadsheets on what kind of clothing each character wore and what kind of car they drove and researched the moods, landscapes and environment of real locations that she used to develop the fictional world in her book.
Whittet also studied the mythology of werewolves and the folklore and geography of Ireland, where the book’s 16-year-old red-headed werewolf heroine, Ashling, is born before being separated from her family and making the painful journey to America.
Whittet has more than red hair in common with the fictional Ashling.
As she watched her mother battle cancer, Whittet also began the painful journey of saying goodbye to her mother — who Whittet said was the most influential person in her life.
Writing allowed Whittet to escape from some of that sadness and helped her stay connected to her mother.
Whittet said, “I wrote so I could create a world that I could hide when the reality of cancer was too much.”
Unintentionally, Whittet said her mother began appearing as a character in her novel — as Ashling’s mother.
The anxiety, confusion and sadness when Whittet’s fictional character Ashling is separated from her mother is perhaps a reflection of Whittet’s own emotions as her mother slowly slipped away.
“I made her immortal on the page, a place which no one and no cancer could ever steal her from me,” Whittet writes in her blog. “A place in which she would always be strong and healthy and I could always seek her out.”
Whittet’s mother, Sandra Showalter, died earlier this year.
Whittet said she wanted to share her mother’s “silent ferociousness” and ability to welcome and love people — a trait that was shown not only to friends and families but also to strangers when her parents owned and operated the Cloverleaf Supper Club in Benson.
There is also love in “Bloodmark.”
The fictional Ashling is sent to the United States for her own safety. Equipped with powers that are unique even for werewolves, Ashling finds love in the arms of a human, as well as a new set of conflicts that Whittet said will grow darker as the series progresses.
Although the werewolf genre is “trendy right now,” Whittet said she has put a “different twist” on the theme that should intrigue readers.
“I can’t really say what it is without giving away the story,” said Whittet.
Working with an independent Minnesota publisher, Wise Ink, Whittet used Kickstarter — an online crowdsourcing tool to raise $3,000 to hire an editor. One of the dividends for those early supporters, which include strangers from around the world, was an electronic copy of “Bloodmark.”
The first edition of the book included 2,000 hardcover books wrapped in a rich red, glossy jacket.
Whittet is already working on the second book in the series, titled “Bloodrealms,” which is expected to be published next year.
The final book will be called “Bloodmoon.”
Sixteen-year-old werewolf princess Ashling Boru is different from other wolves — she was able to shift to wolf form at birth. Rather than bringing pride to her family, it brings fear, and as a result, she is forced to live in seclusion in Ireland’s countryside.
Ashling’s reputation is further blackened when she refuses her betrothed and defies the ancient laws. When her pack’s oldest rivals begin hunting her, she finds herself in the small town of York Harbor, Maine — far from everything she’s ever known.
In Maine, she crosses paths with the dark and rebellious Grey Donavan, and something ignites within her soul. There’s just one problem: Grey is human. Their instant connection turns into a passionate romance, and Ashling begins to believe she can create her own life outside of wolf laws.
When she begins to uncover long-buried pack secrets — secrets that threaten to destroy all she holds dear — Ashling’s courage and tenacity are tested. Will she choose her deep and enduring love for Grey, or will she follow Old Mother’s path to her destiny?
For more information about Whittet and “Bloodmark,” go to aurorawhittet.com