Writing in isolationApr 26, 2021 04:40PM ● By Terri Benson
Chris Brown, Christina Hovland and Elizabeth Wheeler hold books they published during the pandemic.
Three local authors wrote and published books in 2020
Did you know that Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” during a bubonic plague outbreak? Likewise, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath and other renowned writers penned some of their greatest works during times of personal suffering.
While 2020 will go down as one of the worst years in recent history, the isolation that came with the pandemic gave many local writers the chance to put pen to paper, and even publish their books.
Preserving memories, history
Chris Brown, 54, has owned Brown Cycle in Grand Junction for 20 years. During that time, locals often brought in artifacts and photos and shared their fascinating stories. Eventually, Brown decided those stories should be preserved and heard by a wider audience.
After other would-be writers fell through, he decided to write the book himself. Brown came up with the idea of a bike-riding, time machine traveling narrator who bikes local trails, meets historical figures and sees history in the making from 1880-2015.
The process was arduous. Besides writing in the wee hours of the morning before work for months on end, Brown spent hours cross-verifying fuzzy memories and vague details with newspaper accounts and other sources. He said that while he loved to write, grammar was a different story.
“I wasn’t a big fan of rules during English classes, and teachers tended to label me a problem student,” Brown said.
Once he finished writing the creative non-fiction book, Brown hired an editor, found an experienced layout artist (the book includes numerous present-day Grand Valley bike trails) and had a local printer produce the coffee table-sized book.
The entire process took five years. When the book was finally released in October 2020, it coincided with Brown Cycle’s 20th Anniversary. And it might just be the start of his writing career.
“If you look at the spine, you’ll see only one-third of the store logo is displayed. If there were three books stacked, the whole logo would show,” Brown said with a knowing grin.
So, if you want to know how a bike race winner is related to the Mantey Heights area, or what the man Patterson Road is named after has to do with bikes, you’ll just have to read “Bicycle Junction,” available at Brown Cycle and local bookshops. Oh, and High Desert Opera is also producing a folk/jazz operatic musical based on the book, coming in 2021. Learn more at www.browncycles.com/bc or call 245-7939.
Compelling murder mysteries
Elizabeth Wheeler is a Western Colorado native with family ties to Aspen and Glenwood dating back to the 1890s. She grew up in Denver, and over the years bounced back and forth over the divide until settling in Grand Junction in 2016.
With a background in research and marketing, Wheeler had the technical skills to write “The Fabulous Old Houses of North Seventh Street” and coauthored “A Walking Tour Guidebook to the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District” with her friend, Carole Harshman. She obviously had a thing for old houses, leading her to start Denver’s Old House Society, which offered guided walking tours.
In 2013, Wheeler began a blog titled “Ladies of a Certain Age” but didn’t plan on becoming a novelist until 2016 when she accepted and completed the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The resulting book, “Murder and Pink Blossoms,” featured a female sleuth—of a certain age.
COVID’s arrival in early 2020 restricted the 74-year-old’s activities, including writing group get-togethers, pickleball games and hobby clubs. She found that sitting at home didn’t fit her personality.
“I’m a people person and get a lot of energy from others,” Wheeler said.
However, the pandemic allowed more time to write each day. In January 2020, she began writing the second book in her murder mystery series, which she was able to finish in five months. The sequel, “Murder and a Victory Garden,” features the return of beloved characters Ellen Lane, her retired cop love interest, and an Airedale Terrier and tuxedo cat—both inspired by Wheeler's own fur babies. The artwork on both books is her own as well.
With two mysteries under her belt, Wheeler is starting a new non-fiction book, “Paths—A Primer for Ladies of a Certain Age,” which she hopes will be out later this year. She’s also written two memoirs, “’57 Memories of a 10-year-old Denver Girl” and “My Recipe Box.” Learn more about Wheeler’s writing at www.ladiesofacertainage.com.
An escape from reality
Christina Hovland is the textbook definition of an overachiever. While raising four school-aged children and running a chocolate company, she still managed to be a prolific writer in 2020, penning three books and one short story.
“I think now, more than ever, novels are necessary as a reprieve from the trials of reality,” Hovland said.
After attaining a degree in journalism, she always wanted to write a book. It wasn’t until 2015, however, that she was able to fulfill her dream, putting her love of romance novels and innate talent to good use. Her work has earned her a place as a USA Today Bestselling author.
Hovland’s most recent 2020 book release, “Do Me A Favor,” is book number four in her “Mile High Matched” series. She’s a hybrid author, both self-publishing and traditionally publishing her books.
“My publishing paths have unfolded differently than what I would have expected. I thought you wrote a book, then published that book,” Hovland said. “[However,] there are many steps in between if an author decides to go the traditional publishing route.”
No matter which publishing path her books take, each one requires months of writing and editing, as well as layout and audio narration before the final product emerges.
In January and February 2021, Hovland released the other two books she wrote during the pandemic: “Rachel, Out of Office” and “Played by the Rockstar.” Another novel is set to release in October. Visit www.christinahovland.com to learn more.