Friday, March 1, 2013

Author Spotlight - Kathleen Toomey Jabs

Does that name sound familiar? It should. A couple weeks ago I finished a book written by this wonderful woman and was completely taken away on Navy wings. By all means read all about it here. In the mean time I'd like you to meet Kathleen.


I was a reader before I was a writer. I was lucky enough to have parents who were both readers and our house was filled with books. Now that I have my own house, it is still filled with books!

I left for the United States Naval Academy in July 1984 with the intention of becoming an oceanographer or majoring in some type of math/science studies. Once there, I fell in love with my English classes and became an English major. My adviser, Professor Molly Tinsley, encouraged me to sign up for Creative Writing and I enrolled in her class. I loved every exercise, each writing prompt and all the outside reading. I finished three short stories during my time under her tutelage then graduated and headed out to perform my Naval service. I kept my writing dreams alive although I didn’t have much time to write.

In 1995, I left the Navy and enrolled in the University of Hawaii program for creative writing. I had no idea what I was getting into! My thesis was a novel, which I should probably burn. The main character never came alive for me. I was busy with a new baby, my husband was up for military orders, and then I was pregnant again. My main character spent a lot of time walking and trying to uncover her past.

When my children were pre-school age I again enrolled in a university writing program. My professor there challenged me to write about the military or to use the military as a setting. It sounds crazy, but it hadn’t occurred to me to “write what you know,” at least in the military sense. I wasn’t sure how to approach the military language, culture, acronyms or even how to people the stories. However, once I started, I really wanted to explore the military world. I knew it and I had characters who came alive.

One day I was walking across campus when the sentence, “Audrey Richards wanted to fly” flashed through my brain. That was the beginning of Black Wings for me. I had to find out who was Audrey and why/how she had died. Soon I was listening to conversations between Audrey and Bridget (the two main characters) in my head.

Black Wings took ten years from start to finish. I worked on it every spare moment I had. I revised it. I restructured it. I told the story chronologically then broke it up. Finally, I sent it off to agents. A few were intrigued. One loved it, sent it around, then fell out of love with it. My heart was broken. I tried to revise again and although I kept sending it out, I was losing faith. I relegated Black Wings to a drawer, but like my first novel I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

I suffered mostly in silence. I hadn’t told many people I’d been working on a novel. Inside of me lurked a failed dream. Like Poe’s character in “Telltale Heart,” I had something hidden. In my case, it was a “novel-in-the-drawer.” Sometimes, it felt like a heart in my bedroom, pulsing out the words: failed dream, novel-in-a-drawer. I went back to work full time, consoling myself that the public relations work I did fulfilled my writing dreams. Of course, I was rationalizing.

About four years ago, I reconnected with Molly Tinsley, my USNA adviser, via Facebook. We talked about writing and she mentioned that she and her friend had written a book and opened a publishing company called Fuze ( dedicated to getting books out into the world which mainstream presses were ignoring. She offered to read Black Wings.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” she told me. The good news was that Fuze would publish Black Wings. The bad news was that before they would I needed to revise Black Wings, break up the flashbacks and speed things up. All I heard was publication. I signed up. Over the course of two years (I was working so I only had weekends) I took Black Wings apart, restructured it, and filled in gaps. All the time and effort was worth it. Working with Molly again was incredible.

Black Wings was published in December 2011.

Over the past year, I’ve been busy trying to market it. I’ll be heading to the Virginia Festival of the Book in a few weeks to be part of a Crime/Thriller panel. After that, I’ve told myself I need to start writing again. Get back on a regimented schedule and detail Bridget’s next adventure. I’ve been taking notes and I have a pretty good idea of the setting and conflict. Now, I need to just write.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!

Stop by her fan page and say hi from me

Check out this book trailer too. You don't really see to many of these, but this one is pretty enticing. Too bad they don't show book commercials on TV. Now wouldn't that boost sales.

I hope you enjoyed your visit with Kathleen; I know I did. She says she's getting brave and trying to work something with that other book in her drawer. I think, after reading this book, we should really give her some encouragement. What do you think?

You can do this too, Kathleen. I know you can.


Jacqui said...

What a great story, Kathleen. My daughter is in her 4th year post USNA. Where did you serve prior to leaving?

I'd like to repost this interview on my blog, USNA or Bust ( It's perfect for my content. I like to show where post-USNA grads end up.

Let me know if this is OK.

Thanks, Anna, for introducing Kathleen!

Unknown said...

Hi Jacqui, thanks for writing! I'd love for you to repost the blog. I served on active duty for 6 years in Japan; Washington, DC; and Hawaii. I still serve as a Captain in the Navy Reserve as a Public Affairs Officer. I work in Norfolk now. I'd love to hear what you or your daughter think of Black Wings! I was a 1988 grad and will be heading back for my 25th reunion this fall. Hard to believe it's been that long! Best, Kathleen

William Kendall said...

What a story, Kathleen! Congratulations!