PITMAN, N.J. — Author Christa Conklin had been around fantasy fiction since she was a young child. Her father had filled her bookshelves with novels from the likes of C. S. Lewis to Robert Jordan.
“[My dad] began buying me fantasy books as gifts when I was young,” Conklin said. “When he saw how much I loved the genre, he kept up the practice, including books by Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, and David Eddings.”
Conklin says that she remembers coming home from the library carrying several books, lining them up on the couch, and then reading a chapter from each, repeating the sequence until she had finished each novel.
“I’ve always loved to read fantasy,” Conklin said. “The deep world building and character development typical of this genre transports me into these new worlds, and I live there for a while with characters that I grow to know intimately.”
To Conklin, fantasy fiction lends itself to endless opportunities to create worlds, people, and creatures that have never before existed.
“Exploring real world issues handled by fictional characters within these fantastical environments is intriguing, and often reveals truth hidden from us by the overwhelming noise of reality,” she said. “As author Lloyd Alexander said, ‘Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.’”
Conklin found writing her most recent novel, Tranquility, therapeutic during a trying time.
“I began writing Tranquility when my father was ill and my son was young,” Conklin said. “My days were full. Therefore, the first draft was not written quickly, but the process was therapeutic and kept my active imagination centered on creating a new world instead of worry.”
She saw a strange parallel between her father’s illness and that of one of her favorite authors, Robert Jordan. Jordan worked on writing his fantasy fiction series, Wheel of Time, when he was diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis which causes thickening of different sections of the heart leading to decreased cardiac function. Around the same time, Conklin’s father struggled with a similar disease, multiple myeloma. The two endured identical treatments, even taking part in a study for the same drug.
Jordan did not live to complete his Wheel of Time series, and Conklin’s father passed away not long after.
“He was so proud I was writing,” she said of her father. “I believe he found great satisfaction in knowing the key role he played in developing my love of fantasy.”
Inspired by her father’s encouragement and Jordan’s dedication to his readers, Conklin created a new world in her debut young adult fantasy novel, Tranquility.
In her novel, Conklin introduces readers to the “One People” who find guidance to peace and unity in the pages of TRANQUILITY. The protagonist, Drethene, views the methods prescribed in the book as hurtful attempts to escape their diverse ancestry. When Drethene discovers another world as part of her people’s heritage, a well-established enemy is revealed, and she rises to meet the truth and save both worlds.
Drethene then must convince the One People that their lives are not as tranquil as they seem. The One People are being hunted and must reunite with a sister-world that has been erased from their past. If they choose to remain in the comfort of their rewritten history and false sense of peace, they will be dragged into the maelstrom they have forgotten to fear.
Tonja Drecker, Top 100 Children Book Bloggers, Best of Blogs Middle Grade Shelf Magazine, said “the characters, including Drethene, are well depicted and grab with their different personalities and problems. The tale is well woven with just the right amount of tension at the right time, which glides deeper and deeper into the mystery behind the history.”
With the encouragement from her father, Conklin remained persistent in her writing of the novel and found other inspiration all around her.
“Once a week my son took a two hour class at the Philadelphia Zoo,” she explained. “I would write surrounded by encouraging staffers who cheered me on, and incredible, inspirational creatures. A pair of southern ground hornbills inspired two characters in the last chapter of Tranquility. These same two birds still reside at the Philadelphia Zoo today.”
Raised in Edison, N.J. Conklin now lives in Pitman with her meteorologist husband and their two children. She received her Bachelor’s Degrees in Music Performance and Communication from Rutgers College and her Master’s Degree from Monmouth University. She worked for the New York Philharmonic and Young Audiences New Jersey “to bring professional artists together with students and teachers, often joining them in theaters and studios to experience the arts as creators and audience members,” according to her website.
Writing is not the only medium in which the author endeavors. Conklin works as an instructor at a music school in Pitman, providing private and small group instrumental instruction and is a trained woodwind player.
“[My dad] was a classically trained pianist who loved to hike” Conklin said. “My mom is also a classically trained musician in piano and voice. I followed in my parents’ musical footsteps.”
Conklin says she enjoys sharing her work with readers and the conversations it creates.
“My story becomes theirs as soon as they read or hear the words,” she said. “The story is alive and bigger than my intention. Readers are constantly sharing insights into characters and situations in Tranquility that I did not see.”
Conklin, who is already working on the sequel to Tranquility, will be sharing her story with Bogart’s Book Club in Millville on Sunday, December 8 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. followed by a book signing. Bogart’s is located at 103 North High Street in Millville.
“I always look forward to hearing what readers discover,” she said.
Tranquility, published by Elk Lake Publishing, is available in paperback and eBook formats online, and at select bookstores or from her website, christaconklin.com.