He’s back! Allie Bennett never expected to see Gabe Morelli again after he hung her heart out to dry in a high school romance gone, well, sad. Yet, here he is, back in Wheeling after 12 long years. Before she can even fathom what that means, he leaves her hanging again — from a bridge! And, this time, it isn’t just a pack of mean girls watching. It’s the whole world.
Just in time for February — the month for romance — comes a brand-new way to love Weelunk!
Weelunk writer Nora Edinger introduces us to Allie Bennett and Gabe Morelli in a serialized fiction tale — “Suspended Aggravation” — that brings Wheeling people, places and things to life.
And it all starts on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.
First and foremost, it’s a love story. It’s also an “exploration of trust and faith,” says Edinger.
In scenes compiled from everyday Wheeling life, a “wild imagination,” and bits and pieces of her own life, Edinger’s characters grapple with their past and their present, on the way to their future.
Chapters will post weekly, each Sunday beginning Feb. 2. Don’t miss the “inside story” accompanying each chapter — some relevant Wheeling history and author notes — along with Wheeling photos to illustrate the tale. You might even see a few recognizable faces!
We think you’re going to “fall” for “Suspended Aggravation.”
For more on how Weelunk’s first fictional release came to be, read on. …
Q. Where did the idea come from for “Suspended Aggravation?”
A. It flowed in many ways from my first novel, “Dune Girl.” That book, which I released independently through Amazon, is a beach read. It’s light-hearted, with a lot of humor. But, just below the surface, I’m writing about the conflict between fear and hope. I knew I wanted my second book to be similar — a fun and easy read, but with an exploration of trust and faith this time.
So, the theme was there. Then, I started thinking about situations in which trust is an issue. I pulled from my own experience as a non-swimmer in a high school swim class and something I saw while visiting New River Gorge. I was down on the river watching tourists cross the catwalk, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if they fell. A 900-foot drop is possible. That’s a lot of faith in a rope.
I wrote the swim scene first, to get to the betrayal of trust that drives the plot. Once I got that far, the characters somehow let me know what they wanted to do next. Fortunately for me, they were agreeable to my plan of having them fall off a bridge together.
Q. Beyond those two scenes, can you give our readers a little hint to the characters and plotline?
A. Sure. Here is the Wheeling version of what I’ve been sharing with publishers:
While the book begins on Wheeling Suspension Bridge in a fictionalized February 2020, flashbacks reveal the story actually started in 2008. That is when main characters Allie and Gabe meet in high school, where he teaches her to swim as part of a gym class. An unusual friendship springs up between them in spite of the fact he is a senior and a popular athlete and she is freshman who is new to the U.S. because her parents only recently left the African mission field. The friendship turns openly romantic during a brief pre-graduation goodbye, but Allie’s trust in Gabe is shattered when he betrays her after their kiss is observed by his peers.
Of course, in 2020, the two meet again. Gabe has given up his womanizing ways in favor of faith, but he is unsure he can treat any woman well, particularly Allie. Allie, freshly wounded from a broken engagement, is unsure if she can trust any man, let alone one like Gabe. Trust or not, the pair are forced to re-explore their relationship when a new kiss is caught on camera and becomes a viral Internet image.
Q. Speaking of publishers, “Suspended Aggravation” is set in Wheeling. But, an earlier version of the book was set in Charleston, West Virginia. How did that happen?
A. I’ve moved around a lot. When I was writing my first novel, “Dune Girl,” it made sense to me to set it somewhere that is very dear to me, the Indiana Dunes. That’s where I partly grew up. That’s where I fell in love with and married my husband. It’s as much of a love story about a place as it is about a couple.
“Dune Girl” includes a couple of pivotal chapters in Canaan Valley, another place I love. Writing those, I realized I wanted my next book to be set entirely in West Virginia. I’ve lived in this state for 25 years (14 of those years in Wheeling) as of this summer. It’s home.
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I purposefully set the second book, whose original title is “A Kiss Is But a Kiss,” in Charleston to keep some distance between my real life in Wheeling and my fiction. I see that version — which I may or may not indy release as a separate book — as an overall West Virginia story. It’s Charleston-based, but there are chapters set at New River Gorge, the Greenbrier and Wheeling.
Weelunk offered an out-of-the-box publishing opportunity to take that West Virginia story and make it a Wheeling story. I’m delighted to be doing one book two ways.
Q. Was it difficult to change the setting from Charleston to Wheeling?
A. Yes and no. The story was already a West Virginia one. So, a lot of elements are the same.
But, Charleston — at least in my experience as a journalist who used to cover the Legislature — is a more southern city, full of political wiles that feel feminine to me even though most of the players are male.
Wheeling has a more masculine, industrial, midwestern vibe from the get-go. The new setting alone made the character Allie, especially, a little edgier in “Suspended Aggravation.”
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. Re-writing the first few chapters forced me to find new jobs and homes for the characters. They kept the same professions, but their places of employment and levels of employment had to change to fit the story to this city without messing up the plotline 10 chapters or 20 chapters down the road.
Those locational changes drove minor plot changes, and those drove changes to character behavior and even some dialogue. I hadn’t really expected all those differences to be able to unfold while the storyline remained intact.
Q. Were there any other surprises?
A. I didn’t expect to have so much fun bringing the story close to home. I like the Charleston version. But, I actually like the Wheeling version more. I know the characters better in this place. I wouldn’t be surprised to bump into them at Kroger.
It’s also been fun to sneak all sorts of insider detail into the story. Some of these plot tweaks will be shared as “Inside the story” blurbs at the end of each chapter post. Some will show up in illustration photos. Some are tied to real-life events and even a real person here and there.
Q. What is it like publishing a book in serial fashion through Weelunk?
A. That has been the other delight. Bringing this book setting home has, ironically, made me feel even more at home in Wheeling.
When we first came to the city in 2006, I knew it only as a new parent. My life was all about stashing enough quarters to feed the goats at the zoo, library storytime and meeting other moms at playgrounds. Then, there was a time I was writing books — a very solitary activity — followed by more than a year learning the city as a journalist thanks to Weelunk.
Working on this book-length project with Weelunk Managing Editor Phyllis Sigal, Editor-in-Chief Alex Weld, and photographers Dillon Richardson and Johnathon Porter has been a dose of newsroom joy that harks back to my newspaper work in the Chicago area and in Clarksburg, West Virginia. I love the Weelunk collaboration and community. Wheeling is home in a new way.
Q. Will there be any more Wheeling books?
A. Maybe. I’ve already written a sequel to “A Kiss is But a Kiss”/“Suspended Aggravation.” It’s called “Stand Still and Chill” and is mostly located in Canaan Valley and Snowshoe. That location is so tied to the plot it would be pretty hard to change, but some of the characters from “Suspended Aggravation” are there, and their home base could just as easily be Wheeling as Charleston.
More about Nora Edinger:
A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at noraedinger.com and Facebook and writes books. Her Christian chick lit and faith-related non-fiction are available on Amazon. She lives in Wheeling, where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household.