When Hover landed on my desk, I took a quick look but, honestly, as my list of summer reads grew longer, I wasn’t sure I could fit another into the pile. With so many fascinating summer-themed novels positioned to fill my time on the beach and the pool, a novel set on a naval carrier didn’t seem destined for my suitcase.

Author Anne A. Wilson, however, is from Arcadia. And as many of us who live here know, Arcadians support one another. And so, the emails began to arrive. 

As Hover hit its publishing date, I received an email from Anne’s publisher, letting me know that the author was from the area. A week later I received an email from someone who knew Anne. Not long after, two people sent me a message saying they had read the book and I had to include it in my book club coverage. After I took a look at Anne’s bio, my thoughts on reading her book began to change. 

Anne Hotis was born and bred in Arcadia. She attended Kaibab Elementary (now known as Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center), went to Ingleside Middle School and Arcadia High, where she graduated in 1984. Anne’s parents still live in the Arcadia home where she grew up, 49 years later.

This Arcadia local went to college at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering in 1989. 

“When you graduate, you are commissioned as an officer in the Navy, or the marine corps, if that’s what you select,” said Anne. “I then went to U.S. Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Florida and received my wings in February 1991.”

Anne was stationed in San Diego at Naval Air Station North Island, which is located on Coronado Island, from 1991-1995. She then spent her shore tour at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada and was a search and rescue pilot there from 1995-1998. While in Nevada, Anne flew search and rescue with the H-1 Huey helicopter and is credited with 31 lives saved. The Naval Helicopter Association named Anne and her crew Helicopter Aircrew of the Year (non-embarked) for 1997 for rescuing 13 people in the 100-year flood that affected the area surrounding Reno and Yosemite. 

Today, Anne lives in Fountain Hills with her husband, Bill, and two 13-year-old sons, Adam and Isaac. Bill and Anne own a triathlon coaching company called Camelback Coaching, where they have trained residents for over 12 years.

Once I learned the facts on this woman – who sounded more like superwoman than a local author – I was intrigued. So on one particularly scorching afternoon, I placed myself upon my pool raft, opened the pages of Hover, and was absolutely mesmerized.

I assumed I was about to enter a world of military jargon and intensity. While those elements are present, the pages are filled with enthralling action and endearing relationships. Anne brings her knowledge and experience to the story with exquisite ease, painting a picture of military life, while developing fully formed characters that possess vulnerability along with toughness. 

Hover is not only a perfect summer read; it’s an absolutely perfect anytime read.

Protagonist Sara Denning has spent her military career achieving success as a naval helicopter pilot. But in the meantime, she has lost all sense of herself. When she suddenly becomes part of a secret mission, led by the biggest and brightest personalities of her career, Sara must face the intensity of the mission as well as the fears that plague her life.

And within it all there is also a pretty spectacular love story.

I’m not ashamed to say that at first glance I was wrong. Anne is without a doubt an author to keep your eye on…and she’s from Arcadia!

On September 24, the Arcadia News Book Club is honored to have Anne join our group for a night of in-depth discussion. This is a night not to be missed. Join us at 6:30 p.m. at the Saguaro Library for refreshments, great friends and a raffle (tickets are $5) benefitting the charity Don’t be a Chump, Check for a Lump! To attend, please email Amanda@arcadianews.com.

Recently Arcadia News had the pleasure of talking with Anne about her novel. Our discussion is below.

AN:Hover is a novel based within the military. Can you explain your military background and how it helped in writing this novel? 

AW: I attended the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and then served nine years active duty as a Navy helicopter pilot. Hover is set in a Navy battle group, which is where I spent much of my time during my first sea tour. I flew a logistics helicopter, and we were charged with transferring cargo and passengers from ship to ship. Fortunately, I kept journals during my time at sea, never guessing I’d be referring to them later for the purpose of writing a novel.  

AN: Have you always been a writer at heart? Can you explain your path to becoming an author? 

AW: I’m so passionate about writing now that I have to believe the writer inside was always present. She was just tucked away and locked up tight for the first 43 years of my life! Growing up, it was all about math and science for me, which ultimately led to an engineering degree – probably not the most common path for a novelist. But six years ago, I had just finished reading a novel, went out for a run, and was thinking about what to read next. I contemplated “Anne’s ultimate escape novel,” and by the end of the run, I had the premise for a story. When I got home, I sat down at my computer – why, I still have no idea – and wrote the first chapter of the story I wanted to read. And something just clicked. It was the most liberating thing I’d ever experienced. I went on to complete four novels before deciding I wanted to try to get published. That’s when I wrote Hover.

AN: Is any part of Sara, your main character, autobiographical? 

AW: Yes. Like Sara, I was one of only two women on a ship in a crew of 500, so I took great pains not to stand out. I didn’t wear make-up, kept my hair pulled back, and disappeared into the uniform. Also like Sara, I dressed conservatively, never leaving the ship in anything feminine looking, like skirts or dresses. I really did shut off that feminine side of myself and assumed a very gender-neutral persona. It helped me survive in that environment, but I don’t know if it was a very well-rounded way to be. Let’s just say, now that I’m 17 years removed from the military, I’m much more comfortable in my feminine skin. 

AN: Sara’s self-discovery was balanced within a tough, gritty military world. Was it difficult to combine a book on emotional evolution with military life and jargon? 

AW: I love that you mention this, because this was always the goal – to get that balance right. At first, though, it wasn’t right. My original drafts of the manuscript were more military heavy: lots of technical details. Thank the stars for my beta readers, who gently suggested I dial it back. And then, once I started working with my agent and editor, I think we got it to a more balanced place.   

AN: Are you working on a second novel? 

AW: I am. In fact, it’s already finished and will be released in June 2016. The title is Clear to Lift. It’s a love story set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California about a female search and rescue helicopter pilot who learns that it’s not always a bad thing to break the rules.

AN: If you were able to have dinner with three literary characters, who would they be and why? 

AW: (1) Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables. Love her spunk, strength, independence, but also, that sweetness and vulnerability underneath. I’d even wear puffed sleeves, if that were what it took to secure the dinner date! (2) Jo March, Little Women. We could slide into an easy conversation, each completely understanding the other. (3) The Little Prince, The Little Prince. Would love to pick his brain about the meaning of things.