Lake Norman & Mooresville

Writer publishes post-apocalyptic novel

When you ask Davidson resident Gretchen Hummel about one of her earliest memories, she recalls a bookmobile that frequented her childhood neighborhood in a rural area near Omaha, Neb.

One day, she checked out a book - "The Garden Behind the Moon" by Howard Pyle - and got swept up in the story of a young boy who follows a path to a magical world beyond the moon.

The bookmobile returned before she could finish, though, and she broken-heartedly returned the story, comforted only by the promise that she could check it out again next time.

However, when the bookmobile returned, the novel was gone.

So Hummel came up with the only solution she could think of - she wrote her own ending for the book.

Hummel is still writing book endings, along with beginnings and middles, and is excited that her first novel, "Dreamer's Island," was recently published. A post-apocalyptic story about a mother searching for her kidnapped daughter on an island that was formerly San Francisco, the novel appeals to lovers of science, future and medical fiction and has elements of mystery and romance.

A long-time lover of the fantasy and science fiction genre, 57-year-old Hummel spent childhood stints in places such as Omaha, but she calls Denver, Colo., her hometown. She's lived in the Concord Road area of Davidson for the last eight years, and has not only an MFA in creative writing but also a master's degree in nursing.

She is inspired not just by authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Margaret Atwood but by her background in psychiatric nursing. Her first novel centered on schizophrenia, which her brother suffers with. She said the process of writing the book was cathartic. "I think a lot of people's first book has a lot of autobiographical elements." She's also written a collection of short stories.

But the science fiction genre is her love, partly because of the freedom it allows.

"A fantasy/ sci-fi writer can allow their imagination to soar," Hummel said. And she enjoys the process of writing a novel. "There are so many different threads you can weave in and create these whole new worlds," she said.

"Dreamer's Island" had inspiration in an unusual place - tarot cards. After a visit with a friend who read the cards, Hummel began to think particularly about the roots of the devil card.

"I began to play around with the ideas of good and bad and how writers can try and resolve unresolvable conflicts," she said. In "Dreamer's Island," the main character, Blair, is a tarot-card artist.

Hummel is quick to point out that her novel is a bit different from other post-apocalyptic pieces. "There isn't a really dark tone. There's mystery and suspense, but it doesn't have a hopeless, despairing feeling to it. In a sense, it's about finding good," she said.