By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
“The Wood” that gives the title to Chelsea Bobulski’s debut novel is located along Route 315 that travels along the Olentangy River as it winds along the route to Columbus. That’s a familiar stretch of road for Bobulski who grew up in the Columbus area and attended Ohio State University. She always enjoys the drive.
Her imagination has conjured a darker, fantastic image of those woods. It’s a place where a teenage girl finds purpose, loss, and romance in a mysterious world.
Sometimes people wander into The Wood from other time periods. The teenage Winter serves as a guardian, as her father was before and she is responsible for guiding them back to their own times lest the historic continuum collapse. But now something is seriously wrong and aided by a handsome young stranger from 18th century England, Winter must find out what’s happening. She also finds romance.
In “The Wood,” Bobulski, 27, has taken the first steps to literary success. This gripping fantasy will be issued Aug. 1 by the major publisher Macmillan. The night before, Bobulski will celebrate the publication with a book release party in her Perrysburg hometown. Gathering Volumes, 196 E. Boundary St., will host the party Monday, July 31 from 7 to 9 p.m. Bobulski will be on hand to sign books, and talk with readers. She said she’d be happy to answer any questions people have about her “publishing journey.” Cupcakes from Cake in a Cup will be served.
“I was telling stories since I was very little,” Bobulski said in a recent telephone interview. When she was in third grade, an author visited her school and she got her first sense that maybe writing could be a career. But while she dreamed, she never thought she could be a published writer. “I put other authors on pedestals.”
She read the Harry Potter books “which was everything to me as a kid.” But, she added, “I mostly read what I could find at my local Kmart, which was usually like paperback romances.”
It wasn’t until she was attending Ohio State majoring in history that she read the “Twilight” series. “That was kind of my intro to young adult world, when I started reading young adult books,” she said. “I just got hooked. It all clicked for me. This is what fits my writing my style. I realized this is what I’ve been trying to write all along, and I didn’t even know much about it.”
For her the teenage years are “such an interesting time in a person’s life. For me, especially, I remember it so vividly as this time when you are simultaneously trying to find yourself and find your place in this world while trying to hold onto past things like friendships.
“Those friendships,” Bobulski said, “tend to either get stronger or break apart. As people find themselves, they tend to follow different paths. And you are terrified what the future is going to bring. You’re trying to prepare, but how do you prepare for something when you don’t even know what to expect?”
Those real life tensions form the emotional backbone of the fantasy in “The Wood.”
At OSU she also took a writing workshop with author Lisa Klein. “She started at the same place I was, with an idea but no book,” Bobulski said. If Klein could do it, “why couldn’t I?”
From then on her goal was to get a book into print.
Her history studies fit well with her ambition to write. “History is such a good thing for writers. History is made up of stories of people trying to live their daily lives and these amazing and incredible things happen around them.”
So in “The Wood,” Winter contends with the drama of high school and her relationship with her mother while events of cosmic import unfold in the trees just beyond her yard.
Being determined to write, though, was just the start. Bobulski wrote four other unpublished novels. Two like “The Wood” were fantasies, another was an historical novel, and another had a Steampunk setting.
She learned from each, though, she’s glad no one else is going to read them.
When she graduated from OSU, she intended to be a history teacher. “The number one reason was so I would have the summers off so I could write.” Her husband, Nathan – “we were high school sweethearts” – told her: “If you want to write just do it. He’s been my biggest supporter.”
They moved to Perrysburg in 2010 for his job.
Bobulski writes every day. That discipline is essential to learning the craft, she said. That’s been disrupted some with the birth of their first child, Emerson, (named for the writer) who will celebrate her first birthday a few days after her mother’s novel is published.
“I can’t believe how much time I had on my hands,” Bobulski said looking back on her days before motherhood. “Now I write while she’s napping. Some days it doesn’t happen. But even when you’re not physically writing, you’re subconsciously plotting things out.”
Bobulski was intent on publishing in the traditional way working with an agent who places the book with a publisher.
She eventually found her agent, Andrea Somberg, through her participation in Pitch Wars, an online writing competition. “It’s a great writing contest for any one wants to have a book published.”
Once she had an agent, the novel underwent a long gestation of rewriting, revision, and editing before Macmillan, one of the largest publishers in the world, accepted it.
Looking back at the process, and the support and guidance, she’s received along the way, Bobulski is touched. “I’ve been very blessed.”