For some people, cracking open a book and delving into its content is a magical experience.
Books have the ability to transport readers to foreign lands and parallel universes, bring respite to the weary, and can even inspire them to try writing their own. Alicia Wiggins is one of those people.
"Growing up, I always loved to read and write, but I never fully explored writing until 13 or 14 years ago," said the Urbancrest resident and 1981 graduate of Grove City High School.
One year, Wiggins came across an advertisement for a short story contest and decided to enter, but found herself struggling to stay under the allotted word count.
"I couldn’t stop writing because I was having too much fun," she said laughing. "I knew this was something I wanted to do all the time."
For the past 11 years, the mother of three has been working as an operations manager at the American Commerce Insurance Company, which she jokingly refers to as her "mortgage paying job," but still manages to find the time to write.
In fact, she has had three African-American romance novels published since 1999, and her fourth novel, "A Place Like Home," will be hitting the shelves the beginning of May.
"’A Place Like Home’ is about two characters who are in different places in their lives," she said.
"The hero is recent widower who moves back to his hometown of Benton Lake, Ohio to restore balance to his and his teenager daughter’s lives, and the heroine has been in a long-term relationship with a man she never really loved and has spent her whole life living up to other people’s expectations and never going after what she wanted."
She adds, "Of course their paths have to cross in Benton Lake, the only place both of them ever felt real."
Even though the main characters in romance novels often find themselves struggling with repressed feelings and personal dramas, Wiggins said she loves reading and writing them because "they always have a happy ending."
"They may have to take a long road to get there, but they always find a way to work out at the end," she said.
Wiggins also had to take a long road to get her first novel, "Unconditional Love," published.
"I was definitely rejected," she remembered. "I got about 50 or 60 rejections and it was a humbling experience."
Then she got a one-book deal with the Columbus, Miss. based Genesis Press Inc. Since 1999, Genesis Press Inc. has published all four of her novels.
"I was so excited when I was told I was going to be published," Wiggins said. "This is the fourth book I’ve written and I’m still so excited. It’s just unreal and very hard to explain. It was humbling thinking ‘Wow, someone really liked it.’
"It’s just so unbelievable to hold that finished product in your hands, to see that manuscript you worked on printed and your name on the cover and know that this is mine."
She is currently working on a sequel to "A Place Like Home" and her first mainstream novel, a fictional, politically based story about elected officials, their wives, their mistresses, corruption charges, and the lives of the "Average Joes" affected by the scandal.
"From start to finish, it takes me about a year to complete a book," she said. "I have to research, build the characters, plots and settings, and know the direction of the book and then send it off to the publisher." She sighs while adding, "I just wish I could write faster."
Wiggins said she doesn’t expect her novels to make it on the best-sellers list, at least not yet, but just wants people to take a few moments to relax and indulge themselves in a little romantic fantasy.
"If it takes them away from everyday stresses such as paying the bills, their children, their jobs or anything else that is going on in their lives for a little while, then I have accomplished my goal."
Her novels can be purchased at any area bookstore or online outlets (such as Amazon.com), and an excerpt from her latest book, "A Place Like Home," can be found at www.aliciawiggins.com.