Sunday, September 20, 2015

Interview with Nova Scheller, Author of Avonelle's Gift

Interview with Nova Scheller, Author of Avonelle’s Gift.

Information about the book:

“I wear a locket filled with my grandmother’s bones.” So begins Avonelle’s Gift.

Can a descendant reach back into her family’s stories and recover relatives who have been lost, forgotten, rejected, or excluded? What can she discover and retrieve as she breaks through
negative judgments about her family’s past? Avonelle’s Gift vividly captures the history of a family over four generations, beginning with the love affair of two teenagers in 1900. A pregnant girl marries to save her family’s name during the years when childbirth and infancy are fraught with danger and mothers and babies could die. This book tells of two motherless children and how each 
affected the other. By blending available facts with both her historical research and her imagination, the author has filled in the
missing pieces of a tale that deserves to be told. As she focuses on bringing out what is emotionally true, she expresses the depth and complexity she finds in her family over several generations.

Avonelle’s Gift tells of early deaths, lost loves, lost families, unbridled ambition, political corruption, social ostracism, and redemption at a time when people could begin anew and rebuild
their lives for the better. Like so many family stories with villains, victims, and heroes, it tells of courage, determination, and the capacity for human hearts to change.

Title information
Title: Avonelle’s Gift
Author: Nova Scheller
Dimensions: 6” x 9”
Page count: 306 pp
Publisher: Amma’s BREATH
ISBN: 978-1-4951-6810-9

Paperback Price: $19.95 Available on; 
E-book on Kindle and other e-book sites. $5.99

1-- When did you begin writing? 

I wrote a lot in my work life and was published scientifically while I researched at UNC-CH. When I moved to working in big Pharma, I taught technical writing to company employees and edited/reorganized other scientists' reports. Finally, before I stopped working, I was writing Validation documents and finally investigation reports. In all these years I never wrote creatively and for popular publication. Writing this book, five years after I left the corporate world, has been a new phase in my life, intellectually and creatively.

2-- When and why did you begin writing this book?

My mother's stories about her Medling family framed so much of who I felt I was as a child. I always felt I was more of a Medling than a Scheller, my father's family. Part of that might have been because my mother was the one who told me about my father's family. My mother's intensity and our complicated mother-daughter relationship was also a factor. Before she died, she requested her ashes be mingled with my grandmother's and scattered. Once in possession of Ethel's ashes, I began a multi-year journey that connected the three of us.

One day while having lunch with a friend in 2010, after Mom's death, I was telling her about my mother's stories about her parents and her childhood. She stopped me and said, "You have to write a book about all this.  It deserves to be told." She said this with such certainty, I felt she was right.

During 2011, I made three trips to Missouri, researching the Bootheel area, where so much of the story took place. Each trip revealed more information.  The last one revealed the most as I journeyed from St. Louis to Jefferson City to Lake of the Ozarks where I went to the Osage River and released the remaining ashes of my grandmother.

3-- Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.

Writing and completing the book has been a multifaceted process. 2011, the first year after my mother's death, felt like an unfolding path as I "received" impression after impression of what I needed to do for her and my grandmother. I was very much aware that we had issues that flowed from one generation to the next. Several months after she died, I contacted her half-brother, Scott, to let him know she had passed. Months later he sent me their email correspondence from ten years earlier. It was their ongoing conversation for those three months that helped me see the man my grandfather Medling later became.

That same year, I began studying both shamanism and Family Constellations. Both of these healing modalities come from ancient traditions that all of our ancestors in the distant past would have accessed. The shaman receives information directly through spirit guides, while in a trance state. In Family Constellations, the group present creates an energy state that helps reveal answers sought by an individual in the group, and is called the Knowing Field. Both systems work with ancestral/generational issues or inheritances. 
Before that, two years before my mother died, I began studying Hinduism and the various incarnations of the Divine Mother, or Divine Feminine. Among the indigenous, ancient Vedic traditions, I learned of Pitru Paksha, the annual Honoring of the Ancestors. (This year it will begin on September 27, the Full Moon and go for two weeks, until the New Moon, October 12.). This was when I read Maya Tiwari's observation about standing on our ancestors' shoulders rather than carrying them on our backs. My new awareness, which began in 2007, deepened considerably while studying shamanism and Family Constellations. 

After two years of working with shamanism and Constellations, I got clear guidance that I was to begin writing the book in September 2013. Those earlier years helped me develop a more intuitive and receptive capacity. 

So, in September of 2013 and the winter of 2014, I took your writing class and began writing the first part of the book. You helped me understand how to set a scene and get out of the way of the story. I worked on the book for another year, through the spring of 2015.

4-- Talk about your writing process.

I had a basic diagram of what had happened with my grandparents but very little to go on for my great grandparents. I learned my great grandmother's name when I got my grandmother's death certificate. My mother told me what she knew about Avonelle, that he was her grandfather, whose name she was given. But she never knew where he came from, what happened to him after he saw his daughter that once, or how old her mother was when he found her. 

When going through her papers after she died, I found that information in a letter I had sent her 25 years earlier. She never answered but wrote the answers in red pencil. Then I strung together the few clues I had and pondered what made sense, was possible, and asked those long dead relatives what they wanted me to say. My writing would give them the voice that neither my grandmother, mother or I had ever heard. Since I never had children, I felt that speaking for these ancestors was a responsibility that had been left to me. Instead of my life focus moving out into the future, I sensed my charge was to look backward and help bring balance into my Family Soul. Doing so allowed these ancestors to be seen, felt, acknowledged and honored for living their lives the best they knew how.

Apart from the direct family information, I researched the genealogy I could find in and read extensively about the Bootheel region during the period of its reclamation. I researched some Civil War information for the documented and imagined parents and grandparents of the Dunns, Bakers and Medlings, for historical accuracy. As the story moved forward, I needed to understand what factory work in St. Louis was like in World War I, the effect of the Depression and how the country was changing during World War II. The story ends in San Diego, my childhood home, when I was 13.

5. How did you find the self-publishing process?

Because this was my first book, I used companies and approaches a friend used. It was expensive, but I knew when I was finished that not only was the book well-edited but the layout, proof-reading and book cover were top notch. I believe I can produce my next book less expensively but keep the same quality and polished appearance.

6. Do you have a work in progress now? Is it part of a series?

I know the family stories are not complete. With the book ending at my grandfather's death, I feel there will be another volume that addresses the family’s impact upon my mother's life and mine. Not all mothers and daughters have difficult relationships, but many do, especially women who choose the helping, healing, nurturing professions. Sharing what has worked for me feels like a valuable contribution to the collective. The decision not to have children allows me to also direct my energy towards both the past and future generations. The rootlessness of this increasingly technological age, the lack of village or communal life, is drawing many of us to think about simpler ways of being and living. We are in a period of realizing that what has been seen as old and irrelevant now seems new, fresh and sane.

I have not started writing yet. I some other ideas, too. Right now I am learning how to market this book.



Nova Scheller was born and raised on the west coast, in Oregon and Southern California respectively. She has lived in central North Carolina since 1980. She received her BS in Biochemistry from NC State and her Masters in Environmental Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her professional years were spent as a environmental chemistry researcher at UNC and as a corporate adult trainer in the pharmaceutical industry. She was downsized as her employer prepared for a corporate buyout and has been exploring her real life for the last eight years. Avonelle's Gift is her first book.


  1. I stumbled upon a Google excerpt of this book a few minutes ago while doing some genealogical research. My grandfather was Clarence Medling, the half-brother of Virgil Medling, Sr. in the book. This is very exciting--and the photo of Nova Scheller took my breath away because she resembles several of my aunts and cousins. I had heard many of these stories myself growing up. The description of my Great Aunt Goldie (Golda Medling) when she was in her 20's was especially sweet--because she was still that same sparkly fun person when I knew her in her 50's and 60's. What a nice surprise! Can't wait to read it in its

  2. Dr. John, I'm sure Nova would love to know this. I'll email her your post. She studied with me for several years and worked so hard on this book. Thanks for commenting. Judy Hogan