Author with Upper Peninsula roots pens new novel
MARQUETTE — There are plenty of challenges depicted in Carol Mackela’s new book, “Noon Skate.”
Mackela, who grew up in Flint but now lives in Springfield, Virginia, has just completed a novel about ice dancing.
However, as big as winter sports are in the Upper Peninsula where her paternal grandparents settled, there should be more in the book to interest the reader — the law, an apartment fire and other issues.
One of the protagonists is skater Monica Jones, who faces many hurdles.
“I threw everything I could in front of her,” Mackela said.
According to the plot’s synopsis, skaters Jones and Brad Peltonen share a passion for ice dancing. From the moment Peltonen pulls Jones in “for an unexpected but welcome kiss” at the end of a skating session, Jones wonders whether they have enough in common for an off-ice relationship, and if Peltonen really has eyes for another skater.
Jones, a single mom and paralegal in Center City, Michigan, has been working with a coach for six years through the test levels of ice dancing: bronze, pre-silver, silver and pre-gold — and now is skating at the gold level. If she passes the four gold dances at a test session, she wil be declared a gold dance medalist akin to a black belt in martial arts.
Peltonen shares the same goal, so he practices daily with Monica — at “noon skate.”
However, life intervenes for Jones, and not in an easy way. She lost “everything except her life” in an apartment fire, so she has to postpone her upcoming ice dance test to come up with the funds to buy a new pair of expensive ice skates.
Jones also must deal with unsuccessful test sessions, Peltonen’s sudden illness and the loss of her job.
Mackela knows the Upper Peninsula, with her paternal grandparents, also Finnish immigrants, having settled in Ishpeming. They later moved to Rock as homesteaders but returned to Ishpeming, living until end of their lives on Jasper Street where her father, Ahti Makela, was born.
Notice the different surname spelling.
Mackela said the name was changed to be more “American.”
“A lot of people think Mackela, the way I spell it, is Irish or African, but it’s actually Finnish,” she said.
A common literary piece of advice is to “write what you know.”
Mackela knows her subject matter well. She was an ice dancer who went through all the levels that Jones did, although it didn’t take as long for the fictional character to achieve the levels as it took the author.
“I put her on the fast track,” she said.
For Mackela, it took 8 years, 4 months to earn her gold level.
Ice dancing is her passion for several reasons.
“The movement and the music,” she said. “It’s like ballroom dancing on the ice, but you’re moving a lot faster.”
And even thought the sport’s movements can repeat themselves over and over, Mackela said creativity still can be achieved; a skater’s head and knees, for example, can be moved in different ways.
“It’s a lot of fun, good exercise, moving to music,” Mackela said.
She wrote “Noon Skate” rote as part of National Novel Writing Month — also known as NaNoWriMo — which takes place in November. The month was founded by novelist Chris Baty, who is an inspiration of sorts for Mackela.
She said Baty stressed the goal of striving for “exuberant imperfection.”
Baty was quoted as saying in Small Print Magazine: “Somewhere around adolescence, though, most of us stop visiting those imaginary worlds. We get self-conscious. We see that other kids are much better writers or artists than we are, so we cede that creative space to them. And they in turn cede it to others who are better still. The blank page stops being an invitation and becomes intimidating.”
Mackela said it took about a month to write the first draft of “Noon Skate,” followed by editing and revising. The idea was to write a certain number of words per day.
She already achieved success with her novel “On Your Feet,” a romance about ballroom dancing that received an Indie Excellence Award in 2009.
Mackela is retired after having gone through several careers, one of which involved 18 years in the U.S. Department of Justice as a trial attorney focused on civil rights.
In her retirement, she writes books for fun, but said she doesn’t know when she will write another one
“Don’t have a plot right now,” Mackela said.
“Noon Skate” is available at Amazon and Kindle.