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Wyoming author finds inspiration from pandemic for novel

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As the pandemic swept across the world, 26-year-old dentist Marlene loses her job and apartment in Yuma, Arizona, forcing her to move back to her parent’s ranch in Olsen County, Wyoming. Once on the ranch, Marlene discovers she is a changeling — a fairy switched with a human child.

That’s the premise of author Helen M. Pugsley’s new book “The Tooth Fairy.” Pugsley of Lingle, Wyoming, said she was inspired to write this story as she found herself cooped up at home last year.

As a former librarian, Pugsley’s passion for writing started from a young age. She said she wrote her first book when she was 4 years old and has since published “War and Chess,” with its sequel, “Tales from the Gishlan Wood,” coming out this summer.

“I was stuck in the house and everything was brand new and exciting,” she said. “I thought, ‘What if someone like me in an agricultural community found out that they were actually a changeling after they had to give up their job because of COVID?’”

Once Marlene makes this discovery, she learns there is a human girl named Krysathia in Fairyland “wearing her face.” After the women develop a friendship, that’s when the tale takes a dark turn. Marlene not only has to save her newfound sister, but also save herself from the pandemic and poverty.

Pugsley said the idea about someone discovering they were a changeling had been in her head, but when the pandemic began, she said that enhanced the storyline.

“I had had the idea of, 'What if there was a changeling woman in an agricultural community for a while.' Then, COVID was kind of the cherry on top and I said, ‘OK, what if I run with this and she is home because of COVID?’” she said. “It all fell together and suddenly, I had a book.”

Working through the writing process, the story continued to unfold on the page, until Pugsley reached the end.

“I had writer’s block until I went to Arizona to go see my grandparents,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do about the ending … I was sitting there watching TV with my step-grandmother and I picked up the pen and it all fell out.”

While she does not normally work this fast on a story, Pugsley said she wanted to get the novel published due to its timeliness with the current state of the world.

“I was thinking, ‘We all just got out of COVID. I just got my second vaccine. People are going to stop being interested in this.’”

To expedite the process, she elected for self-publishing. However, publishing a book in a year had several challenges.

“My editor decided to go back to college … and I’m so happy for her, but I had to find a new one,” she said. “Then, my cover artist got sick, so I also had to find a new one in the 11th hour.”

Pugsley said self-publishing a book is challenging, especially after having support from a publisher to get her first book out.

“Self-publishing, I had to learn a lot more of the process that I’m used to having other people take care of for me,” she said. “Little things like hiring a cover artist and trying to figure out what to do with the ISBN, copywriting and writing the disclaimer at the front of the novel.”

The most difficult aspect of the publishing process was formatting, Pugsley said. The process took her three days.

“The margins need to be just right and I want to make sure I didn’t accidentally have three blank pages in the middle of the book,” she said. “It’s the little things that go into making a book that when visually you’re reading a book, you see it.”

The “Tooth Fairy” is Pugsley’s first novel for adults and is written with “strong language.” It is classified as an urban fantasy, although the setting of a ranch is less than urban, she said.

The novel became available for purchase June 18 on Amazon.

When readers pick up the novel, Pugsley said she hopes they are entertained.

“I made it purely for fun and I hope they have as much fun reading it as I had making it,” she said.

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