Lisa Wilkes Takes Flight

Lisa Wilkes

Looking for inspiration to kickstart your own transformation? Look no further than Lisa Wilkes! This author has released her latest book, “Mid-Flight,” which showcases a powerful story of personal growth and self-discovery.  It follows the journey of a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly drawn to aviation, and explores themes of passion, purpose, and the courage to pursue one’s dreams. A must-read for anyone looking to break free from the constraints of their current life and chart a new course for themselves.

With her warmth, wisdom, and infectious enthusiasm, Lisa is a true inspiration to all who know her. So, whether you’re looking to pursue your own passion, write your own story, or simply gain a fresh perspective on life, you won’t want to miss the insights and inspiration she has to offer.

You have described yourself as a “serial entrepreneur.” Can you share with us some of the other business ventures you have pursued in addition to writing?

Sure, and thank you for hosting me. I am honored to join this impressive community of trailblazers.

I was an entrepreneur long before I understood the term’s meaning. The status quo has never impressed me. Where others saw fixed circumstances, immutable in structure and function, I saw opportunity. I couldn’t accept things as they were without considering their potential for something greater.

When I was eight years old, I wrote a novel about a rescue cat. Nearly every YA book at the library capitalized on tired old stereotypes. The female characters were weak and docile. The males were usually smug. Everyone adhered to shallow, self-serving goals.

This really bothered me.

My friends and I were nothing like those flat, one-dimensional characters. We wrote songs together, then rehearsed and performed them during recess. We set up lemonade stands. We created a neighborhood book sale, raising a lot more money than we had predicted. I donated my share to an animal shelter.

The YA books at the library didn’t apply to my nuanced life. They didn’t even scratch the surface. So I took matters into my own hands.

When I started writing, I made a vow: my book would not pigeonhole characters. In my novel, there would be no preconceived notions based on age, gender, or race. My book would capture the beauty of diversity. It would address the importance of helping animals, our planet, and each other.

I completed the book in three months. Around that time, I started designing homemade board games. Some turned out great. Others were an epic failure, but that didn’t slow me down. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit are willing to take bold risks. Through trial and error, we learn what works and what doesn’t. We constantly seek improvements until our objective has been attained, then we enhance our goal and strive toward something even more magnificent.

In college, I created a mentorship program that paired college students with elementary school kids. I simultaneously launched the first human rights organization my university had ever seen. Both programs have expanded and flourished over the years. The legacy continues, stronger than ever.

I became a flight attendant for a major airline in my mid-twenties. The next few years were a happy whirlwind: I zipped around the country, composed several full-length novels, rescued every animal I could, and wrote web content for non-profit organizations as well as small businesses. In 2019, I landed a book contract with a mid-sized New York publishing house. One year later, I accepted a position as Web Content Editor for Zephyr Aviation, an innovative aviation-themed wallet company. I also enrolled in grad school, working toward a Master’s in Social Work.

Clearly, my plate was full.- Yet I wanted to do more. I needed to do more. As an activist and lifelong empath, I was appalled by the increasingly authoritarian political climate. Laws were passed to deliberately harm people. I vowed to use my literary talents to restore human and animal rights. In September of 2021, when the government in Texas revoked bodily autonomy for women, I created a website for women in need. After establishing an intricate network of physicians, volunteers, clinics, and transportation services, I compiled those resources into a user-friendly webpage. Then I helped women select the services most relevant to their unique circumstances.

My activism didn’t stop there. Years of involvement in animal rescue had revealed a growing need to protect homeless pets. In Florida and Texas, the euthanasia rate is extremely high; local shelters kill dozens of healthy dogs and cats every single day. Countless abused, discarded, and neglected pets end up on death row at the county shelters. I’ve fostered as many cats and dogs as possible, but I wanted to have an even bigger impact.

So I created a platform showcasing my books, handmade crafts, and literary services. All my products were consolidated into an online shop. I donated the revenue from each purchase to charities working tirelessly to save animals from euthanasia.

Over the past few months, I’ve also participated in artisan fairs, selling my books, crafts, and art alongside local entrepreneurs. All proceeds are given to animal rescue organizations. The fulfillment I derive from this initiative can’t be captured in words. It’s amazing to watch my creative passions benefit people and animals in need. I will continue seizing every opportunity to apply my talents to a worthwhile cause.

Mid-Flight” explores the theme of personal transformation. What are some of the insights or lessons you hope readers will take away from the book?

Mid-Flight was a huge leap of faith for me. In contrast to my first published novel, a lighthearted romance, Mid-Flight tackles serious societal issues, including racial injustice and homophobia. In addition, mental illness is addressed throughout the book.

I want readers to feel empowered and loved, despite the hostility that has reared its ugly head in recent years. Here in Florida, 30 bills restricting reproductive freedoms and revoking LGBTQ+ rights have been passed over the past two months. That’s outrageous. It’s embarrassing and unacceptable. This malicious crusade, aptly deemed the “Slate of Hate,” has galvanized violent extremists and conspiracy theorists.

My book offers an alternative to that toxic environment. Mid-Flight’s characters embody empathy and acceptance.

The novel required ample research and perseverance. During my eight-month internship in a hospital, I witnessed the psychological impact of systemic discrimination. Every day, I saw the consequences of strategic abuse and manipulation, often by people in power. I knew my next novel would allude to this type of injustice. I couldn’t write another carefree romance, not after everything I had witnessed and studied. In 2020, racial injustice was catapulted to a national stage. This further solidified my resolve to discuss the effects systemic inequality.

Mid-Flight fosters a sense of inclusion. In a society teeming with vitriol, I hope to provide much-needed reassurance to all who have been targeted by narrow-minded extremists.

Mid-Flight is a dystopian thriller with a social conscience. If this book empowers and validates marginalized individuals, allowing them to feel seen and understood and inspired, then it has achieved its purpose.

Your website mentions that you draw from your own personal experiences in your writing. How much of “Mid-Flight” is based on your own journey?

My job as a flight attendant definitely influenced Mid-Flight. While the storyline is pure fiction, I kept the aviation references as realistic as possible.

My experience as an activist, social worker, and animal rescuer also contributed to the book. Basically, I incorporated all my passions into Mid-Flight. This post-apocalyptic novel sharpened my skills as a writer and humanitarian. I learned so much during my grad school internship. I also acquired a wealth of knowledge when I launched a website restoring reproductive freedoms. This philanthropic undertaking threatened my safety. Mid-Flight was equally risky, but the rewards outweighed the dangers.

Sometimes we have to stand up for what’s right, no matter the cost. That was a lived experience for me. It’s also one of the loudest messages conveyed by Mid-Flight. Often, authority figures secure their wealth and power by limiting the rights of dissenters. Underrepresented groups suffer most. Those deemed unworthy or “less than” are subject to a barrage of threats and restrictions. It’s a story as old as time.

We have the power to rewrite the ending, though. We don’t have to accept widespread bigotry and manipulation. We can change the course of history, just like Lexi, Jason, and Colin did in Mid-Flight. But we’d better be prepared to put up a hell of a fight. And that’s exactly what I intend to do, in my writing as well as my personal ventures.

Mid-Flight” centers around a character who discovers her passion for aviation. Have you always had an interest in aviation, or was this something you researched specifically for the book?

I’ve been a flight attendant for a major airline since 2010.

Full disclosure: I fell into the industry by accident. After graduating from the University of Florida and subsequently completing two years of service with AmeriCorps (think: domestic Peace Corps), I found myself at a crossroads. I wanted to be a published author, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve that vision.

On a whim, I applied to be a flight attendant. I figured an airline job would give me the freedom to fly to New York City every week. In the Big Apple, I could easily network with renowned publishers/agents, kickstarting my career as a published author.

Truth be told, I was terrified of flying. Back then, I had panic attacks just thinking about an upcoming flight. My phobia was intense and pervasive. These days, flying feels extremely safe. Relaxing, even. I’ve grown familiar with every phase of flight. It’s second nature by now.

In 2010, however, I was wildly uncomfortable with air travel. I told myself to suck it up for one year. Just twelve months. If I could push past my fear of flying, I’d get to spend ample time in NYC.

I refused to let my irrational fears stand in the way of my dreams. In my mind, I’d land a huge publishing deal and disrupt the literary industry. Piece of cake, right?

I had no idea how airline schedules worked, nor did I understand the reserve system. I didn’t even know flight attendants could hold different positions, with weird names like “lead” and “purser” and strange alphabetical designations. I was clueless in every possible way.

Yet, to my surprise, I fell in love with the job.

I couldn’t get enough of this wild gig! It was fun to converse with strangers and visit cities I’d never seen. Boundless inspiration awaited me each time I touched down in a new destination.

Thirteen years later, I still adore my job. It’s likely all my future novels will feature a flight attendant or two. What can I say? I’m enamored with an industry I never imagined I’d join, and I like writing about the endless thrills of this fast-paced, nomadic lifestyle.

The cover of “Mid-Flight” features a striking image of a plane soaring through the clouds. Can you tell us about the symbolism behind this image and how it relates to the story?

In 2038, Lexi and Jason meet at a SkyLine Airways training in Florida. Although they work in different departments, they have a lot in common. For starters, they both appreciate the aviation industry. They also overcame significant obstacles to get to their current position. Lexi and Jason both experienced a devastating loss during the intergalactic meltdown of 2037. They remained level-headed when authorities launched a subsequent reign of terror. Instead of freaking out, Lexi and Jason kept their cool. They began quietly brainstorming an unassuming but powerful resistance.

The airplane on the cover of Mid-Flight represents their internal drive as well as their current predicament. Lexi and Jason are free spirits, determined to soar above the aggression and exclusion prevalent in their post-apocalyptic world.

Together, they vow to usher in a brighter future. Even if that goal comes with significant—and possibly fatal—risks.

Mid-Flight” is your second book. How did the experience of writing and publishing your first book inform your approach to this one?

In 2019, I was fortunate enough to secure a contract with The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) for my debut romance novel, Flight Path. TWRP has received a ton of awards, and for good reason: this publishing house sets writers up for success.

It can be difficult to navigate the literary world, especially as a first-time author. The Wild Rose Press connected me to vital resources and seasoned authors. They simplified the publishing process, start to finish. Pre-release publicity drives, release-day blitzes, and ongoing marketing efforts were made possible through TWRP’s ongoing support. Over a six-month span, I built a website and increased my social media following. There was a sharp learning curve. I created and streamlined a dozen author profiles across various literary platforms.

As Flight Path’s release day approached, I planned virtual events to incite interest among potential readers. I sent paperback copies to highly-regarded book reviewers, which helped Flight Path gain traction and momentum.

Mid-Flight was a whole different beast. This book had a new theme, point of view, and target audience.

Fortunately, I was able to tap into many of the resources which had proven invaluable during Flight Path’s launch. Writer’s circles, online networks, marketing guidebooks, and influential blogging communities helped Mid-Flight gain a sizeable following. I was surprised to learn that many book reviewers appreciated books in a wide range of genres. They were willing to evaluate my second book even though its tone and theme differed sharply from my debut novel.

In addition, I received a positive editorial review from Independent Book Review (IBR), which broadened the scope and impact of Mid-Flight.

IBR referred to Mid-Flight’s protagonist as a “flawed, endearing, gritty real, and relatable character who you want to stay with, whether she succeeds or fails,” adding that “Lexi’s queerness is commendable particularly for its authentically casual presence in her life.” As a writer, this is the biggest compliment imaginable. I am thrilled to watch my second novel take flight, connecting with readers all over the world.

What are your hopes for “Mid-Flight” and how do you see it fitting into your overall body of work as a writer and entrepreneur?

I donated 100% of my author royalties from the first week of sales to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit here in Tampa. I’ve been selling the book at local vendor fairs, then donating all proceeds to charity. I’m a serial philanthropist as much as I am a serial entrepreneur. After all, I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work and at least three decades’ worth of intense volunteerism under my belt. I will continually seek ways to use my creative talents for the greater good. Mid-Flight is no exception to that rule.

In fact, I have another exciting opportunity in a few weeks, this time through my airline. Four flight attendants were selected to sell items—in my case, books and homemade crafts, along with original art pieces—in the Orlando crew room, which serves as home base to several thousand flight attendants and pilots. All revenue will be donated to Rags to Riches Animals Rescue, Inc.

On a different note, I have mailed copies of Mid-Flight to human rights advocates and LGBTQ+ organizations across the country, with an overwhelmingly positive response from their peers, members, and followers. My protagonist, Lexi Brennan, is a bisexual flight attendant whose past trauma does not define her. This bold adventurer launches a grassroots rebellion. In doing so, she changes the course of history and tilts the scales toward equality.

Mid-Flight speaks to the value and dignity of all humans. I’ll keep dispersing this book to individuals who have been targeted or devalued by those in power, so they find solace in Mid-Flight’s message of acceptance and unyielding compassion.

What’s next for you?

I’m on the leadership board for my airline’s animal transport team, and I have my eye on a few upcoming rescue flights. That will be a fun and productive way to kick off the summer months. My foster kitty was adopted a couple weeks ago, so it’s only a matter of time before another homeless pet finds its way into my home—and my heart! I’m working closely with local nonprofits to set up recurring fundraisers. I’d love to start my own nonprofit by the end of the year, but I’m not giving myself a firm deadline, since I’ve got several projects in motion right now.

I’m also contemplating a freelance editorial position at a mid-sized publishing house here in Florida. The role would align nicely with my traveling lifestyle. However, since I already write web content for several organizations and maintain multiple humanitarian websites, I need to make sure I can allocate time for this new job opportunity without stretching myself too thin. Balance is everything, right?

On a different note, I’m thirty pages into my next novel, a mind-bending thriller about a love strong enough to transcend the barriers of time and space. I’ve never attempted to write a book about different dimensions before, but I’m always up for a challenge! In true entrepreneurial fashion, I’m eager to push the envelope and trek through uncharted territory. In my opinion, magic is rarely found on the well-worn, easy path. So I’ll lace up my shoes and opt for the tougher, scarier, far more riveting route.

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