For Jeanne M. Dickson, being nominated for a 2018 RITA award is like being recognized at the Oscars.
The La Costa-based author was nominated for the award in the "Inspirational" category, from the Romance Writers of America (RWA), on March 21 for her debut novel, "Grounded Hearts." The RITA, named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, celebrates excellence in published romance writers, according to the organization's website. Up to 2,000 romance novels from 13 categories are judged each year.
"Like the Academy Awards, even if you don't win the actual statue, to be in that group really shows that you've worked hard and accomplished something," Dickson said. "To be a finalist is quite amazing. I feel honored to be in this group of amazing authors."
Dickson said she felt especially honored to be a finalist for the award, given that "Grounded Hearts" is her first published novel. She had previously written six other books that hadn't been picked up by a publisher.
The book, which was released last June, is set in Ireland during World War II, a country which had declared itself neutral in the war. When a young Canadian pilot crashes his plane on Irish soil, a midwife hides him, risking imprisonment. The woman, who lost her husband, wonders if she'll ever be able to find love again. Her faith becomes restored when she meets the pilot.
"In the end, he's saving her as much as she's saving him," Dickson said.
To research for the book, Dickson spoke with her father, who was born in Ireland, came over to the U.S. as a child and served during WWII. During his time in the military, he flew into Ireland and was stopped by the police.
"He was told to turn his jacket inside out or he would be arrested and interned," said Dickson, a former high tech recruiter. "That conversation really just sparked a lot in me."
"Grounded Hearts" is available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2GTneSS and in Barnes & Noble stores. An audiobook is also available with an Irish narrator. For more information, visit www.jeannemdickson.com.
For more information on the RITA awards and for a complete list of finalists, visit www.rwa.org. Winners of the awards will be announced in July.