Before retiring in 2017, author Rose Marie Kern was an air traffic control specialist for over 30 years. Besides being a popular speaker at aviation events around the United States, she writes monthly columns for several aviation publications and is an active member of SouthWest Writers. The newest of her nonfiction books is Air to Ground, an anthology of the articles she has written since 2006. You can find Rose on her website at RoseMarieKern.com.
What is your elevator pitch for Air to Ground?
“Air to Ground” is a phrase used to describe the frequencies used by the pilots when they speak to Air Traffic. My book, Air to Ground, gives pilots a glimpse into the cold corridors of Air Traffic and allows them insights into the people who work in an environment so critical to their own. Intermingled with the technical information are stories and snippets of humor collected over the last 33 years. These little bits exemplify what happens in the Air Traffic workplace when the microphone is not keyed, humanizing the disembodied voices the pilots hear. Air to Ground contains current and historical data on the National Airspace System, the Air Traffic Control System, and aviation weather in a way that is friendly, easily readable and understandable to even the most novice pilot. It is not meant to replace the government’s directives, but to supplement them.
What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Aviation is a niche market—if you can call a quarter million pilots across America a niche. Because of that, getting a major publisher interested wasn’t worth the effort. I decided from the beginning that this book would be self-published and marketed through channels I’ve developed over the last 34 years.
How did the book come about?
Two years after Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers, I entered that profession. Over 34 years I’ve been given three national awards and several regional ones by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and later, Lockheed Martin. I’ve worked in all divisions of Air Traffic Control (ATC) so I know how they all connect with each other and with the pilot community. Because of that knowledge base, I began writing articles 12 years ago about ATC, aviation weather, and the FAA. Now I have monthly columns in several publications and occasional pieces in other magazines. My editors say I get the most fan mail of any of their writers. One commonly expressed theme is they wish all the information I give out in my articles could be found in one place. Air to Ground is that place.
What was the most rewarding aspect of putting the book together?
The pilots and the editors of aviation magazines who have been behind me 100 percent.
Do you have a favorite quote from Air to Ground you’d like to share?
“Stress is relative.”
You’ve written two other nonfiction books besides Air to Ground (FUNdraising Events and The Solar Chef). How did writing/publishing these earlier books help with the Air to Ground project?
Both of those were also niche markets and also self-published. The Solar Chef was my first book—it was the only cookbook that focused exclusively on how to cook using only sunlight. I learned a lot about using existing interest groups as a marketing vector and how important it is to interact with your target customers. The Solar Chef is now in its 7th edition with an 8th on the way. FUNdraising Events was born because I’ve managed many such events for small to medium non-profit organizations over the years, and in every case my events have resulted in significant donations. Like Air to Ground, it was written at the request of those I’ve worked with. Working on those books gave me a lot of insight into Indie publishing, copyrights, and self-marketing.
What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
Several pilots have told me that when they get their copies of magazines, the first thing they do is open it to my column. One pilot even told me he’d recently cancelled all his magazine subscriptions except one—and he kept it because he really enjoyed what I had to say.
Do you, or have you wanted to, write other than nonfiction?
Yes, I’d love to write fiction but despair of ever attaining the ability of my literary heroes to create whole worlds out of thin air.
What writing projects are you working on now?
In addition to my monthly articles, I am currently writing three more books. The first is my memoir: a young, divorced mother of two stepping into a totally unknown career with no prior experience after the ATC strike. The second is a college level text on the History of Air Traffic Control to be released in ATC’s hundredth anniversary in 2020. The third is a booklet on regional variations in aviation weather specifically for hot air balloon pilots.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.