Guest Post and Interview: Ann Whitely-Gillen, author of Last Train to Omaha

Hiya, everyone! Today I have a guest post by author Ann Whitely-Gillen. In her post she talks about battling breast cancer and then writing her book Last Train to Omaha.

We also have an interesting Q&A with her where she tells us her favorite quotes, books, movies, among other things.

Check out this inspiring guest post and read more about Last Train to Omaha.

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Last Train to Omaha came about under extraordinary circumstances. Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it certainly changed my life–but in many ways, for the better. After surgery, I was able to step back and take a good look at my life. Even with a wonderful husband and four fabulous children, I felt something more meaningful was missing something in my life. As I trudged through my hectic daily schedule something had been lost–me. Once I realized this, I put myself on a new path to be more of the person I was meant to be.

My road to recovery began when I started to write Last Train to Omaha. The characters in the book helped me rediscover myself. I also sought solace in their ability to overcome diversity with courage in their hearts and the peaceful resignation they achieved with the connections they all share. Each character represents a connection I’ve made in my life.

Through the eyes of James Milligan and his ensemble cast of supporting characters, we see that destiny is not only what life brings us–it’s about how life can be uniquely tailored simply by how we choose to respond to it.

I’d love to hear from you, feel free to email me at

About Last Train to OmahaAfter a horrific accident claims the life of his best friend at the age of eighteen, James Milligan is changed forever. For the next seventeen years, he lives as a ghost of his former self: shutting out those who love him most, navigating his life in a veil of solitude and drowning himself in anxiety and guilt.

When a chance encounter introduces him to Martin Diggs, an enigmatic war veteran, and palliative care nurse Rebecca Doyle, his life is changed irrevocably. Rebecca reignites emotions he thought he’d lost forever, and Martin challenges him to accept his shattering past and move forward.

Told with compassion and wisdom, Last Train to Omaha is the story of a broken man gaining the strength to let go of the crippling blame and doubt that plague him, pick up the pieces of his life and put them back together again.

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If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose?
Morgan Freeman, Oprah, the Dali Lama, Robin Williams, and Dave Matthews.

Do you play an instrument? If so, what?
I’ve been a musician most of my life. I play the drums and I’m a vocalist as well.

Red or white wine?
Red – no question about it!

Did you ever think you would become an author?
I never thought about being an author rather a screenwriter or actress. It turns out becoming an author was in the cards all along–but I’m still working on the screenplay aspect of my career.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
My main character James Milligan suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder so I had to look into that quite a bit, but the anxiety component of PTSD came to me quite easily because my best friend growing up suffered from severe anxiety and I experienced the signs and symptoms very well. I became an expert. I too, suffered from panic attacks growing up so I could really tap in to James.

I had to do quite a bit of research on geography, particularly that I’ve never travelled to South East Asia. But the most interesting part of the research for me was going through hours and hours of documentaries on the Vietnam War. I’m fascinated with that time.

What is the one book everyone should read?
Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. He is my literary hero. I’ve read that book at least a dozen times. Oh, and Last Train to Omaha :0)

What are your favorite quotes?
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.” ― Marilyn Monroe

We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen. ― D.H. Lawrence

Do you prefer print books or e-books?
I love the feel of a tangible book in my hands.

Where is the one place in the world that you would really like to visit one day?
The Amalfi Coast, Italy.

What is your favorite food to snack on while writing?
I’m pretty sure I kept Pepperidge Farm afloat by the amount of Goldfish crackers I consumed writing Last Train to Omaha. :0)

What is your favorite movie?
I’m a total film buff. Again, too many to list so I will give you three out of my top ten: The Third Man, All About Eve, and Saving Private Ryan.

What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you?
For me it was editing. My book was over four hundred pages when I finished the first draft so it took a lot of work to streamline it without cutting out any of the key elements.

Out of all of your characters which is your favorite and why?
Out of my main characters, I’d have to say Martin Diggs (I always saw Morgan Freeman as this character while writing his dialogue). He is just so incredibly humble and gracious–not to mention incredibly smart and witty. Out of the supporting cast, I would say most definitely Frank Kenney because he was fearless, funny, and so incredibly grounded.

What are you working on now?
I’m writing the screenplay for Last Train to Omaha and it’s quite the challenge but I’m up for it. I’m also sketching out other ideas for my second novel. Many people have come to me about writing a sequel to Last Train to Omaha–I’m not sure, but every day the idea is growing on me more and more.

About the Author

Ann Whitely-Gillen resides in Ottawa, Canada, where she is a full-time communications advisor and freelance writer. Ann lives with her husband and four children, who she loves to spend time with along with their family dog. In her leisure time, Ann can be found watching an indie film, reading a good book, or singing with her acoustic band.

Ann has always wanted to write a screenplay and, in fact, Last Train to Omaha started out with that in mind. After forty pages of writing, Ann turned the screenplay into a novel, as she wanted to delve deeper into James Milligan’s journey and enrich the ensemble cast of characters. Ann’s next project is to write the screenplay for Last Train to Omaha, her debut novel, so stay tuned!

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