Summit County Right Brain: From journalist to sea captain, Breckenridge local now writes romance novels
Andrea Stein has always been passionate about writing. Sitting in the office of her Breckenridge condo, the 15-year local shares stories of pursuing journalism in a time when the career wasn’t a common choice for women — chasing hard news stories, working as a designer and copy editor. Stories of late nights and long hours, one that is easy for another journalist to relate to.
Stein studied photojournalism at The Ohio State University School of Journalism from 1963 through 1966, which she says was an adventure in itself.
“Not many women back then pursued journalism as a career, let alone photojournalism,” she said.
Her first job was as a sports photographer at a very small newspaper in her hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio. Back then, women were not paid as much as men, and she said the only way to get a raise was to jump to another newspaper. Over her career, she worked for the Marion Star as the first woman city editor at the Thomson chain, Springfield Daily News, Mansfield News Journal, Dayton Daily News and Cincinnati Enquirer for a short stint as a fill-in copy editor. Along the way, she also worked as a stringer for the Toledo Blade, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Associated Press in Ohio — working hard as a single mother to support her three children.
In 1983, Stein started her own public relations business called Communications Express in Dayton, Ohio, where she was a consultant in the area of electronic publishing and prepress. A Canadian company bought the business around 1990, and she became a consultant for the company, Transcontinental Imprimerie, for customers in the U.S. and Canada.
Overall, the Ohio native logged 25 years in the newspaper business before she “ran away to sea.” Ditching the daily grind, she became a certified sailing instructor, even earning her captain’s license, before moving to Breckenridge permanently in 2000 with her husband, Norman, whom she married in 1981. Norman also had three children, and the six children all lived with the pair full time.
“We were like the Brady Bunch without Alice,” she laughed.
But the writing bug never left her and she turned to fiction and self-publishing. She now works from her Summit County home and has published three romance novels — with a fourth coming out at the end of this month — using her experiences at sea the set her tales. The front cover of the two debut novels feature Colorado ski patrollers that she worked with at Copper Mountain, where she was a patrol administrator for seven years. Her books can be found on Amazon or at French Kiss bookstore in Breckenridge.
Summit Daily News: You said you “ran away to sea” — how did you become a sea captain? What was the decision behind that?
Andrea Stein: I’ve always loved sailing and have owned, or co-owned, sailboats over the years. When I was working as a consultant to commercial printers in Atlanta, I got to know the manager of the American Sailing Association’s Lake Lanier Sailing Academy, north of Atlanta. She was Stacey Brooks, who now owns The Warming Hut Restaurant in Breckenridge and another sailing school, Seadog Sailing, which uses the world’s oceans as a classroom.
At the time, she didn’t have any women instructors, so she invited me to get certified and teach. That was in 1996, and I’ve been teaching ever since. I owned Sails in the Sunset, a local sail touring company on Lake Dillon, for 12 years before selling the business a year ago. … Back in Atlanta, Stacey was contacted by a British delivery captain who took new yachts from the Beneteau plant in Charleston, South Carolina, to customers up and down the Caribbean. He needed a new first mate. I applied one night at the City Marina in Charleston. He asked me if I was a good sailor. I said, “not especially, but I’m darned lucky.” He said, “You’re hired.”
We left about a week later to pick up a trade-in yacht at the dock in Marsh Harbour, The Bahamas. The longest sail was to deliver a new yacht to The Moorings on Grenada. The sea adventures spooled out for three years until my husband retired as a systems manager for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We both semi-retired in 2000 and moved permanently to Breckenridge.
Over those three years, I earned enough working “sea days” to get my offshore U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license. Other teaching and working stints have taken me to the British Virgin Islands, the Greek Islands, Dominica, Martinique and the Guadeloupe Archipelago.
SDN: Give us a juicy tidbit from one of your romance novels.
AS: The hero of my first novel, Captain Jack Roberts, is based on a real person who was the third son of an English earl and ran the Union blockade during the Civil War. A post captain on leave from the Royal Navy, he sailed under an assumed name to protect his family, since his brother was a respected member of the House of Lords.
One night over a beer at City Marina in Charleston, I met some of Charleston’s “old-timers” who explained that the blockade-runners had anchored their ships in the same area where we commissioned the yachts before delivery. I was hooked. That was the germ of “Fortune’s Horizon.”
The heroes on the covers of my first two novels, “Fortune’s Horizon” and “Secret Harbor,” are portrayed by ski patrollers with whom I’ve worked over the years. A portion of sales goes to their favorite charities benefitting Colorado search and rescue and rescuers.
SDN: You have a background in journalism, published novels, and have taught sailing. What are you most proud of when it comes to your accomplishments and why?
AS: As a single parent for many years, I supported three children with my writing and editing. That accomplishment, plus those three children, are at the top of the list.
Finishing my first novel and holding it in my hands with a professional cover designed by one of the top designers in the business, Kim Killion — that is a moment that never comes again. I actually recorded myself really high on accomplishment and hope. Whenever the low moments in self-publishing come, which is frequently, I re-play the recording, and I swear I get the feeling again.
I’m also a really good teacher, I think, and thoroughly enjoy showing people how to do things they didn’t think they could do. I also spent a couple of years in Ohio as an adjunct professor of visual journalism at Miami University at Oxford and Wilmington College.
SDN: What inspires you in your writing?
AS: Characters. They come to me and bug me, day and night, until I tell their stories.
SDN: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
AS: Read, write, repeat. And for heaven’s sakes, finish that novel you’ve been talking about for years. Can’t believe how many people want to tell me about this idea they have for a novel — just do it. Colorado has so many great supportive writers’ groups. Connect with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, or Pikes Peak Writers. They have critique groups, annual conferences, and lots of workshops in between around the state. There are also Colorado chapters of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. And write — every day.
SDN: What are you currently working on?
AS: I’m in the home stretch on a novella, “Rhum Bay,” the sequel to my second novel, “Secret Harbor.” Next up is a series of four Steampunk novellas set at sea and in and around the British Isles in the late 1800s.
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