Even though Mormon novelist Traci Hunter Abramson has never been to the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., the university is close to her heart.It's on her mind even more as Virginia Tech commemorates the second anniversary of the horrific shooting rampage by a student that claimed the lives of 32 people. She hasn't forgotten her feelings of that day — April 16, 2007. \"I got an (instant message) from a friend about what was going on, and I followed it online all day,\" said Abramson, who lives in Stafford, Va, with her husband, Jonathan, and their four children. \"Virginia Tech is to Virginia what (Brigham Young University) is to Mormons.\"It was so emotional all day,\" she added.She saw a television interview with a survivor, and that added to her emotions. She started writing, and that became the prologue to her new novel, \"Lockdown,\" published by Covenant Communications Inc.\"I put it down on paper, but it wouldn't go away. I did it more to heal from the trauma, not capitalize on the tragedy (at Virginia Tech),\" she said in a recent telephone interview.Abramson used the framework of what happened for \"Lockdown,\" which she wrote in about five weeks. Originally, her story was set at Virginia Tech, but her editor suggested that she change it to a fictional university. So the students at Tech were the inspiration for her story.In \"Lockdown,\" Oswell Barron University had been the scene of a massacre in which 23 people died. Student Riley Palmetta had been in the classroom where the shootings took place and had survived by playing dead.Two years later, she is a graduate student studying criminal psychology and dealing with the mental trauma and panic attacks stemming from the shootings. She agrees to direct a project to teach law enforcement officers from around the country to deal with sudden emergencies on campus. Helping her in the eight-week training objective is the \"Saint Squad,\" a team of five Navy SEALs — all of whom are Mormons.One of the SEALs is Tristan Crowther, a returned missionary, who is captivated by Riley — and she by him. Yes, there's romance. And yes, terror crops up during the campus project. \"Lockdown\" is Abramson's sixth novel, and she draws heavily from her years of experience with the Central Intelligence Agency — where she was a finance officer — as she writes. \"The book probably started with the Columbine shootings (in Colorado),\" she said. Other trauma followed in Virginia when terrorists flew a hijacked jetliner into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and two snipers went on a shooting and killing spree in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia in 2002. Those incidents, plus the Virginia Tech rampage, have convinced her that \"it's OK to be upset about these things and you might need some help\" to get over them.Abramson, who was born and raised in Arizona, joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 12 and was the only member in her family. She says she had a bunch of LDS friends who were good examples and took her to church with them. She graduated from Primary before becoming a member. She later went to Brigham Young University, where she met Jonathan, who was from Alexandria, Va. Now a member of the Garrisonville Ward in the Fredericksburg Virginia Stake, she serves as ward librarian. She also coaches the swim team at North Stafford High School.And where does the writing come from?\"I've always had stories kicking around in my head,\" Abramson said. She gives a lot of credit for her success to her sister-in-law, Rebecca Cummings, \"a talented editor.\" Abramson started taking manuscripts to her for suggestions.When Abramson was writing her first novel, \"Undercurrents,\" the story just wasn't working, she said. \"As soon as I made the characters LDS, it all started to fall together.\" She spent a year refining the plot line and digging deeper. The publisher wanted her book. So she kept writing: \"Ripple Effect,\" \"The Deep End,\" \"Freefall,\" \"Royal Target\" and \"Lockdown.\"Abramson intends to visit the Virginia Tech campus and donate two copies of \"Lockdown\" to the university's library.Her next novel, \"Crossfire,\" will follow the story of another Navy SEAL in the \"Saint Squad.\" She says the script just got reviewed and approved by the CIA. Because she worked for the CIA, anything she writes dealing with
intelligence must go through the CIA review process.She says the hardest part of the writing process for her \"is naming my characters.\" Sometimes she goes through telephone books for ideas and then changes a few letters. That's why she likes writing a series of novels. \"The characters already have names.\"The time of year makes a difference, too. \"The creative juices flow in the spring. It's the time when I have to write If my family sees me bringing in lots of boxes of cereal from Wal-mart, they know I'm writing,\" she said.\"I'm (writing) because I love it, not because of what fame or fortune might come.\"