A devastating car accident. A rare blood type. Courtney Leigh Pahlke found her life put on hold when she was rear-ended by a car traveling 55 miles per hour in 2016. She suffered severe injuries to her neck and back, taking two years to recover, much of it spent on bedrest.
“During that time, I was in a really bad depression because I’ve always been a workaholic, and it was not easy to not be able to get out of bed or do anything for such a long amount of time,” said Pahlke, who serves as an ownership partner at Top Coverage, an automotive restyling shop in Chicago.
A Fresh Idea
Technically, Pahlke had to take what life threw at her laying down during those months of recovery, but she spent her time doing anything but wallowing.
The car accident revealed Pahlke’s blood type to be extremely rare—so rare, in fact, conspiracy theories abound about aliens and unknown origins regarding Rh-negative blood.
Pahlke began researching blood types during the months she spent recovering and discovered there were hardly any books on the subject.
“I thought, ‘Wow! I might actually have a fresh idea,’” she said.
That’s the moment Pahlke decided to put her college minor in creative writing to use, and she began plotting an 11-part pre-apocalyptic science fiction thriller.
Writing the book became a form of therapy throughout Pahlke’s recovery.
“I wanted to make the writing as realistic as possible, so I spent a year researching, which literally saved me from my depression because I kept my mind occupied while everyone else is at work living a normal life,” Pahlke said.
The book—titled Life Force Preserve Book 1: Anna and the Resurgent of the Precious Blood—was published in May and is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, and other major retail outlets. The plot centers around characters being followed by agents keeping them safe from an unknown assailant attempting to kill those with the Rh-negative blood line, which the book explains could be used to cure viruses.
The science fiction thriller has received plenty of attention from readers and critics, according to Pahlke.
“I want to make everything really interactive with my readers and people who follow the series,” she says. “It’s very science fiction but it’s also very much a mystery. So far, people seem to be taking a liking to it. Now, I just need to promote it more.”
Pahlke’s full-time job is running Top Coverage, an automotive restyling shop in Chicago, with her brother, Garrett Pahlke. Their father, Henry Pahlke, started the company in 1975 and handed the reins over to the siblings who continue to grow the family business.
Pahlke is responsible for all of the company’s marketing, web design and social media presence, as well as anything else that needs doing.
“The accident was hard because my whole life has been Top Coverage,” Pahlke said. “As a person with an entrepreneurial background, I had to do something to keep me occupied.”
How to Flex
As Pahlke’s body was recovering, she was flexing what she says are her writing muscles.
“I met with another author I’m collaborating with on another project and he was telling me how you have to exercise your writing muscles by writing a little bit every day. If you don’t keep it up you’ll be out of writing shape,” she said. “I have a good stride going and I don’t want to go backward so I’m using that muscle.”
Pahlke flexes that muscle with her creative writing, but also through writing articles for THE SHOP magazine. The experience has helped her realize the therapeutic attributes of writing.
“Anytime I went through something rough in life, I didn’t realize it until now, my way to manage stress is to write and to help me clear my mind. It’s like a healthy serum for me,” she said. “This book is what kept me going when I was at my worst. The dedication in my book is to my readers telling them that when life stresses them out they need something keep your mind going strong and occupied.”
Writing the first Life Force Preserve book also provided Pahlke closure and healing after the accident.
“There was one chapter, after I finished writing it, that there was closure and I started forgiving the girl that caused the accident. It was healing for me,” Pahlke said.
The Beat Goes On
For Pahlke, now it’s all about balancing her writing and running Top Coverage.
“I guess I eat, sleep and dream Top Coverage, and some days I feel like I’ve hit my limit, but I enjoy writing so much because it doesn’t really seem like work. It’s my balance to Top Coverage,” she said.
Pahlke has the next three books in the Life Force Preserve series outlined and planned out.
“It’s so much fun when you know the route you’re going to take,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful thing to create people and have the freedom to make up your own little world.”
THE SHOP Writer Biography
Courtney Leigh Pahlke and her brother are second-generation partners of their father’s 44-year-old company, Top Coverage. Their locations service nearly 350 dealerships in Chicago and throughout Illinois, where they work hard to grow their father’s empire. Be sure to read Pahlke’s regularly appearing column in THE SHOP magazine. For more information about Pahlke or to order her first novel, visit courtneyleighpahlke.com.
*Anthony Bowe contributed to this report