Some Thoughts on Mountain
My 7th book, The Mountain Between Us, releases June 1st.
It’s set in the mountains between Salt Lake and Denver but that’s not really the mountain I’m talking about. Most, if not all, of my stories, follow the arc of a character from a real bad place of being broken to a place of not broken. If you ask me ‘what fires me up as a writer,’ it’s that. That arc. From messed up to maybe not so messed up. Why? Because at the other end is hope.
Most of my stories first appear as flashes somewhere just outside of view. Mountain is no different. The first I ‘saw’ of this story was a guy lying on his back staring up through what was once the windshield of a two-seater plane with snow covering his face. Naturally, I –like you—wanted to know what happened. How’d he get there? Who is he? Why’s he in the plane? Is he hurt? Who’s with him? Stuff like that. That line of questions bled into a story where an orthopedic surgeon from Jacksonville is attempting to fly out of Salt Lake late on a Sunday evening after attending a medical conference in Salt Lake. The television screen above is tuned to the weather channel and, currently, a huge green blob is about an hour from shutting down the airport. When it does, he hires a charter to hop him to Denver so he can catch the red eye home where several surgeries and his wife are waiting. Seeing that the two-seater plane will seat one more, he returns to the airport to find the girl he met in the terminal who was trying to get home to her fiancé and wedding in forty-eight hours. You see where this is going?
They get in the plane, take off, turn southeast, then northeast and get smack over the middle of the High Uintas Wilderness. If you ever saw Jeremiah Johnson it’s where they filmed it. Also, if you Google ‘most remote place in U.S.’ this will be one of your hits. Sixty miles from the nearest lightbulb, the pilot clutches his chest, slips the wing right and pancakes the plane into a snowbank at about 11,000 feet. Hence, the picture of the guy looking up through the windshield. In short, things ain’t good. And, they’re about to get real bad.
You might ask…why this story? The honest answer is…because it bubbled up. I’ve often said that my stories reflect what I’m dealing with on the inside. It’s why I write. It’s how I deal with stuff. (Okay, so maybe I did want to take a research trip to the Rocky Mountains and spend a week on snowmobiles camping in the snow. Can you blame me?) I’m an extreme introvert, I process internally. (Just ask Christy.) Someday, some grad student will lay all of my stories across a Freudian grid and attempt an explanation of my deep-seated issues. Great. Have at it. Let me know what you find out. I’m in full agreement that I have issues. One concerned reader suggested, why don’t you deal with them. I held up my book. I am. If I deal with them any other way, you guys don’t get any more stories. I think I’ll keep my issues.
In terms of my life as an artist, I see Mountain as a step forward in my craft. A progression. As a picture on a canvas, I find it beautiful, tender, funny and surprising. But admittedly, I’m biased. I can’t begin to guess how my readers will react. I’ve never been very good at that. Do I like it? Yes, very much.
Thanks in large part to the success of Where the River Ends, this story is set to release (as of February) in about eight countries and languages around the world. My publisher says ‘it reads like a bat out of hell’ and several readers, including one of my foreign publishers, say it’s better than River.
Okay, enough of the sales pitch. I hope you enjoy.