As a writer, this was a gift of pure gold. Nothing quite like pushing a character to the utter edges of her endurance–and then pushing her past that. Thanks to my two guides, I knew about the terrain and weather, how my character would be feeling at each point and the challenges to be faced over and over again. And believe me, she faced them all with a whacked out killer thrown in just for fun. I even (briefly in a moment of insanity) mulled trying to do the actual climb, though I didn’t know how to build the three weeks of altitude adjustment (by living in the area) into my real life. And I’m a wimp who prefers my adventures to happen in the fictional world (see blog title).
I am very (fictionally) adventurous. One of the great things about being an author is that you get to take virtual journeys with your characters. Note that they are virtual, and to those who ask if my characters are like me, the correct answer would be that they are waaay braver than I am.
But thanks to my books I’ve gone to distant galaxies, fought space battles, traveled through time, and climbed something called a fourteener.
What is a fourteener, you ask? It is a mountain peak 14,000 feet or more above sea level. And if you’d like to know why I needed a fourteener (in a fictional way), please read on:
My journey to that fourteener started with a character who was afraid of heights, so of course, I had to get her as high as I could. The plot of The Last Enemy had some other requirements that eventually led me to Colorado (mile high city of Denver anyone???) and almost got the hubby arrested (another blog post, that story). Originally I just planned to have the heroine end up on top of a really tall building, but my villain gave it a thumbs down. Apparently it wasn’t crazy enough for him. Or tall enough. No, he wanted a fourteener. Luckily for me, and my villain, Colorado had over fifty of them. Problem solved, right?
Not quite. I’ve got a heroine living in New Orleans at sea level, who is afraid of heights, and has some good reasons for not going up. You can’t slap climbing gear on her. Not even at gun point would she scramble up a rock face. Will never, ever happen. She’d rather be shot (and she’d be too stupid to live, which would be annoying!). It would be a mercy killing. So we have a villain requiring her to climb and survive. A heroine who doesn’t climb and isn’t sure she wants to survive and an author in search of a setting. Hmmm…
Turn to geologist hubby and voila! He pointed me toward Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It tops out at 14, 255 feet above sea level and it is the only fourteener that has an actual hiking trail that goes all the way to the top. A trail that can be hiked in a single day (though not without considerable suffering). How totally cool is that? Cause authors are supposed to make their characters suffer.
We even got to go look at Long’s Peak when we were taking one of our daughter’s to college. No, I didn’t climb it for real. We were living at sea level and it takes conditioning to be able to hike at altitude without getting hurl-your-cookies sick. I did take the time to hike part way up the trail, far enough to feel the burn (gravity is a cranky b*tch) and get my sandals wet in the snow (in August). Luckily I did not need to make the whole hike to be able to write about the hiking trail because my amazing hubby found two truly awesome trail guides for me to use in writing the villainously induced, mountain hiking scenes.
Both of the guides helped me fictionally “hike” the trail with Dani and Spook and I was able to use them to torture, er, ramp up the challenges for Dani. Even more interesting, there is the “Great East Face” that is for rock climbers, with the Diamond (as in “in the rough”). I ended up using both methods in the book, which I think gave it the action-adventure quality that I particularly like in the books I read.
One of the “helpful” notes in Long’s Peak: It’s a Story and a Climbing Guide by Paul Nesbit is that “it is perfectly all right to trim your toenails the night before. You won’t have to hang on that tight.” He goes to note that “more frequent difficulties will be found in adjusting one’s self to the altitude, or in summoning sufficient endurance to make the climb and return home.” I even found out about a fortuitously placed climbing spike for my finale. Cool again.
In the process of figuring how to torture, er, challenge Dani, I also questioned my nephew, Jeff, about rock climbing techniques and ended up creating the heroine for the next book in the series from that research. Byte Me’s Phoebe was sonot afraid of heights, so I had to find different ways to torture her. But that’s also another blog post.So what have you done in pursuit of a project? Embarrassed yourself lately? (grin)
And for people who comment on any blog post in June, I’m offering another AnaBanana Gift Card ($10). Be sure to check out her site for a look at the yummies (and don’t miss the zombie soaps!) All comments from all June blogs will count as entries. Winner will be announced in the July 2, 2012 blog post. Check back to see who won!
Pauline Baird Jones can shoot, fly a space ship, and flip a bad guy on his tush–in her books. In the real world a cockroach can send up on the table. To find out more about Dani and the Lonesome Lawmen stories that began with The Last Enemy, visit my website at www.paulinebjones.com
Perilous Pauline is (Fictionally) Adventurous