ESSENCE Countdown: The Story Behind the Story

Yipes! My YA novel ESSENCE now debuts in thirteen weeks!!!!! To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to tell you a little bit about the story behind the story, about the summer that started it all.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
When I first arrived Yosemite National Park in April 2004, I had no idea I would someday set my debut novel there. I didn't realize its towering, granite cliffs and secret waterfalls would beckon me to create an entire alternate reality--one filled with moss and decay, adrenaline junkies, romance and dark secrets hidden just below the surface. 

I thought I was simply reporting for duty: taking a risk and packing up my entire life into one backpack for the summer. (I wasn't even fully aware I was a writer back then!)

I had just accepted a sight-unseen position at the park's concessionaire, Delaware North Parks & Resorts at Yosemite. I had just saved all my money for a plane ticket from Orlando, and I had just agreed to share a 10' x 10' tent cabin with a mystery roommate for the next four months. 

Curry Village Tent Cabins. Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
To say I was excited would be an understatement. To say I was thrilled/terrified/jumping out of my skin would be a much better description. 

The summer would be epic, of course. That mystery roommate, Mary Siner, would end up becoming one of my closest soulmate friends--one I still turn to for advice and support ten years later. I would climb cliffs and raft the Merced River, and I would watch shooting stars and explore the mountains and the deserts of California. I would make friends with people from all over the world, and I would fall hopelessly, desperately, head-over-heels in love with a boy the way only a 22 year-old can. He would later break my heart, and the lessons I would learn from that relationship would resound in my head and my heart long after I finally found the strength to tell him goodbye.

Yosemite Crew making moves on the East Side. Summer 2004
I wouldn't regret a single moment of anything that happened that summer, because that was the summer I learned how to truly feel things with my soul. I learned how little I actually needed to be happy, and I learned that sometimes, you just have to close your eyes and take the leap. I learned that the world is filled with incredible people, and nature is sometimes so astounding it literally steals the breath from your lungs. You don't have to always follow the path everyone else is following, and the secrets to life are the experiences you have and the company you keep. 

Yosemite would forever alter the way I viewed myself and my place in the world, so it's only fitting my debut novel would star the park as a character itself. 

I hope I have captured it in such a way that you can glimpse how profound and astonishing it is to me. No other description would do Yosemite justice.

Check out my other ESSENCE Countdown posts here: