French Friday: Behind a Novel

Years ago, I met a widely published author who told me that writing fiction was writing about what we do not know.

In 2018, particularly in children’s literature, more authors focus on what they know and what they have experienced.

But we cannot possibly live enough lives to have experienced every possible situation. Fiction is not writing about ourselves either or about people we know, changing names and twisting facts.

What if fiction allowed writers and readers to meet somewhere in between?

Today I am taking you behind the scene. Why did I write ALL THE MOUNTAINS WE CAN CLIMB?

 

For years I drove my kids to their high school, following a gorgeous road that cuts through Central California’s foothills and takes visitors to the three most visited National Parks in California: Kings Canyon and Sequoia southbound and Yosemite northbound.

In the winter, fog rolled over the fields, making traffic hazardous but the eerie drive peaceful. In the spring, cows grazed only feet away from the highway banks where wild flowers grew. Once we even saw a cow giving birth. As early as mid June heat browned the grass and turned the Sierras blue and blurry. My family was lucky to escape the brutal dry heat of the summer and fortunate to be there in the fall, which brought tarantulas right in time for Halloween and well-deserved cooler temperatures.

Often, driving home after long school days we watched the sun put the western sky in fire. We were then the guests of a show for which we got first row seats.

Every day we spotted wild animals that sometimes leaped or flew right in front of the car.

We also spotted too many crosses, flowers and wreaths, makeshift memorials in honor of a loved one.

This road was as spectacular as it was deathly.

It saddened me that so many people could die in such beautiful surroundings. Even sadder was the fact that many were young men and women, too often teenagers.

This heartbreaking reality planted the early seeds for All the Mountains We Can Climb.

The plot grew when some young people, barely older than mine or sometimes the same age, kids that my family knew through common friends and acquaintances lost their lives either behind the wheel or as passengers.

I could not stop thinking of their friends and families affected by the tragedy. Would they ever be able to move on? How would they deal with the weight of guilt and the grip of sorrow?

This is how I decided to write a story about tragic loss, guilt, grief, and ultimately forgiveness.

All the Mountains We Can Climb, however, remains a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, including the town in the vicinity of Yosemite, and incidents are strictly the product of my imagination.

Only a few elements are based on my personal experience.

I’ve climbed to the top of Half Dome several times.

Noelle, the protagonist of the novel, hikes the legendary summit under the moonlight, which I’ve also done.

Two of my children are musicians. Like my daughter, Noelle plays the alto saxophone and like my son she intends to study music in college.

My native France is never far from my mind, so I created French characters and wove French cultural elements through the story. Including some baking and cooking.

All the Mountains We Can Climb is above all a story about healing after a tragedy, understanding that loss is a universal human experience, accepting the importance of professional help, and ultimately saying yes to a second chance.

A heartfelt thank you to anyone who gave me chance and ordered my novel.

Let’s Climb These Mountains.

See You at the Top!

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing a look at what goes into writing a novel. Writing is I enjoy, but I’m not sure I’m up for full fiction. Still, I love to learn bits here and there, from people for whom the challenge is one they can handle. This sounds like a very interesting book.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Dan. I also like to know why someone has written about a specific topic. There is always a reason. Fiction remains my favorite genre, but I’ve read terrific memoirs and narrative nonfiction too. We never know if we will finish a story until we start, so you can always give it a try!

  2. I’ll check it out, Evelyne. It’s always sad when people die in traffic accidents and tragic when they are teenagers. And I do know a bit about how dangerous those curvy foothill and mountain roads can be. –Curt

  3. You shared your memories and the heartfelt passion behind what made you write this novel beautifully Evelyne. If I wasn’t going to buy your novel before, I certainly would after this.

    • Oh, I’m glad you appreciated this post, Andrea. Stories come from somewhere, for sure. This particular one took roots a while ago, but I only started to write it much later, only because I kept returning to the idea. I hope your comment will be shared by others. Thank you.

  4. Many of the most beautiful places I’ve driven are on error away from death by highway. I will have to check out your book!

  5. Congratulations on the completion and publication of this book, and for sharing some behind-the-scenes info about it. It sounds like it will be a very moving story to read!

  6. My copy just arrived. Nice to hold a proper book for once 🙂 Looking forward to starting it.

    Indeed I posted recently about ‘writing what you know’. My books would be sad and short if I did that. For me one of the pleasures of writing is in exploring beyond one’s own direct experiences, but without ignoring them.

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