Poetic Licence (Or: the point at which you have to Make Stuff Up)

                It takes me a while to write a story. Some days, it takes me a while to do anything—wake up, drag my lazy arse out of bed, crack my back into something resembling the shape it should be—but I’m a notoriously slow writer. Part of this is a consequence of my day job; it’s hard to be coherent when I’m flicking from night shifts to day shifts and back again. But a large part of it is down to my innate fear of getting things wrong, which leads me to research, more research and then an additional spot of research just for good measure…

              I’ll be honest with you, Snowbound was a dream to write. Originally intended for a readership of one, I set it in a location I knew well, made all my characters English, and chose a largely medical premise. It was only when Bold Strokes contracted the story and turned it into a novel that I thought, “Bloody hell, better check some of this stuff out.” But then there still wasn’t all that much to check; I’d written the story well within my comfort zone and I had an obliging police officer buddy who didn’t mind me pecking his head with procedural questions.

               Desolation Point, however, is another story altogether (no pun intended.) After spending a good few years writing fan fiction for American TV shows—using American-English and running the stories by an American beta—I was well versed in the notion that these were two countries “separated by a common language”. When it came to planning DP, I knew I wanted to play around with that theme by writing an English/American pairing. I also wanted one of my characters to be proficient using a firearm, and a setting vast enough that I could get my leads well and truly lost. We don’t really do handguns over here and, in the scheme of things, we’re quite a small country (you can get lost, but the chances are some bugger would find you within a couple of hours.) Add into the mix my desire for mountains, and I was led quite neatly to the North Cascades National Park in Washington State.

          I’ve never actually been to the North Cascades. I’ve watched an awful lot of Northern Exposure, but I don’t think that really counts. For those first few weeks of plotting and scheming, Google and I became the best of friends and we’ve stayed pretty close ever since. Links to park trails, lists of wildlife, sunset and sunrise times, weather averages, rescue services, and useful maps are all still stored in a dedicated favourites folder, alongside images of the mountains, Ross Lake and the summit of Desolation Peak itself. Youtube came in handy when I needed to learn how to fire a Glock or how to build a survival shelter in the middle of a forest. Meanwhile, Medscape was invaluable when I’d been particularly cruel to my characters and needed to know how to fix them.

Summit of Desolation Peak

Summit of Desolation Peak

            However, there comes a time when—like Alex and Sarah—you have to go “off road.” I sincerely hope you could use the book to guide you up Desolation Peak, but please don’t ever use it to try to get down again. Once that storm closes in on the summit, all bets are off, because *whispers* that’s when I started to make stuff up. Drawing from my own experiences of Swiss trails and Peak District weather, I dreamt up a whole mess of obstacles, landmarks, roundabout routes, detours, and snags with which to confound my duo. I didn’t think there was much fun to be had in their turning around and following the path straight home, so I set them on my own path and fell back on that get-out-of-jail-free card: poetic licence. Editing the novel these last few weeks, I toyed with the idea of writing a disclaimer, one of those author’s notes that begs forgiveness for geographical transgressions and inaccuracies, but in the end I decided the readers could probably work it out for themself, and wrote this blog instead.

The northern side of the Desolation Peak summit

The northern side of the Desolation Peak summit

         One day in the not too distant future, I hope my partner and I can park up at milepost 138, camp overnight at Ross Lake and then hike the trail to the top of Desolation Peak. I think we’ll be taking the same trail down again though. The gods alone know what’s lurking over the other side…

About Cari Hunter

Cari Hunter is the author of "Snowbound", "Desolation Point" and "Tumbledown", "Alias", "Breathe", and the Dark Peak series of crime thrillers - "No Good Reason", "Cold to the Touch", and "A Quiet Death" - all published by Bold Strokes Books. Her new novel "Unbreakable" is now available to buy.
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6 Responses to Poetic Licence (Or: the point at which you have to Make Stuff Up)

  1. I’m glad you’re here now. Much easier to stalk you this way. Also good blog post, or whatever.

  2. Cari Hunter says:

    I’m glad I’m here too, it’s far prettier than lj. Also, happy to be your stalkee, you seem pretty harmless to me.

  3. Devlyn says:

    I really enjoyed Snowbound and by the sounds of it your next book will appeal to me too. Eagerly awaiting its release so I too can enjoy a wonderful part of the world through your imagination.

  4. Cari Hunter says:

    Thanks, Devlyn 🙂 I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ve managed to do the Cascades justice in the book, they look absolutely beautiful.

  5. Angella says:

    Hi cari
    Happy New Year! Loved Snowbound and just finished re-reading for 4th time.
    Really looking forward to DP release. For some reason I thought it was being released in January and was perplexed when I did not see the advert on BSB. So glad to know I did not miss release. Since it takes you a while to write a novel (by your own admission) have you started on your third?

  6. Cari Hunter says:

    Hi Angella, happy new year 🙂

    Fourth time? Oh, you make me very happy! DP is just about ready to rock, spent the last few days squinting at it line by line trying to spot typos (found 3!) and it’s pretty much done now. Really looking forward to its release, it’s been a long year waiting for it. I was busy writing though and finished a sequel to DP a couple of weeks back. It’s not been contracted by BSB, I still have to tidy it up a bit then send it for consideration. Keeping my fingers crossed for it, but I’m sure it’ll be made available for folks to read one way or another 🙂

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