Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Inspiration from Nature

Every author finds inspiration in different ways. Some observe, watching life unfold around them, absorbing the possibilities and twisting reality into fiction; others feed off emotions, using the writing process as an outlet for grief or dealing with life changes, or accepting blessings; and many embrace the simple joys of nature, allowing it to soothe the soul and encourage artistic endeavors. I accept inspiration whenever and wherever it presents itself, but the natural world is my greatest muse. Not only does the solace of empty spaces incite creativity, but the places I visit often capture my attention and imagination, compelling me to write a story befitting the scene.  

I’m sure those who follow my work have noticed that I’ve set multiple stories in Mexico or have at least maintained a strong tie.  Though I haven’t been to Mexico in a few years, I have spent considerable time exploring its Mayan ruins, enjoying pristine beaches on both coasts and I’ve done volunteer work in the rural interior. The country is amazing and, like the United States, the diversity represented in its geography, geology, flora, fauna and cultural history is vast and varied.  While listening to a guide expound upon the practice of human sacrifice at the Sacred Well at the edge of Chichén Itzá my eyes darted around the perimeter searching for any hint of danger and my imagination ran amok (Marked in Mexico). I found it impossible to wander through the far reaches of Cobá on a morning devoid of visitors, cautiously peering behind a mysterious ruin abutting the dark dense jungle and listening to the insects and hidden creatures without needing to take the adventure much further (Deadly Ruins). And, Big Bend National Park—anyone who has been there has surely stood on the banks of the Rio Grande looking across its muddy waters into Mexico, wondering about life on the other side and if there is anything that could make an American risk everything to swim for another life south of the border (Desperate Dreams). 

But, there is too much stimulus in the world for me to focus only on Mexico and my latest novel, Big Horn Storm, stays a little closer to home and it wouldn’t have been possible without the powerful influences of nature and the extreme actions that sometimes transpire when encountering challenges. The story is set in the Bighorn National Forest, which is located in north central Wyoming and encompasses over one million acres. Its abundant wildlife, evergreen forests, grass prairies, mountain meadows, rugged peaks, dramatic canyons, cascading waterfalls and dramatic geology make the area breathtakingly beautiful and the perfect setting for an action packed adventure. I’ve experienced the Big Horn Mountains in the winter on snowmobile, but mostly I’ve enjoyed the scenery and wildlife during the summer months on horseback and four-wheeler. It’s possible to quickly leave civilization behind and absorb the tranquil majesty of this special place. On one such trip we came across a sheepherder’s wagon. Its owner was absent, likely out with his sheep, but the image stayed with me, tucked into my mental file for years until I found the perfect place for the sheepherder to resurface in one of my stories.  

All writers admit to being avid people-watchers, which is essential for realistic character development, but don’t forget about nature and the experiences we encounter within its broad embrace. Not only can we find inspiration in its varied landscapes and the creatures which inhabit the diverse and unique environments, but we can also find the solitude to hear our creative voice in a world filled with distractions, so be sure to listen, learn and embrace the natural world.

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