Monday, October 13, 2014

Fact vs. Fiction

by Shannon Baker

I am not the kind of writer who can make up whole worlds from my imagination. My plots always come from real stuff, the cool facts I read about. For instance, when I moved to Flagstaff and found out about the controversy to pump manmade snow on the San Francisco Peaks--land sacred to 12 tribes--I had to write a story about it

I needed a protagonist in the center of the storm who had everything at stake. That turned out to be Nora Abbott, owner of the ski resort. Driven, insecure, timid and ferocious in equal measure, Nora sprang onto the pages.

In my research about the tribes involved, I stumbled across the Hopi. Suddenly, my book took off in a whole new direction that lent itself to a mystery series. My Hopi research turned up so many intriguing aspects of their history, culture, and beliefs I couldn’t address even a fraction in one book. So I was excited when Midnight Ink offered me a three-book deal. Tainted Mountain delves into the Hopi prophesies and explains a little bit about their ceremonies. It introduces kachinas and their role in Hopi lives.

For Broken Trust, I wanted to focus on a different aspect of Hopi’s connection with the world. Hopi are concerned about end times. According to Hopi beliefs, we now live in the fourth world and we’ve just about messed it up so badly we’re approaching the end of this world and emergence to the fifth world. Sad news for most of us, since not very many will survive to start the fifth world.

In Broken Trust, Nora returns to her favorite place, Boulder, and lands a job at an environmental trust. (Coincidently, I also moved back to Boulder while I was working on this book.) But all is not as it seems. The trust is a hotbed of conflict and corruption. Nearly a half million dollars is missing and Nora’s predecessor is murdered.

Nora’s mother pops onto the scene with her own drama. She is determined to hook Nora up with handsome Cole Huntsman. Cole has been waiting for a year to let Nora get over the death of her husband and the traumatic events in Flagstaff, but he’s ready to start a relationship with her. In the meantime, with the help of quirky staffers at the Trust and an Ecuadorian hunk, Nora uncovers a plot that could destroy one of the most pristine locations on the planet. 

And how, you might or might not be asking, is such monumental destruction possible? That was the really fun part for me. I got to research conspiracy theories surrounding HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research) and using weather as a weapon of mass destruction. This stuff is scary/interesting. I spent hours watching Jessie Ventura and others present the case that the shadowy Powers That Be are planning to control our minds/kill us all/wreak havoc on the environment. I dabbled in learning a little (very little) about Tesla towers and the potential for sustainable energy.

When I sold Tainted Mountain I was happy and proud of my new baby. We all know the analogies of writing and publishing books to having babies. I don’t know if anyone else felt this way, but when I was expecting my second baby, I worried I’d never be able to love it as much as I loved my first one. And even though I’d planned and wanted the baby with all my heart, part of me was jealous it would come between me and my firstborn. Weird, I know. But I kind of had the same misgivings about creating a series and wondering if I’d love the second book as much as the first.

The book is here and, just as it was with my kids, I do love book two as much! I learned a lot between book one and two and even more between two and three. It turns out I like writing a series and I’m glad Nora got to live on.

Look for Tattered Legacy, which is set in Moab, next spring.

What about you? What is the most interesting or fun fact you learned while reading fiction?

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