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Monday, December 3, 2007

Ski Trips from Hell... the story behind OBLIVION ROAD

So my new novel, Oblivion Road, is about five friends who get stranded during a ski trip in the Colorado wilderness. Readers often ask me where I get the ideas for my books—and I usually don't have a good answer for them! Ideas are such whimsical, odd, dreamlike little things. But in the case of Oblivion Road, the idea came directly from the experience of one of my friends. Back in high school, my friend Mark flew to Denver to go skiing for a week with his older brothers, right before Christmas. He was really psyched about the trip, and he was a great skier. (I almost went along myself, except my parents made me stay home because we had relatives coming into town).

As it turns out, Mark and his brothers never made it to the slopes. Their rented van broke down about an hour away during a massive snowstorm, and there was no way for them to call for help. They ended up spending the night out there, in the brutal cold, figuring that the next day someone would come along and rescue them. No such luck! Sometime around the next afternoon, they realized that they hadn't seen a single car, and came to the horrible realization that the road must have got closed because of the blizzard. They had to hike about two miles to a ranger station, where luckily, they managed to get help. But they knew they'd avoided a horrible disaster by the skin of their teeth.

So this was the genesis of Oblivion Road. I always kept their saga in the back of my mind over the years, but I wasn't sure if it was enough of an idea to support a whole novel. Then one day, I was thinking about it, and realized, Hey, how could I make things even worse for them? And I came up with the idea that while they were stranded, someone would stumble out of the snow, and that the person would be an escaped convict. From there, the novel just took on a life of its own.

Anyway, while I'm on the cheerful subject of skiing horror stories, there was one scene from real life I wanted to work into the book, but couldn't. Another friend of mine from college was in Vermont once, skiing a double diamond, when he slipped and fell going fast on an icy patch. Through some bizarre feat of physical contortion, his ski actually snapped off, and the metal tip punctured his skin—and the ski went all the way through his leg! He had to get taken down the mountain on one of those emergency sleds, and it was about six months before he could walk again. Ah, wintertime! So if anyone's got any juicy skiing horror stories, please feel free to share... (or maybe not...)



Stephanie Kuehnert said...

EEK! I've actually never skied because back when I was in grade school, my gymnastics coach told us all of these gruesome stories about broken limbs to keep us from going skiing and injuring ourselves so we couldn’t compete. She effectively traumatized me and I can only imagine how she would tell your friend’s story or use your book to scare gymnasts away from winter sports!

Kelly Parra said...

Yikes, you won't find me on the slopes! haha.

Great back story, Alex!

Jenny said...

I broke my leg skiing when I was in first grade, all by myself on the slopes (back in the days when parents didn't put helmets on their kids and just let them loose on the trails to fend for themselves, or maybe that's just my parents). Went down the mountain on one of those sled things, they had to search the mountain for my parents, and my mom and dad didn't think I'd actually broken my leg so they made me walk on it for one full day before taking me to the hospital for an x-ray. I bring it up to them all the time, needless to say. I still have the "Broken Bone Club" pin the ski patrol guys gave me.

Anonymous said...

I'm dying for winter break to arrive so I can finally have some fun! Skiing is definitely on my list ... and maybe I should pack Oblivion Road in my suitcase for the nighttime! :)

Brooke Taylor said...

The book sounds great Alex--I loved Bad Girls. Can't wait to read this one, as I used to live in the ski country.

I worked closely with Ski Patrol and there are lots of places ski equipment goes where it shouldn't--those poles are particularly nasty.

We--and by we I don't mean me, because I would never joke about tragedy *cough**cough*--used to keep count (score) of deaths each season like Trees 3 Gapers 0. (Gapers were tourists)

taltebrando said...

Alex. So glad to see you here and the book sounds awesome. Here's my horror story! The first time I went skiing-- I was maybe eight or nine?--my family misread the trail map and instead of starting out on Bunny Hill we ended up on Tiger's Run. You can imagine the difference. I ended up mostly sliding down the mountain on my back. :( --tara