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...)