Author Guest Post

Behind the Book: Avalanche

December 1, 2016
Melinda Braun

In Avalanche by Melinda Braun, two groups of teens—those waiting to be saved and those doing the saving—are in a race against time and a battle against Mother Nature after an avalanche traps them in an isolated cabin. It’s a thrilling and exciting story that will keep you on the edge of your seat! It’s also an extended excerpt until December 12th so go check it out.

Feel like you still need more to convince you to read it? Just check out the Behind the Book!

When my first novel Stranded was published in 2015, I was already in the midst of trying to write a second YA survival story. Since Stranded was a stand alone, I had to come up with a similar, but different story concept. No problem, right?

That’s the part that you don’t understand until it happens — if you are fortunate enough to get a multiple book contract — you’re immediately put on a timeline. Deadlines need to be met. Thankfully, I embrace deadlines! They are a bit scary and stressful, but also a way to stay on track.
My main problem was I just didn’t know where to start. Stranded had come to me immediately, all the main characters popping into my imagination with little effort. But now I was completely blanking.

Fortunately, Nicole, my wonderful editor at Simon Pulse, suggested setting the story someplace “colder”. The mountains. Snow. Ice. Avalanche country. Wild animals. Danger.
Aha! Why didn’t I think of that? I certainly should have.

To backtrack a bit: When I was seventeen I took my first trip to Colorado. Seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time was an inspiration, and climbing an actual mountain (Longs Peak) left a huge impression on me. The impression mainly being how small I was in the universe. How fragile. Like most teenagers I had that particular combination of bravery and stupidity that comes from youth and lack of experience. After that climb I finally realized in a way I hadn’t before that I was not, in fact, invincible. That nature was both beautiful and merciless, and that while mountains are majestic they are also incredibly dangerous. For the first time I understood my own mortality. I guess you could say I had my midlife crisis at seventeen!

So when my editor suggested setting the story in Colorado and the mountains it felt like fate. I was off and running with the plot. And after talking with some relatives who had experience with back country skiing (even a friend who’d actually been in an avalanche), I decided the have my characters on a weekend ski trip go off searching for a secret abandoned service cabin in the Arapaho National Forest. Of course, hilarity would not ensue.

Originally, I titled the story Snow Fall, which was changed to Isolated, then finally became Avalanche.

My first draft was written in first person, present tense, with Matt as the narrator. It was kind of a jumbled mess, actually, and after realizing that some story lines weren’t being told with this limited perspective, it was changed to third person, past tense. This revision opened up the story to include other character’s viewpoints, as well as introducing the mountain lion into the story. I was surprised when I wrote it—I hadn’t planned it, but in hindsight I love those sections. I think it works to maintain the intensity while driving the plot forward.

The story went through about two more revisions, and while it would be nice to have tinkered with it a little longer (I honestly could tinker indefinitely), there has to be an end point. You have to let the story go out into the world. So while I had no idea when I started that I would be writing this book, in some ways, it was a book I was meant to write. It was just waiting for the right time, the right impulse, the nudge in the right direction.

One of the things I have in common with the character Matt is that we are both obsessed with famous quotes. I even write them down when I find a particularly good one.  When I think of how Avalanche came into being I’m reminded of a quote from Lao Tzu.
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready… the teacher will disappear.”

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