When I was young, I frequented the local public library, which was in an old Victorian house a the time. I can still remember the smell of the books and the narrow, messy corridors full of yet-to-be-discovered ideas. I came across a book called Diving for Roses by Patricia Windsor when I was about thirteen. Written in 1976, it is about a teenage girl who ventures out of her stifling house in the woods that she shares with her dysfunctional mother and stumbles upon a young man who is trespassing on their land. The relationship blossoms and results in a pregnancy. Reviews of the book vary, and it’s difficult to track down much about it. Nevertheless, the book really stuck with me over the years. When I began writing Gather the Bones in 2000, it was one of my major influences.
The other book that greatly influenced Gather the Bones is Cherry by Mary Karr. A memoir about a teenage girl’s sexual coming of age in a dusty Texas town, it surprised me with its daring and its grit. In a way, Gather the Bones is a response to these stories as well as an exploration of themes that occurred in my own life. As a cautionary tale, I see it as a way to let young women know that they are worthy of saying “no” and worthy of standing strong in their own power. Boundaries are a GOOD thing. It took me a long time to learn that, and if a girl walks away with anything from Gather the Bones, I hope it is courage to set strong boundaries. I also explore how abusive behavior is something people learn from their families and that abusers are wounded people themselves. My characters in Gather the Bones are imperfect, wounded and fallible, and there is no one villain or bad guy. Abuse is a dance between people, rather than just something a person does to someone else. Does that make sense? Cycles of abuse are sneaky and difficult to write about (for me), but something I continue to explore in my writing.
I moved to Boulder, Colorado for grad school in 1997 and stayed there for a few years after I graduated, because it was just too awesome of a place to leave. I spent a lot of time exploring the mountains and made quite a few trips to New Mexico. I had first visited New Mexico in 1993 on a family vacation. Something about the high desert landscape snuck into my soul and hasn’t left yet. I love writing about the southwest and Native American culture (even though it is not something I am very familiar with). I hope I treated the Navajo people and culture with respect in this book while delivering an exciting story. Exploring the southwest was part of my own healing. It felt great to get away from my familiar surroundings and immerse myself in someplace completely new. I am extremely grateful to the people who not only helped me grow and change while living there, but also to the people who read my first drafts and offered constructive criticism. This book was written in a year, but edited and tinkered with for way longer! I’ve worked on it for so long that I feel like the characters are real. I’m pretty sure if I venture back to Colorado I might run into Natalie or Christopher sitting at a cafe in Crestone.