No novelist totally “makes things up.” Even the wildest works of fantasy and science fiction are in some way informed by the writer’s observations and life experiences.
Take, for example, my new novel, Spike.
Here’s a. brief excerpt. The book’s protagonist, 19-year-old Spike Santee, has just fallen 40 feet onto a ledge while attempting a solo ascent of Norway’s 2nd-highest peak, Glittertind. It’s 1968.
SPIKE SANTEE SLUMPED more than sat on a slightly sloping ledge, two-thirds of the way up the northeast face of Glittertind, at 8,045 feet Norway’s second-highest mountain. He stared down at the glacier 1,000 feet beneath his boots and contemplated death.
This was not a topic most young people outside war zones grapple with on a regular basis. But then few people Spike’s age, during any given year, happen to fall 40 feet onto a rough granite shelf a thousand feet above the ground, break both wrists, shatter an elbow, tear out the anterior cruciate ligament in their right knee, lay open their left knee to the bone marrow, suffer a concussion, crack a couple of vertebrae, and live to tell the tale.
Spike shifted slightly and instantly winced as pain shot up his spine, then cried out as he unthinkingly put his right hand down on the moist, mossy granite to steady himself, stunningly aware the wrist was severely snapped. It was late afternoon, the 28th of August 1968, three days after his 19th birthday. While he hadn’t heard it through the grapevine, he knew a bad moon was rising as the twin towers of pain slowly subsided. He watched as the mountain’s shadow crept inexorably over the Grjotbreen glacier far below him, the rolling sheet of ice turning from butter yellow to a foreboding deep azure in the shadow’s wake.
This actually happened to me. Or rather something very much like it happened to me. In reality, I was climbing in Canada (Banff National Park to be precise) not Norway. It was 1978, not 1968. Like Spike, I fell 40 feet onto a ledge, 1,000 feet above the base of the face of Mt. Cory. Unlike Spike, I was not alone, joined by my friend, Roland Leauté. Like Spike, I survived. Obviously.
While I can hardly recommend falling off a mountain to get the writerly juices flowing, it does change you — for life.