The Northern Lights dance above white-capped mountains in Iceland. Although this story takes place in the U.S., I spent a day writing about a beautiful mountain range. Photo by Mike Shaw.
The logs on the fire are crackling, my sweet Australian shepherd is curled up against my ankles, and I’m wrapped in an afghan that reminds me of my childhood home.
It’s wonderful, yet it’s a stark contrast to how I spent my day.
As an aspiring novelist, I devoted my Saturday to creating fictional scenes that celebrate the Northern Lights. I wrote most of the climax for my first book, and with each suspenseful word, I became more excited to embark on the journey to becoming a published author.
As weird as this may sound, I have the distinct impression that I spent most of the day driving through a forested mountain range.
The Road to Whiteface Mountain
Imagine yourself traveling far from home, driving a neon green 1972 Gremlin with a broken muffler.
You’re still in your mid-20’s, and you’re on a quest to see the Northern Lights for the first time. You’ve got a really nice D-SLR camera, an unusually perceptive dog who follows you everywhere, and a miniature statue in your pocket — something you picked up somewhere along the way.
When the story progresses, you find yourself standing in the Adirondack Mountains under a starlit autumn sky. On this particular night, the alpine air of the New York wilderness is so pure, you can see all the way to Canada.
A handful of charming characters join you on this adventure, but you won’t find the answers you’re looking for until you summit Whiteface Mountain in the dark.
When the story takes shape
This novel, which has evolved in the last two and a half years I’ve been writing it, has taken shape in a way I could’ve only dreamed it would.
It tells the story of a young woman who, after her life is turned up-side down, goes on a quest to find healing and restore her faith in the world.
Without giving too much away, the writing touches on concepts of love, loss, courage and spirituality. The text also spends an unusual amount of time tracking solar storms and forecasting the Northern Lights!
As you might have guessed, this writer has found healing in the process of creating the work. It has been my goal since the beginning of this project to draw a complex metaphor between nature’s awe-inspiring beauty and the power of emotional healing.
At different times along the way, I wondered if I could capture the depth of positive emotion I wanted to convey in the book. I worried that I carried too much sorrow and regret from my own life to accomplish such an uplifting task.
I still have a lot of work to do — and more editing than I care to think about — but as I’ve shared pieces and parts of the early drafts, I’ve learned that the most important emotions do carry through.
Understanding, compassion, hope and love are all inked into the story.
Sitting alone in front of my fireplace, I felt those emotions course through me today as I put words on the page. The climax of the story began to achieve the illumination that I hoped it would — for both the characters in the book, and for this girl right here.
I haven’t cried as I’ve written this part of the novel, but somehow I know, I will be moved to tears by the story’s end.
19 days away
So, why am I telling you this now? I have more confidence in the book than ever, and the manuscript is nearly complete.
UPDATE: The manuscript is finished! I wrote the final chapter on December 31, 2015.
I hope to finish the novel by the end of the year — a short 19 days from now. Then I’ll need every ounce of faith I can find, as I seek a publishing agent in 2016.
In the meantime, I am so very grateful for an amazing year in the aurora chasing world. In 2015, the aurora hunters I know and love were featured in the PBS Online Film Festival, Minnesota Public Radio News and, most recently, in a two-page spread in the Star Tribune.
Many people have reached out to me about other projects involving the Northern Lights, and I feel honored and privileged to be considered a resource on the topic. Even my Twitter feed is overrun with posts about science observatories, aurora folklore and the history of solar storms.
I find all of it fascinating.
The Northern Lights have definitely become my passion! That is, alongside puppy love, child-like enthusiasm, nature, travel, writing and art. Even so, I can’t wait to see where the lights take me in the New Year!