Today, a month out from the release date of GOLDEN, I'm equal parts nervous, and excited, and hopeful that it's a story people will read and love. It's a story that's near and dear to my heart, in large part because the setting is based on my hometown, Mammoth Lakes, CA.
But writing GOLDEN was different. I wasn't writing about a place that was all new and fresh to me, or a place I'd never visited. I was writing about a place where my friends and I spent too many nights to count driving endless loops around our little town hoping it'd somehow get bigger; where we spent our summer days hiking trails and daring each other to jump into the freezing lakes, and where I spent many a winter night looking up at the stars from my bedroom window that perfectly framed Orion against the black sky.
When I was writing this book, I was writing about home.
In the fall of 2012, while I was working on it, I decided to take a trip home, and drive the roads I drove as a teenager, and find all the old spots I wasn't sure I'd remember how to get to, because it seemed important for this story. And it was. The places I remembered, and the way I saw them through old and new eyes all found their way into Parker and Julianna's story. So today, I thought it'd be fun to give you a personal, behind-the-scenes tour of the place I called home as a "young adult."
Mammoth High School
This is the front of my high school, and an image that instantly conjures up for me all the complicated feelings of being seventeen. It hasn't changed AT ALL since I was there!
I said the hallways felt small. There were three in my high school, and this is "Senior Hall." It's the place Parker, Kat, and Trevor share a few scenes, and it too looks exactly like I remember it, except for the "Class of" year on the lockers, of course.
Summit Lake is beautiful, and has a tragic history in GOLDEN, and in real life, Convict Lake does too. It's a still, quiet, hourglass-shaped lake, just outside of my hometown, and was the perfect place to use as the site of Shane and Julianna's tragedy.
These are some of the carved up aspen trees that border the creek spot where we all used to um... convene. On weekends. At night. Sometimes with questionably acquired beverages. It had a name amongst us local kids, which I will not reveal here, but in GOLDEN I called it "The Grove".
There is a scene in GOLDEN where Parker visits a place Julianna wrote about, only to find it totally different from how it was described in her journal. "McCloud Lake" is, in reality, "McCleod," and it does indeed have a whole swath of bleached-white, skeleton trees at the base of its trail. They're so eerie, and I thought were perfect to show how much things had changed in the 10 years between Parker and Julianna visiting them.
This is actually McCleod Lake, which I used to walk the half-mile trail to with nothing but a notebook and a blue pen--always blue, because I thought black seemed too somber. I went there to think, and to write. It was a place I thought of as my own, peaceful and quiet as I often found it, and so it worked its way into the story as that same kind of place for Julianna.
The Road To Freedom and Discovery (AKA Highway 395)
I took this shot on my way into town, but this what you'd see on your way out of town too, and that's how I envisioned Parker seeing it--a wide open road and a big, huge sky full of possibility. I can say from experience that she couldn't have been more right.
I don't really believe in the saying "You can't go home again." I did, while I was writing this book, and I do every time I look at these pictures. GOLDEN is a story that is close to my heart for many, many reasons, but I think the biggest ones are right here. It's the book of my home, and of what I remember of being a teenager.