Welcome to Authors, Novels & National Parks!
Today marks the beginning of National Park Week and to celebrate I’ve invited 9 authors who have books set in (and around) national parks to be guest bloggers this week. Each day (4/15-4/23) a different author will share something about the park that captured her imagination and earned its way into her story. So circle around the virtual campfire and join the conversation as we discuss novels and national parks.
🔥 Be sure to return each day as many of these posts will have accompanying giveaways.
Interview with Gayla K. Hiss
To kick off #ParkWeek, I’d like introduce you to an author whose debut novel I reviewed just a few weeks ago. Gayla’s writing journey began with her hobby painting landscapes. In her imagination, characters and scenes came to life as she painted beautiful natural settings. Her inspiring novels combine her love for the great outdoors with romance, suspense and mystery. Gayla and her husband often tour the country in their RV, visiting many state and national parks. She enjoys hiking, camping, and traveling, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
Welcome to Christian Shelf-Esteem. Please, tell us a little more about yourself.
Thank you, Amanda. I’m excited to be featured on your blog today, especially on the first day of National Park Week! As you know, I’m a big national park enthusiast. My husband, Jeff, and I have been to over 20 national parks over the years, and we recently purchased an RV with plans to visit many more of them.
Congratulations on publishing your first novel. When was the idea for this book first planted and did everything come together for you at once or did the story take shape as you began writing?
Thank you! The publication of Avalanche has been a very exciting journey. It is my debut novel and the first book in my Peril in the Park series, set in the national parks. The idea for the story came to me one summer after seeing avalanche warning signs on a hike in the Cascade Mountains. I was intrigued by the idea of an avalanche occurring in the summer months and the idea stayed with me. The heroine is a female park ranger of Native American descent, whose family has a long history with the Cascade Mountains. And since nature and wildlife preservation is an important function of our national parks, animals play a key role in the story too.
You’ve chosen North Cascades National Park as the setting for Avalanche, what makes this park unique in your opinion?
In addition to the potential avalanche threat in summer, the spectacular scenery of the North Cascades with its rugged, snowcapped mountains and beautiful teal-colored lakes is unlike anywhere else. It also has an extensive back country, accessibly only by foot. That makes it the perfect locale for a thrilling outdoor adventure.
Great question! As I mention in the book, avalanches aren’t too common in July, but they are possible, depending on the snowpack from the previous winter plus variations in temperature and weather. We have an expression in the Pacific Northwest that summer really doesn’t begin until after the Fourth of July, and I’ve experienced plenty of Independence Day celebrations wearing a fleece jacket, huddled around a fire pit. That’s at sea level. You can imagine what it’s like at an elevation of 5,000-8,000 feet in the mountains. So it often takes a long time for the residual snow to melt. As the weather gradually warms, it can also make the snowpack unstable, increasing the risk of avalanches.
What message would you like readers to take away from this story?
That true justice and freedom come from God.
My husband Jay and I were geocaching in Alaska when our gps led us off the trail in search of the cache. When we returned to the trail there were huge bear tracks behind our fresh prints. You better believe we hightailed it out of there! Have you ever encountered a bear while hiking? If so, how did you react? Do you carry bear spray like the young Deputy Marshal in your story?
Geocaching in Alaska—now that sounds like an adventure!
Jeff and I once saw a black bear in a tree eating nuts or berries right next to the trail we were hiking in Whistler, B.C. Several people walked ahead of us with their dogs, passing only 5-6 feet away from it. Fortunately, the bear was so engrossed in whatever he was eating he ignored them, but I didn’t want to take that chance so we went the long way around to avoid it. I do own bear spray, but usually don’t carry it with me unless we’re hiking in designated bear country.
Avalanche is the first book in your Peril in the Park series. How many other books will be included in this series and where will they be set? Feel free to share a little about your upcoming works.
Three more books are planned for this series, all set in or near different national parks. The second book, Dangerous Ground, is set in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is due to be released Oct. 1 of this year.
Since we are celebrating National Park Week, is there a park that you haven’t visited but really want to?
I haven’t been to Acadia National Park in Maine yet. Jeff went there once and liked it so much he wants to go back, so it’s definitely in our plans to take a trip there one day.
What is your earliest or fondest memory of visiting a National Park?
Having grown up in west Tennessee, I always wanted to go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is on the other side of the state. However, my first trip wasn’t until I was an adult. After Jeff served in the Navy, we lived in the South for several years and visited the Smokies every fall around our anniversary. I have many happy memories of fun hikes in the mountains and leisurely strolls through Gatlinburg. I drew from those experiences in writing my second book. I love all the parks, but Great Smoky Mountains National Park is my sentimental favorite for those reasons.
Your packing for a day in the park, what are three must have items?
Only three? In that case, I’d bring a bottle of water, a snack and my cellphone. However, if there is no cell service, I’d take mosquito repellent instead.
Finally, will you share your favorite park picture with us?
I’d be happy to. It’s a picture of Cascade Pass in North Cascades National Park, which is featured in my book Avalanche. Jeff took the picture on our hike there last August.
Wow! It makes me miss the mountains.
Thank you for being my guest today and sharing insights about your debut novel. I’m sure you have found a few new readers.
It’s been a delight to chat with you about our national parks, one of my favorite topics. Thank you for hosting me, Amanda!
Gayla would like to bless one reader with a paperback copy of Avalanche. Open to residents of the U.S. only. Ends 4/28/17 at 11:59 PM.
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