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Raven is hiking in the Rockies with her family. But when she gets to the top of her first mountain, the world tilts. She finds herself falling, riding a wave of rocks. Her sister and stepfather are trapped by the avalanche. Now Raven faces wild animals and treacherous terrain as she goes for help. Can she survive long enough to save her family?
“A great action-adventure piece with a wonderful protagonist … It is a lovely lovely read.” Paula Mazur, producer Nim’s Island
I’m alone on top of the world.
That’s why I scrambled up the mountain’s face as fast as I could. I door-climbed up the steep crack beside the nose, jamming my arms and legs against the sides. Scott showed us how to do that before he and Mum even got married. I didn’t know I’d get to do it on a mountain.
The eyebrow ridge was pretty flat so there was snow on it, but after that the trail curved around to the top and got really steep again. I had to stop to get my breath a few times.
Then I came around another bend – and I was on the top of the mountain.
I don’t know anyone else who’s climbed a mountain, except Scott. I didn’t even know the word summit till last week! The highest hill in Cottonwood Bluffs is the toboggan run in the park.
And I’ve done it before my sister. Lily and Scott were still on the cliff below the lip when I waved to them again from the eyebrow ridge. It’ll take them a while to get up here.
So for now, it’s just me and the mountain.
THE WRITING OF FACING THE MOUNTAIN
A logline for this story could be: Three people go up a mountain. One comes down.
The idea for this story came from the memory of climbing Pike’s Peak in Colorado (14,000 feet/4000 metres) with my dad and younger sister when I was twelve and again when I was thirteen. It was a real challenge and my sister and I were incredibly proud of ourselves. It’s so high that we went from summer in the foothills to snow at the peak.
At around 10,000 feet/3000 metres, I started struggling with the oxygen lack and remember my dad, who was a pilot, explaining that at that height pilots used oxygen. He talked me through it and I went on to the top without any trouble. Above the tree line we ran into a hail storm and sheltered under a rock – I presume my story teller’s imagination was already at work with thewhat if’s we had to stay there longer, what if the rock was a cave…
Though when we got to the top, we were very disappointed that there was a road all the way there and so as we staggered up through the damp snow, people were getting off buses and going in to the gift store, buying things saying “We made it up Pikes Peak!” We wanted to shout, “No – WE made it!”
Obviously I had to make my mountain a lot more isolated when I wrote the story! In fact I always pictured this story in the Canadian Rockies. I’ve loved them ever since I went to summer camp in Camp Kananaskis, in Alberta, and have had many happy times there since.
As the characters grew it became clear that the dad was a stepdad: Scott’s a warm and caring man, but by marrying her mother, he’s dramatically changed Raven’s way of life. Raven was always the younger sister, but originally I told the story alternately from hers and her sister Lily’s point of view.
I think there were only a couple of drafts like that; I realised I needed to be completely in Raven’s skin, and that the tension was much greater that way.
One of the background themes for me, though I wouldn’t imagine anyone else would see it, was the fairy tale of Rose White and Rose Red. But despite the circumstances – the rock fall that pushes Raven far beyond what she believed were her limits – she’s really a very normal kid. She’s struggling with sibling rivalry, a new stepdad, moving to a new school and environment… and being saddled with a most inappropriate name for a redheaded child!
Obviously on an isolated mountain like this Raven would have seen lots of wild life, and have had lots of warnings about bears and cougars in particular. By using the spirit bears, I wanted to balance the reverence and fear we feel when we see dangerous animals in the wild. And I’ve always had a particular affinity with ravens…
Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio