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The Word is Out

Where fact and fiction meet: an author’s perspective

Posted in Blog by People's Press on August 8, 2011

Mark Stevens talks about the regional issues and events that inspired his newest book, Buried by the Roan

DO YOU EVER WONDER HOW AUTHORS COME UP WITH their ideas, the concepts for their novels? It turns out there’s a lot more fact to fiction than you might think. We caught up with Mark Stevens somewhere between Denver, Boulder, and Buena Vista during the busy week of his newest book release, Buried by the Roan, to talk about what drove the plot points for his latest work. Stevens had three very clear sources of inspiration he was willing to share with us:

Colorado's Roan Plateau1) Theme: After Antler Dust, a lot of people asked for a sequel. Readers liked [main character] Allison Coil. She’s tough, she likes horses, and she’s a refugee from the city. She’s based on an actual woman from the Flat Tops Wilderness who’s a hunting guide. I knew I wanted to stick with the character, but I needed another theme for the plot. In Antler Dust, I’d addressed animal rights and poaching. In late 2007, the Rocky Mountain News ran a feature series entitled “Beyond the Boom” about natural gas exploration in the Western Slope and the Roan Plateau. There was a lot of debate over whether fracking [hydraulic fracturing, a process used to extract natural gas] was hurting the ground water—oil companies said it was not, while others argued their water was being tainted.  I realized that was happening right in Allison Coil’s backyard. You have different points of view, controversy, flare-ups, and wealth potential. I thought it would make a terrific flash point for a plot.

The Flat Tops Wilderness is part of the Roan Plateau, a focal point for natural gas drilling
2) More on plot: In 2007, there was an interesting lawsuit in Boulder County over the Adverse Possession Law. The Adverse Possession Law allows someone to gain possession of a property if they have been using it unchallenged for over 18 years. A new property owner had plans to build a dream home when the neighbor claimed the land as his own under the terms of this law. The judge favored the claim and the rightful property owner had to shift the land over. The law has since been amended because of this case, but it was a great concept for bitterness and feud, and I like how it’s sort of Old West versus New West.

3) Character development: My friend Ralph has this interesting theory about evolution, and how a lot of us (I put myself in this category) have become so specialized in our skills we no longer have a survivalist mentality. We sit in a chair all day and work at a computer and maybe we work out in gym, but we can no longer survive in wilderness. He wonders if we haven’t gone past the point where, as human beings, we’re less capable because we rely so heavily on others for food, shelter, and warmth. I developed a character, Devo, who is interested in showing the world how to devolve. Devo moves to the wilderness, sends out You Tube videos to get people to follow his point of view, and becomes sort of a cult hero. Devo’s character plays on that inspiration.

What do you think? Is fact stranger than fiction? Tell us about your favorite books that taught you something factual about the world.

Read about the Adverse Possession dispute: The Denver Post: “Lawyers awarded property next door,” November 18, 2007

Read about “Plan to Drill on Colorado Plateau meets Resistance,” The New York Times, October 29, 2009




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