Boulder author Gail Storey's third book "I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail" is the story of both external and internal adventure, Storey said.
The memoir follows Storey and her husband Porter along the Pacific Crest Trail as they hike the 2,663-mile route. Though the book is about their hike, it's also about their relationship with each other and with their selves, and finding answers to the question "Who am I?"
Storey will appear at the Boulder Book Store on Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.
How did you find your voice?
Fundamentally, I think I'm a comic writer. I like outrageous humor, and so in my early days of writing I just had a collection of one-liners on sticky notes. I built them into scenes and the scenes into chapters and the chapters into a book for my first two novels, "God's Country Club" and "The Lord's Motel." What was so much fun about writing "I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail" is that it was memoir, so I could really tell the truth about my relationship with my husband, Porter. He kept a journal on the trail. We each kept a journal, but the process of that book -- I stated with basically our respective journal pages. I started working on the book on the trail and when I got home, started making it into something.
What is this book really about?
It's a hiking story, but the external adventure became kind of a metaphor for the inner adventure with all the emotional ups and downs. It was a physical ordeal at the same time. When you're out there and there's no layer between yourself and your survival, you get to see who you really are. You come up against any kind of unresolved issues in yourself and in your love affair. A lot of the trail was working through that. Porter and I each have a strong meditation background. If you're familiar with the concept of the noisy mind, where your mind is way turned up when it's just you. We didn't see many people out there while we were hiking. We had plenty of time to ourselves. Porter's not a big talker out on the trail, so my mind was just going a mile a minute.
You write about age and growing older in the book. Are there any advantages to hiking the PCT at an older age?
Most of the people on the trail were young athletic, very athletic men in their 20s. There were some really athletic women out there, too, but maybe a quarter were women. Everybody out there was in some kind of crucial transition point in their lives. Just out of college, just out of a divorce or just back from military service where they really had to go out into the wilderness to do some serious soul searching.
To do that at our age, we call it our two-thirds life crisis. It's different from a midlife crisis. You've go most of your life goals accomplished. You've got your career up and running. You have a lot of experience and your relationship is ... the basic part of it is worked out, although there's always room for growth. Your kids are growing. You're diving deeper. You've taken care of a lot of your basic survival goals, and you have time where you feel an impulse. You feel a deepening to really get into who you are and what life means to you so that you can make the most of the last third of your life.
What are some of the things you learned while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?
We had to let go of so much stuff. You can't be a perfectionist out on the trail because it's kind of chaotic. Really you never know what's going to happen in the next hour, never mind the next day. The weather is constantly changing, around every switchback you have a radically different view. You still have to find water, which keeps you very single-minded. Water can be really scarce out on the Pacific Crest Trail, certainly in California. So your goals are very simple and very primal. You also have to judge very carefully when you're going to make it to your next re-supply town, which was roughly every week to 10 days.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
Some people look at the title and think it's a hiking book and if they're not interested in hiking, they think it's not for me. Actually even though it's quite an adventure story, it's a kind of book I think would appeal to anybody dealing with a relationship, good, bad or indifferent. It's a love story, not in the romance novel kind of way, but it's a story of how you develop a level of intimacy and trust with someone that you want to be with. I think it's a book for anyone that's interested in understanding the dynamic of their own relationships, and also there's a strong element of coming closer to being present, in living in your own life in a way that a lot of us don't often have the space to really spend time focusing on.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.