Behind the Book: Lessons in Gravity by Megan Westfield

Oct 25, 2016 by

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It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the film, but still, as the rock climber on the screen neared the crux on the skyscraper-high wall of Utah sandstone, my hands were getting clammy.

My husband and I were at home, watching one of our favorite DVD collections of short rock-climbing films. The crux in this particular short film is particularly nerve-wracking because the climber is already high above the last piece of gear he’s put in to protect himself in case of a fall and if he slipped, he’d be falling double distance before the rope caught him. That is, if the rope caught him. When you fall from that far (picture a fall twice as tall as a high dive), the physical force on that piece of gear can cause it to rip out of the rock, and then you are left with nothing to catch your fall.

So, the stakes are pretty high at this point in the film as climber—who has visible terror on his face—gets to the crux. There is nothing to hold on to on this bathtub-slick sandstone and the only way out of there is up.

As I watched, I just kept thinking, if my palms are sweating as I watch from the couch, what must it be like for the cameraperson, watching live, from just a few feet away?

That’s the moment Lessons in Gravity clicked into place.

Of course, the writer in me had to take it a few steps further: What if you were the cameraperson, AND you were in love with the climber, AND there was no chance he’d be caught by the rope if he fell because he wasn’t using one?

At the time, my husband and I had been climbing a lot in Yosemite National Park and I’d been itching to write a book that was somehow completely set right there in the park.

Even climbing at my own piddling novice level, I had a taste for being up on those big walls, where you experience the park in a way most of its 4 million annual visitors never could.  It’s different being on the side of a cliff, as compared to looking at the same magnificent vistas with your feet planted on the valley floor, or on the top of an overlook.

This kind of magnificence changes people, and in my book, I knew it could be the bridge in bringing my hero and heroine together. It breathes intensity and beauty into the smallest of moments, like a kiss in moonlit meadow, or cuddling in a hammock as the sun sets behind the pine trees overhead.

The stunt pilot/aerobatics elements of this novel were inspired by something completely different and is a separate story all on its own.

Excerpt:

The hawk’s whistle echoed against the amphitheater of rock surrounding them. Even when Walkabout’s film played on big screens, there was no way they’d come close to communicating all that surrounded them: the impossible vastness, pure silence, warm granite, the breathtaking valley, sunshine, the stunning cliffs, hair damp with pristine lake water, not another human in sight.

“I wish this, right now, could last forever,” he whispered. His words flowed over her neck like silk.

“Me, too,” she whispered.

She twisted beneath his arms so they were face to face. As they kissed, the valley and the surrounding cliffs spun and toppled upside down. The saturated greens of the grasses, the stark white of the waterfall, and the warm grays of the cliffs merged and streamed past them in ethereal ribbons, like barely blended paint. Then the blinding blue sky bobbed back into place overhead, and the world was open and free, bursting with sublime majesty.

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About Lessons in Gravity: 

All eyes are on Josh Knox…

Fearless. Guarded. Cut-to-perfection. Daredevil rock climber. The best in the world.

This time he’s poised to scale Yosemite’s notoriously treacherous Sorcerer Spire, with Walkabout Media & Productions filming every move.

April Stephens’s dream to be a documentary filmmaker rests on her acing her internship with Walkabout, and that means getting the abrasive Josh to give her more than one-word answers in his interviews.

The problem is, with every step forward professionally, she and Josh are also taking a step forward personally, and after watching her stunt pilot father die in a fiery crash, a guy who risks his life for a living is the last person she should be falling for. Especially because in one month her internship will have them dangling three thousand feet in the air from the side of the Sorcerer. She’ll be filming. He’ll be climbing without a rope.

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About Megan Westfield:

Megan Westfield has dabbled in many hobbies and pastimes over the years, ranging from playing the cello to cake decorating (i.e., icing-eating) to a dozen different outdoor adventure sports. Eventually, she discovered the only way to do it all was though writing—her first and strongest passion. She writes new adult fiction because she loves exploring the powerful and formative years between high school and the quarter-life crisis. As a reader, her favorite books are those with a truly unique, real-world setting, and, of course, a love story.

Megan grew up in Washington state, attended college in Oregon, and lived in Virginia, California, and Rhode Island during her five years as a navy officer. She is now a permanent resident of San Diego where she and her husband count family beach time with their two young kids as an adventure sport. Megan was formerly the editor of a small weekly newspaper in Southern California and is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Priest Literary Agency.

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