Thursday, June 5, 2014

Blog Tour: Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

Today, I’m really pleased to welcome the talented Lisa Ann O’ Kane, on the blog as part of Essence Blog Tour.  This is her debut book and I can see her going a long way.
Here’s what Essence is about.

Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall. 

Interesting? So when I got a chance to have Lisa on the blog, the first thing that I was itching to ask why and how she chose Yosemite as the setting for the book. The lonely mountains and the beautiful scenery must have been quite an inspiration.

So without too much chatter, I hand it over to Lisa now.

When I first moved to Yosemite National Park in the summer of 2004, I had no idea I would someday set a novel there. I had no idea I would someday finish a novel at all, actually. I hadn’t attempted to write one since middle school, and I had gotten so busy with other pursuits that I didn’t even really consider myself a ‘writer’ anymore.

What I did realize—even during the haze of my 20-something wanderings—was that Yosemite National Park affected me more than any other place I’d ever lived before. It was ancient, and its sprawling backcountry and treacherous cliffs only added to its magnificence.

The park’s isolation also created a sense of community I had never experienced in other places. Like most park employees, I shared a 10’x10’ tent cabin with a roommate, and I had to trek all the way across our camp to reach the communal kitchen, bathroom and showers. We lived in a section of employee housing called Boystown, and we shared space with the most random assortment of hippies, climbers, gypsies and adventurers I would ever meet.

I didn’t know my experiences that summer would someday inspire ESSENCE, but the thing about story seeds is that you collect them in much the same way you collect real seeds. Sometimes, you harvest them by hand; sometimes, they just stick to your pants or the soles of your shoes.

I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, but I collected moments, snapshots, fragrances and feelings that summer, and I buried them somewhere deep in my subconscious. Years later, they would come racing forward, and ESSENCE would be born.

Here are some of the settings that particularly inspired me. You will find all of these places in the pages of my novel:

Photo Courtesy of Mark J. Miller

Vista Point showcases the entrance to Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is on the left, Bridalveil Falls is on the right, and you can see a peek of Half Dome in the background. (This particular view doesn’t *exactly* make an appearance in ESSENCE, but it is referenced during the scene just before Autumn and her friends go ziplining through the Wawona Tunnel.)

Photo Courtesy of Almonroth

The Ahwahnee Hotel is the perfect location for the Community’s home base. It is iconic, lavish and a little bit intimidating. Even if it fell into the disrepair described in the story, I am certain it would still possess the haunting opulence that makes it so remarkable today. (I imagined Ryder’s bedroom right there on the corner of that top story. The formal dining room is on the bottom left, and the mural room is on the bottom right.)

Photo Courtesy of Nimish Gogri

Autumn and her friends watch shooting stars from the Ahwahnee meadow, but my friends and I usually camped out (with a few bottles of wine) in the Curry Village meadow. The absence of ambient light made our nights into a virtual fireworks display of comets, constellations and the ever-churning Milky Way. (This shot was taken from Glacier Point, and views like this were definitely not uncommon.)

Photo Courtesy of God of War

Autumn and Javi’s first Yosemite hike is actually my first Yosemite hike. I set out with my roommate Mary Siner—the real-life inspiration for Kadence—and we huffed and puffed our way up the trail in much the same manner. We even stopped at one point to have a nearly identical conversation about how we were sure the elevation change must be to blame for our lack of fitness. (Autumn and Javi’s swimming hole really exists, too. It’s just beyond the cliff, and it’s a popular tourist swimming spot during the summer.)

Photo Courtesy of Brocken Inaglory
Yes, moonbows really are a thing. Yes, I really checked them out at the base of Yosemite Falls. No, my night didn’t end the same way Autumn’s ended. (Thank goodness for that!)

Photo Courtesy of LiAnna Davis

ESSENCE’s cover art was inspired by one particular scene that looks a lot like this. The crazy thing is that people actual do this from Taft Point, and some of them don’t use safety lines. (No, I am not one of them. Autumn may have inherited some of her acrophobia from me. ;))

Well, those are all the photos I have for you at the moment. Wanna see more of ESSENCE’s settings? Check out my Pinterest inspiration board here:

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I hope you have a wonderful day!

About Lisa Ann O'Kane
Lisa Ann O’Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel ESSENCE.

Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.

Essence releases in the UK as an ebook, on the 5th of June, 2014 by Strange Chemistry


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