BEHIND THE BOOK

A CONVERSATION WITH AYJA BOUNOUS

author of Shaped by Snow: Defending the Future of Winter 

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So far, what’s been the most surprising (and/or difficult, and/or enjoyable) part about writing your book?

Finishing it! As I approach my final submission deadline, I’m getting hit with wave after wave of creativity. I find that I can’t write fast enough to capture my ideas as they come. Where were all these ideas a few months ago when I needed them, when my thoughts were stagnant with writer’s block?  

 

I can tell that this is a book that will never fully be done, because as I have new experiences with people and places, as I remember things from my childhood, as new research comes out regarding climate change and the West, and as I collect stories from others it will continue to write itself, even after I have to submit it.  

 

Another is the amount of research I have had to conduct in order to include scientific fact. Three days of heavy research will often result in a mere paragraph or two of writing. It’s exhausting and makes me want to pull my hair out at times, but I hope my readers will find it well worth it. I know I’ve enjoyed how much more fully I understand the natural science of the Wasatch through this writing process! 

“THP writers don’t approach land conservation from a

'nature is good, humans are bad' perspective…

our health and the health of the environment

are too intertwined to be separated.”

 

Tell us about your dream book-launch party.

 

It sounds extravagant, and it would be, but I would have it held in an igloo in the mountains, where we could experience firsthand some of the incredible qualities of snow, like insulation. There would be paper snowflakes hanging everywhere, each unique, perhaps a fire pit with s’mores to roast, stovetop popcorn, a fondue fountain, and hot toddies galore. I’d love to capture the warm, cozy feeling we get when it’s snowing outside, how it brings us closer together. I’d have my family, including distant members from Italy who are so closely connected to their mountains, and Skadi (the Norse goddess of skiing).

 

 

Describe one of your favorite places. What makes this place special to you?

 

Up at Snowbird Ski Resort there’s a peak known as Baldy. I write about it a few times in Shaped by Snow. Because of avalanche danger it’s not always open to skiers, but when it is open it’s one of my favorite places on the mountain. The terrain is phenomenal, and since it requires a hike to get to, it’s often less crowded than other areas. Depending on the conditions, the hike can seem like a walk in the park or it can be absolutely miserable. Similarly, the snow on Baldy can either be the deepest, most delicious snow, or it can be breakable crust, or buffed-out ice. It sometimes can seem like a shot in the dark, and it’s a commitment—once you get up there you’ve got a long run of whatever conditions are present before you get back to the groomed stuff. But when it’s firing off, there is no place in the world like Baldy. It’s one of my favorite places to take friends who are in town visiting. The hike can be challenging, especially for out-of-towners not used to the elevation, but if it’s a beautiful day the views down the valley make you feel like you’re on top of the world. And if it’s “socked” in and there aren’t any views, then you’re likely to get the best powder of your life. The more I hike Baldy with friends, the closer we become. The experience, the place, weaves us together. 

 

Why Torrey House?

 

I wanted to work with THP because of how deeply rooted the writing is in the land. THP writers don’t approach land conservation from a “nature is good, humans are bad” perspective, but rather from the perspective that our health and the health of the environment are too intertwined to be separated. The land is dependent on us, the choices we make regarding climate change and land use, and we are dependent on the land. THP authors know this and address these complexities through their writing. 

 

Favorite Torrey House Titles?

 

The Story of My Heart, Edge of Morning, Red Rock Stories, Stony Mesa Sagas, The Delightful Horror of Family Birding. I’m in the midst of Desert Cabal with Mostly White, The Luckiest Scar on Earth, and Nature, Love, Medicine next up! 

 

What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

 

Hopefully a really great ski season!

 

Help bring Shaped by Snow by Ayja Bounous to the page.

 

 

 

 

Ayja Bounous is a Utah native and a recent graduate of the University of Utah’s Environmental Humanities Graduate Program. Her book Shaped by Snow is forthcoming November 2019 from Torrey House Press.

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