The Accidental Podcaster: Down the Rabbit Hole
Colleen Mondor puts out a monthly blogletter chronicling her research and progress for her book on the 1932 Cosmic Ray climbing expedition on Mt. McKinley. In last week’s missive, she details a side story she came across in her research regarding a friend of that expedition’s leader by the name of Elbridge Herron, who was a fellow climber (and, creepily, looks kind of like our own SaladBooty). At the age of 30, Herron was returning from his own expedition to Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas when he stopped in Cairo for a day trip, climbed the Second Pyramid, and was killed when he fell off.

Herron was not a part of the Cosmic Ray expedition (also ill-fated; the aforementioned friend and expedition leader, Allen Carpe, had been killed during that expedition a few months before), and Mondor only learned of him by accident when looking for something else. As she laments in her missive, “I have a running list of names of fascinating people I find in all this research (thank goodness for Field Notes) and I just continue to add to it every damn time I open another old book. But how to do your resist a story like Herron's? How do you not want to know more?â€

I completely get where she’s coming from. For the new RCM adventure story (debuted yesterday!), I had a general idea for a three-book story arc that was going to need a lot of research to do right. Without giving too much away, the team will be battling a numbers-based cult that I decided early on to build from scratch, mixing in elements of Druid beliefs, numerology, stargazing and astrology, interpretation of ancient prophesy, and more, delineating between the actions and beliefs of actual religions against the decidedly darker perversions of those beliefs taken on by my cult. What started out as a simple, and I thought would be quick, research into some historical secret societies and how to write up a proper numerology profile has morphed into what has (so far) been an eight-month odyssey into the history of magical practitioners in an insanely vast spectrum of spell casting and divination fields, secret rites, mythology, and more. I have librarians in three separate libraries helping track down materials as I need them, and also tagging books and other things they find that they think might be useful. What we've found so far has taken on my bare-bones concept of the heart of the cult and its motives and given it such a rich fullness of detail that aids and fleshes out the story I want to tell.

I’ve often said with the RCM adventures that I’m often just as surprised at where the story goes as everyone else, that I start with a rough idea and then just see what the various details spark in the lines of what should happen next. For this one, I thought I’d reigned that in quite a bit because I had a very clear and detailed picture of what the transition between the third and fourth story needed to be, so I wrote the ending for the third story before I had even finished the second. Since I had a general idea of the storyline and conflicts that would have to lead up to that ending, I didn’t think I’d get to have that same feeling of discovery I had with the first two stories. But that need for authenticity, those initial forays into learning how a modern practitioner would conduct something leading to a line about this mythology or that form of divination or some new historical group that played closely to how I needed certain characters to perform, led me down a deep rabbit hole which would have been daunting if I’d have realized at the beginning of the project how much time I’d end up spending just on this piece of the story. But as it’s central to not just this run, but the two after it as well, it’s deserving of the time spent. And, let’s be honest, I’m having a hell of a fun time with it.

My only lament, as I curl up this evening with some Zinger and the legends of King Arthur*, is time. To echo of Mondor’s closer, “I can hardly believe it is nearly October...every moment seems to fly by so quickly. I wish I could write this book faster; it is a story I am desperate to tell.†As the nights get longer, I will (hopefully) get to spend more time focusing on my reading and crafting an amazing story as I get sucked deeper into my own rabbit hole. I just hope the words that come out reflect the colors and complexities that have been swirling in my head since last February.

* Fun fact: My given name of Jennifer is the Cornish variation of the Welsh Gwenhwyfar, or as was spelled in later variations of the legends, Guinevere.
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