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Thirdway: Mitch and Becca are stunned when an injured and strung out young woman, an echo from the past, arrives unexpectedly at their mountain lodge. But Emily is not alone—she belongs to an eclectic fellowship on a quest to backpack from Georgia to Maine.
Section (a stand-alone sequel) Nick’s life is shattered and he decides to walk off his grief. Emily wants to be free from the emotional pressures of family and to keep her hard-won sobriety. Middle-aged Hilma and Tim crave a physical challenge. Sarah is recovering from last year's injury and seeks closure. These are just a few who decide to put on their backpacks and hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. As their paths lead to and through the Thirdway Lodge, Section tells their entangled stories of adventure, reconciliation, romance, justice, and hope. self-discovery.
“I want to backpack a hundred AT miles in one vacation,” I answered when my wife asked what I wanted for my 50th birthday. She called my bluff—we had never done such a thing, although we had recently gone on a short day hike along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia and were intrigued by those AT hikers and their journeys. So we trained, took that first backpacking trip, and ten years later, in my 60th year, completed the entire 2,190+ miles of the AT through a series of day hikes and “section” hikes up to two weeks long. That first “let’s do something huge for your 50th” hike had turned into a decade of adventure and would be the inspiration for my first novel, Thirdway.
During that period, I took physical and mental notes of the journey. What stuck was not just the amazing scenery and physical challenges and triumphs, but the interesting people we met—fellow hikers, shuttle drivers, trail angels, and residents of towns along the way. We got a sense of why people were attempting a thru-hike—completing the whole trail in one hiking season of three to six months, why people ran hiker hostels and provided rides, and the whole trail community.
In the meantime, I had been reading books that focused on wide-ranging types of communities from Hogwarts in the Harry Potter epic to Holly Springs in Jan Karon’s Mitford books, Middle Earth of JRR Tolkein’s fantasy, the residents of Corduroy Mansions in yet another wonderful series by Alexander McCall Smith, and Ballybuckelbo at the center of the Irish Country Doctor tales.
Although I’d thought of writing a fiction book for decades, I started thinking more and more of creating my own community, a place to visit and explore. As part of my career studying medical implants, I’ve authored dozens of scientific journal articles, but no fiction. If you had told me thirty years ago that I would have a book now, I would have guessed, or hoped, it would be something philosophically deep with societal impact. My book is neither and I’m good with that.
A few years ago, as I started thinking about a work transition (someday) and my wife was beginning an evening Master’s program, I decided it was time to start writing a novel. I did not know what I would write, but decided to just start with a place I’d know. I imagined the fictional scenario of a running a hiker lodge along the AT while my wife continued her educational and productivity coaching endeavors. So I started painting that scene in wistful focus on our fictional future lives. But soon, the characters were definitely not us and as I began uncovering the story, I was drawn more to the hikers that came to the lodge. The result was Thirdway, a story of two communities, the owners of a hiker lodge and residents of a nearby village, and a fellowship of hikers attempting to thru-hike the trail from Georgia to Maine. The story intertwines these groups, and gets into their own backstories, especially the hikers: the attorney in mid-life crisis, the young professional, the obnoxious know-it-all, the bohemian duo, and the young women with a rocky past. The trail, too, is a character, but it’s more of the setting and vehicle as I found myself focusing on the people in a tale of adventure, family, relationships, struggles, triumphs, self-discovery, and redemption—in other words, things that are life.
I still have, and am very fulfilled by, that medical implant company job. As time allows in the evenings and on weekends, I do some book outreach such as establishing www.thirdwayontheapplachiantrail.com, author networking, and have begun the second book in the series. My readers tell me they want to know more about my fictional friends at the Thirdway Lodge in Jefferson, VA, and on the AT. Feel free to reach me through my web-site or directly at email@example.com. Happy reading. -Mark
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