MEEKER I Former Meeker resident and published novelist Diane Les Becquets returns to Meeker for a book reading, presentation and signing of her new novel, “Breaking Wild,” on Feb. 13 at 2 p.m. at Meeker Public Library. A question and answer session will also be an integral part of the event.
While “Breaking Wild” (Berkley, Penguin Random House) is not Les Becquets’ first novel—she has written three others for the young adult market—it is her first in the adult market.
The book is about a female bow hunter who goes missing in the Colorado wilderness and the female ranger who tries to find the missing woman. For Les Becquets, however, it goes much deeper.
As an avid outdoorswomen, her inspiration for the story actually came while bow hunting in the remote area of Cyclone Pass in Colorado. After bugling back and forth with an elk and going deeper and deeper into the woods, darkness fell and she knew she wouldn’t be able to take a shot. Retrieving her headlamp from her pack, however, she switched it on only to discover it wouldn’t function.
“The moon and stars were blotted out by dark clouds, and I was lost,” Les Becquets recounted. “There were no trails and I was in the middle of deadfall. I had a compass and I used the silhouette of the trees against the sky to get my bearings. After several hours, I found the trail that led back to my truck, but the whole thing was terrifying.”
It was on her way home that the idea for “Breaking Wild” struck her.
It is also because of Les Becquets’ love for Meeker, where she lived for almost 14 years, raised three sons and left in 2006, that she created the story’s fictitious town of Rio Mesa, which is based on Meeker. The book itself is also dedicated to Meeker.
From China Wall to the Flat Tops Wilderness to the high dessert, Les Becquets hiked, camped, snowshoed and even worked with archaeologists at field schools.
While she now lives in New Hampshire and loves it—she is a professor of English and a faculty member of the master of fine arts program in fiction and nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University. (She said that when she left Meeker, she “literally cried all the way to the other side of Kansas because at the time no other place seemed possible.”)
The old expression “write what you know,” which refers more to emotions than it does events, is evident in Les Becquet’s work in this novel. She identifies closely with both protagonists in the story, Amy Raye and Pru, but especially the latter.
“It is Pru’s capacity to love and her capacity to feel grief as well as her process to heal, to live alone with her son, that I relate to the most,” she said.
Much of this comes first from Les Becquets’ loss of her first love, “a tall, strapping forestry major” who was killed in a car accident, and her second (her husband of only two years and another forestry major), who passed away from brain cancer.
“Both times the grief consumed me and it was through time alone in the woods and hiking mountains and camping beneath the stars where I found comfort and began to heal,” she said.
This book was more than just “writing a novel,” for Les Becquets, in fact. It was very healing for her.
“I remember when I wrote the last section that I went up to a hunting camp on the border of Canada and New Hampshire,” she said. “There was no WiFi, no cell service, no electricity. When I got back, my agent sent it out, and, within a week we had a couple of big (publishing) houses vying for it.”
Les Becquets is presently working on her next novel and will be able to devote more time to writing and promotion as her teaching load lessens.
Every writer hopes his or her words will resonate with the reader.
What does Les Becquets hope her readers will take away after reading “Breaking Wild”?
“I hope the novel will excite readers and inspire them to either connect or reconnect with the natural world,” she said. “I also think the novel and its characters teach us of the human capacity to persevere, to love, and to forgive. There are a lot of four-letter words out there. My two favorites are hope and love.”