This time, when Jake and Peter stumble upon adrenaline-pumping adventure, it`s high in the peaks of the Bugaboo Mountains just west of the Rockies. Fifteen-year-old Jake is obsessed with solo-climbing a soaring granite spire. His best friend, Peter, is as absorbed with filming Jake for a video as he is in not divulging his secret fear of heights to the runaway girl who joins them. Though a talented climber, the surly runaway girl seems possessed by a death wish. When Jake arrives at the halfway mark and cheerfully hangs his overnight cot on anchors at a death-defying 150-storey height above the ground, all seems well, but the next day, a lightning storm begins to unravel this carefully planned high-risk adventure. When a crisis prompts the girl to put her life at stake for Jake, it falls to Peter to overcome his fear to get everyone home safely. Packed with mountaineering lore and cliff-hanging tension, Vertical Limits features adventures in competitive gym climbing, outdoor urban climbing, and wilderness rock climbing.
Click here to learn about the story behind the book!
Vertical Limits may be the most popular book in my Take It to the Xtreme series of 10 teen sports novels, but writing it was so painful that I will never be able to regard it as my personal favorite.
I’d written only the first two chapters when I suffered a back injury from a fall unrelated to sports, which all but halted the book altogether.
To finish it by deadline, I literally suspended my laptop above me and wrote while lying flat on my back. I also used software to dictate parts of it. The irony of writing a book on extreme rock climbing while in this condition was not lost on me.
Fortunately, I had already outlined and researched the book. Better yet, I was working with a sympathetic climbing expert.
Other anecdotes about writing Vertical Limits:
- This sixth Take It to the Xtreme book was supposed to be the last in the series, but my publisher asked if I’d be willing to extend the series to 10 books, which I did.
- My editor was so shocked by the extreme climbing portrayed in this story that she initially balked at accepting it. Only when I informed her that I’d worked with several climbing experts (and paid out of my own money to have the editor of the Canadian Alpine Journal read it before I submitted it to her) did she relent. I learned later that she has a fear of heights, just like my character Peter.
- To write the chapter where Peter visits a hypnotist to get over his fear of heights, I actually paid to go to a hypnotist (where I pretended to have a fear of heights). The hypnotist actually referred to “past life modalities,” and much of what the hypnotist says in Vertical Limits was taken from my actual session. Of course, the hypnotist didn’t know I was using her to write a chapter, but she got her fee, I got my chapter and my character Peter got over his fear of heights, so everyone was happy!
- The runaway girl in the story, Katja, was inspired by a teen girl I met who, like Katja, nursed her cancer-ridden mother almost singlehandedly for months until her mother passed away.
- In Acknowledgments, I thank Shaun Evans, a climber whose real-life escapades with climbing cranes in an industrial yard inspired my characters doing the same. By the way, my main character Jake took his last name, Evans, from Shaun and his brother David (who was in the kayak club for teens that I ran at the time).
- It took me many years to recover from the back damage done by the fall (the one that so complicated the writing of Vertical Limits). It pretty much ended my kayaking days, but thankfully, I’ve managed to continue writing.