15-year-old best friends Jake and Peter have survived whitewater rapids, an avalanche, a forest fire, movie stuntwork, killer surf waves, perilous rock-climbing, and much, much more.
In this latest instalment of the series, Jake and Peter are junior instructors at a noisy wakeboard school that is attempting to share a remote lake with a community of save-the-earth society dropouts (otherwise known as hippies). Jake and Peter love performing their own tricks behind a powerboat driven by the school’s founder, a macho young wakeboard fanatic known as “The Party Animal.” Then, Peter decides to encourage the wild streak in a rebellious hippie girl across the lake. She runs away to hide in a nearby abandoned sawmill, only to discover it’s not as abandoned as it looks. Soon, community tensions erupt, and the boys get more action than they bargained for..
Click here to learn about the story behind the book!
Not every sports expert who helps me with my novels gets interrupted in the process by becoming a new dad, but Wake’s Edge consultant Steve Hahn was one, and the person helping me with my current novel-in-progress (more about that when it’s finished, accepted and on the press) is another. In both cases, I’ve dedicated the book to the newborn.
So, Wake’s Edge was dedicated to Layla Haija Hahn when it came out in 2007, and as the acknowledgments read, “He helped me with the wakeboard action scenes while sweating it out waiting for a phone call from his wife to say she’d gone into labour with their first child. The manuscript and the baby developed and arrived at the same time!”
How did I come up with the idea for a book on wakeboarding? Well, I took votes from several classes of middle-schoolers to whom I was presenting. I remember them voting down hang-gliding and being enthusiastic about wakeboarding. When my publisher asked me, “What sport will your next book feature?” I replied, “Wakeboarding.” “What’s wakeboarding?” he asked. My answer: “Doesn’t matter if you and I don’t know the sport. The kids do!”
And so I launched into researching wakeboarding, eagles (which play a key part in the novel) and hippies. Yes, since there’s a hippie commune in the story, I read a few books on hippie communes of the Sixties. (Two facts I remember are that most children of hippies wanted nothing to do with the lifestyle after they grew up, and that the communes with the fewest rules were the ones that most quickly fell apart.)
As for eagles, luckily I have a good friend who is an eagle expert. Plus, anytime I wanted to hear what an eagle pip sounded like or baby eagle looked like, I just turned on YouTube, which was fairly new back then. These days, I hear eagle pips every day from our house on Mayne Island, B.C., and I never take the privilege for granted.
Anyway, working with wakeboarder Steve Hahn of Bellingham, Washington allowed me to name the wakeboard tricks that my characters did or aspired to do. Including double-ups, tweaked-out grabs and spins, a 720, a roll to blind, tantrums and hoochies – the latter being what the wakeboard instructor in my novel named his dog. And watching wakeboard videos inspired me to show my characters launching off a boathouse roof and doing tricks on an overturned, half-buried canoe.
Then there was the fun of naming the characters in the hippie commune: Karma, Forrest, Skye and Tao. As for the spookiness of the abandoned sawmill, I built that ambience by taking a walk around McLean Mill, a historical site in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada. There, I met three staffers who ended up answering some pertinent questions and later reading paragraphs to ensure that any plot twists and descriptions involving the mill were authentic.
The diesel motor grew louder as Jake stumbled through the lower maze of the sawmill. He ducked under belts that rose to the main floor. He crawled past iron wheels he could have stood inside, from toes to upward reaching fingertips. He knocked over an oiling can as he brushed past chains with links the size of his palm. Finally, he dove for cover in the boiler room.
As a child of the hippie commune (now called “intentional communities”), my character Karma is a tree-hugging, non-wakeboarding vegetarian, though my character Peter does his best to corrupt her on each count. When he finally manages to free the wild child in her – she starts doing some crazy maneuvering on the jetskis and wakeboards – I supply my favorite Jake line in the book: “What was she on, anyway? Maybe she’d eaten a fermented zucchini or something.”
Oh yes, then there’s the line on p. 125-126: “Peter flung the back door wide open and broke into a loud rendition of a song by his favorite band, Retrofire, as he sauntered toward the barn.” Who, me sneak in a promotion for an actual heavy-metal band? Well, sorry, but it was my teenage son’s garage band at the time. (Their website still exists in the archives; my son is the one in the white T-shirt.)