Sandworms of Dune

Saturday, June 23, 2007



Outside, in the Office

The following is the text of an article I just published in COLORADO COUNTRY LIFE magazine. It provides more insight in how, and why, I love to do my writing in the gorgeous wilderness.

*  *  *  *  *

I work in the state of Colorado -- in fact, all over the state. I’m a science fiction writer, and to me the word “office” is only a loose term for the place where I get my writing done.

I have trained myself to write using a hand-held tape recorder while walking along beautiful trails, sinking into my imaginary worlds, stories, and characters . . . and talking to myself. It’s like telling stories around a campfire, engrossed in the plot, speaking aloud, letting the sentences roll off my tongue as my hiking boots roll off the miles. That way I can accomplish my exercise and sightseeing while being productive at the same time.

Sometimes other hikers I meet on the trail aren’t quite so accepting of my work methods. More than once I’ve been the recipient of angry glares. While climbing around the Flatirons near Boulder, a man snapped at me, “You shouldn’t be working out here. Just enjoy nature!”

(As if the two are mutually exclusive?)

At a campsite on the Grand Mesa, I was surrounded by tall trees whispering in the wind, near a rushing creek. I had my laptop out on the picnic table, reveling in the glorious surroundings as I did some editing. Another camper felt compelled to march over to me. “Turn that thing off! You’re on vacation.”

A completely unfounded assumption. The fact is, I’m not on vacation. This is my work day. While other people are doomed to go to the daily grind in a “dilbertville” office complex with fabric-walled cubicles, ringing phones, office gossip, and endless meetings, I get to do my work out in the Colorado mountains and canyons. There, I am undistracted, able to concentrate on my imaginary worlds and stories. What could be more inspirational?

I have written a STAR WARS novel with Han Solo and Princess Leia at the polar cap of an ice planet while I was snowshoeing up Quandary Peak near Dillon. I’ve written DUNE novels with Brian Herbert -- all of them set on an arid desert planet -- while trudging through the Great Sand Dunes near Alamosa. I’ve written about ancient ruined alien cliff cities for my “Saga of Seven Suns” series while exploring Mesa Verde.

Since I moved to Colorado more than eight years ago, I have published thirty novels, every one of them primarily written on the trails of Colorado. Along the way, I’ve hiked 200 miles of the Colorado Trail and climbed every one of the 54 Fourteeners, all the while dictating exciting science fiction tales in my head (though sometimes at steep parts and at rarefied altitudes, I tend to pant as hard as my heroes and villains locked in mortal combat!).

So if you see me on the trail talking to myself, intent on something inside my head, remember -- I’m not on vacation, I’m working. And I’d rather be working here outside in Colorado than in any other office in the world.

-- KJA


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