My main hobby is walking, or hiking, and it has been intertwined with my writing life for years.
I walk for exercise, for the meditative sort of thinking I can only do while I walk, and to explore the world around me. I seek out the places where cherry trees bloom in the spring, where red maples flame in the fall, where dense shade cools the hottest summer days.
I walk through my suburban neighborhood regularly. But my favorite walks are through woods or on mountains, from the Poconos to the Adirondacks, to the dazzling high trails in Yosemite and Rocky Mountain and Mount Rainier National Parks. Even when I lived in major cities, I found the places to walk: alleys, gardens, parks, window-shopping districts, river trails. Philadelphia, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC are all great walking cities. When I visited Paris, I never took a metro or a cab. I walked everywhere, figuring that everything I would see along the way was part of the experience: every flowerbed and statue and fountain and bridge, every patisserie and storefront and sidewalk café.
My characters also walk when they need to think—Maggie fleeing a romantic encounter with her best friend in Until It Hurts to Stop, Colt mourning his secret girlfriend’s death in The Secret Year, Ryan reconnecting with the world after a suicide attempt in Try Not to Breathe. They all find someplace outdoors that’s meaningful: a riverbank, a waterfall, a mountain. I used my hiking experiences most directly in my third book, Until It Hurts to Stop. Maggie and Nick’s encounter with a rattlesnake, their battle with high winds on a mountain summit, and their getting caught in a rainstorm are all things that really happened to me.
I met my husband through a hiking club. He walks, too.
Hiking with someone else is different from hiking alone, and I need both: the solitude and meditation of a hike alone, the shared joys and camaraderie of a hike with others.
Writing is not only a solitary profession but a sedentary one, so it’s good to have a hobby that involves physical movement. It keeps me from getting stuck, in more ways than one.