I am an outdoors girl. I grew up roaming the woods and streams of Northern New Jersey. I hear some of you scoff, convinced, perhaps, that my home state is nothing but cars and concrete, but you couldn’t be more wrong. I grew up with forests to wander, mountains to ski on, and the ocean at the Jersey Shore.
I mention this because when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988, I simply wasn’t prepared for the wilderness I would find here. My novels are all based in this strange state, where one can sit poolside in the sun, then drive two hours north for a day on the ski slopes. Arizona has forests and mountains, and while there is, sadly, no shoreline from which to stare at the sea, there is the Sonoran Desert.
It’s funny that when you search for deserts on the Internet what you often see is sand: vast quantities of the stuff. But the Sonoran Desert is completely different from its sister deserts worldwide. The area – approximately 100,000 square miles, spreading across southern Arizona and parts of California and Sonora, Mexico – is home to a vast array of plants and creatures.
The Sonoran Desert is more lush than other deserts because of bi-yearly rainfall, which occurs in both the summer and winter. Many of the plants and animals one encounters is this strange land are found nowhere else on earth.
The symbol of this exclusivity, of course, is the massive saguaro cactus, a giant that can sprout 40 feet into the air and live over 150 years, and is just one of the 2000 plants that have been identified in the area. Birds of all kinds thrive here – approximately 350 species have been identified in the Sonoran Desert – along with 60 species of mammals and 100 kinds of reptiles.
These creatures have adapted to extreme conditions. Daytime temperatures can soar above 120 degrees and fall to well below freezing at night. Pronghorns, roadrunners, big horned sheep, Gila monsters, coyotes, the now rare and elusive jaguar, the desert tortoise, and the amazing kangaroo rat that can spend its entire life without once drinking water are just a few of the creatures that call the Sonoran Desert home.
Almost immediately upon my arrival in Arizona, I began exploring this rugged land. (I am a rock collector and never miss an opportunity to stick my nose in the dirt.) I have stood in awe of the fragile beauty here, which is perhaps why the Sonran Desert has always been one of the main characters in my novels. As readers know, the setting is the soul of a story.
I count myself fortunate that a job oportunity transplanted me to this land three decades ago. Though the desert and I haven’t always gotten along – yes, I’ve been stranded a few times over the years – still, I always managed to find my way home.
I’ve learned that while the desert is beautiful, it can quickly turn treacherous, not unlike some human characters we’ve become acquainted with through books.
I write about the Sonoran Desert because it affords my characters the opportunity to grow and change while they interact with the world around them. And … I want my readers to get to know her better, so they too can appreciate the wonder of this place.
A woman flees an abusive husband
and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.
Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.
Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.
Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?
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