“The tree grew near the back fence at a thirty- degree angle. Angel had no idea what had knocked the oak over, but it stayed rooted at that odd slant. Someone had also chopped off the top of the tree, leaving one single branch that pointed straight up. Angel walked up the trunk of the tree, turned and sat, leaning against the branch.”
That is the second paragraph in Chapter One of my novel Finding Angel. The character of Angel is of course fictional, but the tree is very much real. I had a tree exactly like that in the back yard of the house where I grew up. When I was young, it was fun to climb, play games on, or to throw a blanket over and pretend to horseback ride.
As I got a little older it became my place to escape when I had a bad day, to relax, to read, to listen to music, or to just sit and feel the wind on my face. I spent endless hours sitting and gazing out over the back fence at the wide-open field behind our yard. I suppose that’s why my book starts where it does. A place of comfort and belonging.
Angel calls her tree her “reading tree” and she uses it for the same reasons I used mine. She is a lot like me—or maybe I am a lot like her. Either way, we share many of the same dreams, like wishing story book places were real, and fantasizing about being swept off to a land of mystery and magic…someplace where we belong because we are different rather than in spite of being different. A place where a half-chopped down and tilted tree can be a gateway to an adventure.
I still think about my reading tree often. I wonder if it’s still stand—er, leaning in my old back yard. Or if the new owners didn’t see its beauty and potential and knocked it down. Of course, there’s nothing I can do about it, except know I’ve created a world in which my tree will always be appreciated…and have the potential to take others places that only exist in dreams.
Kat Heckenbach spent her childhood with pencil and sketchbook in hand, knowing she wanted to be an artist when she grew up—so naturally she graduated from college with a degree in biology, went on to teach math, and now homeschools her two children while writing. Her YA fantasy series Toch Island Chronicles is available in print and ebook. Enter her world and subscribe to her newsletter for the latest on new releases at www.katheckenbach.com.