The Elephant Butte Influence in Cupcake Girl
The next day, I sat on the shore watching my kids and their good friends race each other out to a small rocky island. The setting for my story shifted and I could suddenly see Max and Lexie at the lake. It was almost like I had previously been looking through the blurry lens of a camera, and when I aimed it at Elephant Butte the story came into focus and I could clearly see the novel unfold.
The location became central to the story and shaped the characters and plot. The story opens as Max and Lexie are caught in a violent storm while sailing on the lake, and is based on a personal experience I'd had the previous summer. Instead of being in a speedboat that made it safely back to the harbor like I was, the characters confront the powerful ferocity of the storm in a sailing Hobie kayak. Anyone who has spent time at Elephant Butte is familiar with the awe-inspiring power that the intense summer storms at the lake can have.
The characters have an ongoing joke to see how many times they can work the words "Elephant Butte" and "Truth or Consequences" into their normal speech, and Max runs cross-country and swims for Hot Springs High. Max's character as a triathlete was largely influenced by the great experiences our children had participating in the "Dam It Man Duathlon, the Elephant Kidz Triathlon, and even the Socorro Chile Harvest Triathlon. I was so impressed with the strong sense of community among the organizers of the race, the participants, and those cheering the athletes on. I loved feeling the comradery during the races and seeing how everyone seemed to know and support one another in Elephant Butte.
I also loved attending services for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Truth or Consequences, and was so impressed with the way the members so genuinely loved and cared for one another. Though they obviously came from different backgrounds, I was impressed by the sincerity of their faith and their love for each other. At the beginning of Cupcake Girl, neither of the characters are LDS or even particularly religious, but I wanted to capture what it would be like for them to find God and to find a place in this wonderful congregation in T or C.
A reviewer who is not LDS summarized the book this way:
"Though this book is marketed as an 'LDS romance novel," it's a good read for anyone (like myself) who is not LDS, but who just enjoys well-developed characters in a YA romance. From page one, the story's action grabs the reader. (I got hooked and read the book in one day!) The language and emotions of Max and Lexie are so true-to-life . . . The author really understands the teen perspective and readers will want to know what happens between Max and Lexie. For non-LDS readers, the book offers a glimpse into the LDS world, but it's not heavy-handed. Any reader who is looking for realistic teen characters in an uplifting and hopeful story will enjoy this book." -Lindy Ferriss
I grew up in a small town near Sun Valley, Idaho whose population also fluctuated during tourist season, and being in Elephant Butte felt a little like home to me. I was glad to put Max and Lexie in this community, and hope my readers come to love Elephant Butte as much as I do.