Ghost Town Inspiration (How Bodie Became a Book)

Mono Lake in WinterYears ago, my mom and stepdad owned a family restaurant in the Eastern Sierras that overlooked Mono Lake. The Mono Inn was four miles north of the small town of Lee Vining, and Lee Vining was about a half mile from the “back gate” to Yosemite National Park.

The restaurant was also about 20 miles south of Bodie State Historic Park, a gold rush/silver mining ghost town. When we would visit my mom and stepdad, at the restaurant, we’d often take a side trip to Bodie. The ghost town is in a “state of arrested decay,” its few surviving wooden structures all that are left of a once bustling town. You can read more about the old ghost town here.

ChurchBodie is quite an evocative place. Empty buildings scattered across the lunar-like landscape, some of the structures with the original furnishings inside. Back when I used to visit the town, there were only two ways in–a road that was dirt for several miles, and another that was paved up to the last two miles, then it was dirt as well. The idea was that when you were inside the “bowl” of the town of Bodie, there would be no signs of modern civilization.

Eric & Mom FarYou can see from the photo at left (that’s me with my older son) that the bowl of Bodie is a wild and lonely place. It’s thoroughly snowed-in in the winter. The town actually burned down three times in its heyday (once thanks to a young boy playing with matches) and was considered quite a lawless place. It’s rumored that a young girl whose family was taking her there wrote in her diary, “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”

BarnMany years later, after my stepdad had died and my mom sold the restaurant, I found myself wanting to write a children’s book. I’d been writing romances that weren’t appropriate for kids, and I wanted to create something that my own boys could read. Besides photos I’d taken, I had read quite a bit about Bodie and decided to use it as a jumping off point for a story.

Cain HouseI considered writing historical fiction. But I love stories with an SF/F/paranormal angle. So I wrote a middle grade time travel adventure in which four 7th graders are thrown from present day Sacramento into 1880’s Bodie due to the antics of a mischievous cat and a malfunctioning computer. I made my cast of characters multi-ethnic. The main character, Kevin, is white, Naomi, the girl Kevin has a crush on, is Chinese-American, Tanya is Black, and Michael is Hispanic (and also ADD). My original plan was to write a story from the POV of each of them, but I never got past this first book.

I eventually sold the book to Hard Shell Word Factory (now an imprint of Mundania Press). They used the photo above of the Cain house for the cover, putting a cobalt blue glass bottle into the window of the house. Here’s the paper version of the book on Amazon showing the old cover.

TimewreckedWhen I got the rights back to the book, I republished it under my own name as the ebook Timewrecked. I really love this book. I love its adventuresome view of the gold rush era, told through the eyes of modern day kids. I love that it’s such a fantastic teaching tool for 4th grade California history. I’m tickled about its multi-ethnic cast. And here’s the best part–the Timewrecked ebook is free. That’s right, just go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple and you can download it for freebies.

If you’re a teacher who’d like to have me do a Skype visit or if you’re local enough to Northern California that I can drive to be there in person, just go here to request an appearance. I do still have paper copies available for students to purchase.

About karensandler

Lover of chocolate. A couple felines short of full-fledged Cat Lady. Author of the YA Tankborn Trilogy (TANKBORN, AWAKENING, and REBELLION), from Tu Books. Founding team member of We Need Diverse Books. Opinions expressed here are my own.
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5 Responses to Ghost Town Inspiration (How Bodie Became a Book)

  1. Pingback: Ghost Town Inspiration How Bodie Became a Book | karensandler (Checking in on old friends) | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!

  2. Robin Clark says:

    I had no idea about this book Karen. It does sound like a wonderful adjunct tool for 4th grade teachers especially.

    • karensandler says:

      I’ve gone into a number of classrooms with this book at local schools. Carol F was going to help me write a teacher guide for it at one point, but I just ran out of steam for the project.

  3. Tracy Klaus says:

    Larry and I have talked about going to Bodie a couple of times… one of these days we are actually going to make it there.

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