Gail D. Storey is the author of I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, Winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, Foreword IndieFab Book of the Year Award, Nautilus Silver Award, Colorado Book Award, and Barbara Savage Award. Vist her here. Excerpts from the book can be read here.
NAW- Tell us about your memoir, I Promise Not to Suffer. How did you get the idea for it? How difficult was the journey?
I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail is my hilariously harrowing story of hiking the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail with my husband, Porter, a hospice physician in a career crisis. We climbed and descended mountains for more than twenty miles a day in the sweltering heat of California’s high desert, kicked steps up icy slopes in the snow of the High Sierra, trudged across the Mojave Desert and through the lava fields of Oregon, and through the wet forests of Washington. I hadn’t really hiked or camped before, and among other adventures, nearly drowned fording icy rapids.
The book grew out of Porter’s and my conflicting accounts of the same events, written in our respective trail journals.
NAW- How did you plan the trip? How was the experience doing it with a companion? Doing it all alone would have been depressing, right?
We planned our trip for a year, training as well as we could for the mountains while living in relatively flat Houston, Texas. We sold our house, my car, and many of our possession to finance our expedition, and moved to a loft where we created a staging area for the resupplies of food and gear that we’d have shipped to us along the trail. Porter set up his sewing machine and made most of our ultralight gear—7-ounce tarp, our backpacks (about 12 pounds each fully loaded except for food and water). At the back of I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail I include appendices about our food, gear, and preparation.
Porter had planned to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone, but invited me to come along to understand what it was that was so extraordinary about living in the wilderness for months. I had no intention of going, but found I was swept up in it out of love for Porter and curiosity about the transformation I knew was in store for us.
NAW- Tell us about the Pacific Crest Trail. What made you choose it for your hike?
The Pacific Crest Trail extends 2,663 miles from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada, over the mountains of California, Oregon, and Washington, through wildly varying terrain, weather, and ecosystems. Porter had already hiked the shorter Appalachian Trail, and together we had bicycled on our tandem from Houston to Maine and from Houston to San Diego, near the foot of the Pacific Crest Trail. We figured it would be our most exciting adventure thus far. In 2004, the year we hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, about 300 hikers started out and only about 65 finished because of weather, injuries, and other challenges.
NAW- Tell us about your other works. How difficult (or easy) was it getting your first work published?
My first novel, The Lord’s Motel, about a woman in love with the wrong man and all the trouble she gets into with him, was hard to find a publisher for at first because of the heroine’s peccadillos and my own outrageous humor. But it was eventually published by Persea Books in New York and was praised by the New York Times Book Review as a “tale of unwise judgments and wise humor.”
My second novel, God’s Country Club, about how even when you’re with the right person, you’re still dragging your issues along with you, was published by Persea Books as the sequel to The Lord’s Motel. It was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to make short videos, including the book trailer for I Promise Not to Suffer on my website at gailstorey.com. I jump out of a cake each year on my birthday and make a video of that as well. Most of my videos are on my YouTube channel at Gail Storey.
The Pacific Crest Trail so profoundly deepened my life and my marriage with Porter that we hike and bike now as an organic part of our lives together.
Walking progressively deeper into the primal question “Who am I?” in the wilderness awakened me to the true nature we share with all beings. Whether writing, jumping out of a cake, or anything, really, I’m learning to wake up to life and what awareness wants of me.
NAW- Who are your favourite writers?
I have so many favorite writers I hardly know where to begin. Our entire lower floor was completely demolished in a flood last year, and my forty-year collection of books drowned. Just before my wall-to-wall bookcases collapsed and fell over, I managed to save a few of my favorite books—poetry by Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, and John Ashbery, and books of mysticism, philosophy, and psychology.
NAW- How do you write, planning the complete plot beforehand or do you let the book take its course? Take us through your writing process.
I began The Lord’s Motel from a collection of one-liners written on sticky-notes at dinner parties, which I then assigned to characters who began talking in scenes, the scenes growing into chapters. God’s Country Club grew out of those same characters’ further misadventures. I like to joke that I write the book and go back and put the plot in later!
I Promise Not to Suffer: A Fool for Love Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail evolved from Porter’s and my respective trail journals, written on waterproof paper. Our journals documented the basic chronology and geography of the ever-shifting landscape, both outer and inner. Over nine years and multiple drafts, I created a more cohesive narrative of our hiking adventures interwoven with the story of our marriage, my relationship with my mother who was dying of cancer, and other resonances between our outer adventure and inner ones of mind, emotions, and spirit.
NAW-What are you currently reading?
Adyashanti’s The Way of Liberation.
NAW- What are your upcoming projects?
To have no projects, but to see what wants to happen.