Local author’s debut novel centers a strong female role model, respect for nature | SkyHiNews.com

Local author’s debut novel centers a strong female role model, respect for nature

It took Stella Raasch five-and-a-half years and 12 drafts to tell her story, but her debut novel, "18th Winter," is finally published.

"18th Winter" is a young adult fantasy novel that tells the story of Collette and the curse placed on her family's tribe, the Cyokiana. The novel follows Collette as she tries to navigate her destiny and a romantic entanglement with rugged outdoorsman Bryce Chatterton.

Raasch, a part-time Grand Lake resident who works in health care in Aurora, said she has always enjoyed reading and was inspired to write a book during the time after she had graduated nursing school and before getting her first health care job.

"I knew I wanted it to be for young adults because I think in the young adult fantasy fiction genre, I find that there's a lack of female characters who are good, positive role models for young girls," she said. "I set the goal of my female character, Collette, to be that. She's hard-working, she's very passionate, she questions the world around her, she wants to be the best person she can be."

Though the book is set in her home state of Idaho, Raasch, 40, said she was inspired by her encounters with wildlife and outdoor experiences that she has had while spending summers in Grand Lake.

Raasch and her husband, Larry, and their dog have spent the past three summers in Grand Lake and exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park.

"It inspired a scene where Collette encounters a fox along the riverbed and also a moose while she is snowshoeing and those are ideas that I garnered from our place in Grand Lake," she explained. "I'm hoping that this book will also inspire people to get outdoors, enjoy nature and be awe-inspired by nature."

Aside from using her writing to promote a love of nature and spending time outdoors, there are many themes Raasch wanted to highlight in her book, including encouraging readers to examine the cruelty of some animal industries, such as fur, and the importance of putting values over materialism.

Raasch added that she purposefully chose to make Collette unique-looking because she wanted to make sure her readers know that they can be different and still be strong and independent.

"I hope that from reading this book it will cause people to look at the world around them and maybe see it a little bit differently and be more aware of things going on in the world that maybe they weren't aware of," she said.

Raasch said that since this is her first book, she had to spend a lot of time learning how to write fiction. Luckily, it helped her to have an intimate knowledge of the setting and a main character who shares many similarities to Raasch.

Two of the most important steps in her creative process were to do a lot of brainstorming and taking a step back from her story so that she could view it with fresh eyes.

"I think it's important to have some type of familiarity or idea about what you're writing about," Raasch said. "Just brainstorm, write down every single thing that comes to mind and then start connecting the dots, but you first have to visualize what you want it to look like."

She also read a lot of young adult fiction so she could figure out what she wanted to include and what she wanted to avoid in her book. Some of her favorite authors include Sarah J. Maas, Michael Scott, Melissa Marr and Rick Riordan.

While Raasch said she would like to make "18th Winter" a duology or triology if it's popular enough, her ultimate goal is to be able to start a college scholarship fund for single parents or older students who are going to school for the first time or going back to school.

"This is my sixth career," she laughed. "Everything has been a stepping stone up to this point."

“18th Winter” can be found on Amazon in ebook or paperback formats.

Stella’s advice for aspiring writers

Raasch said there are two main pieces of advice she would give to aspiring authors. The first is to keep going.

If you are struggling with some aspect of your writing, whether it’s world-building or grammatical aspects, don’t give up, seek resources,” she said. “I had to teach myself how to write fiction and I read and read and I researched endlessly over the past five and a half years so that I could do it correctly. So if you need help, seek resources.”

In that same vein, Raasch said she had to find motivation to keep going. She credits a movie she watched, “Before Disney,” about the life of Walt Disney, with helping her finish “18th Winter.”

Find someone or something that can give you the motivation that you need to finish it,” she said.

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