SALT LAKE CITY – Sometimes a writer struggles to find enthusiasm for a manuscript and other times the words flow so fast it’s hard to get them down fast enough. This was the case for author Taya Okerlund and her current work titled “Hurricane Coltrane.” It’s about a whip smart but prickly kid from Utah who befriends a boy who has the chops to be another John Coltrane, if he had a saxophone and a ticket out of polygamist Colorado City.
Okerlund found the story easy to write.
“When I took up writing Hurricane Coltrane, I had to set down an unfinished novel I had been working on for years,” Okerlund said. “The new book idea overtook me like a creative monsoon. I had my first draft after only three months, mostly confining my writing to my daughter’s nap times. I felt as though my muse was sitting on my shoulder dictating the entire narrative—this after three years of laborious revisions on my previous manuscript.”
The story opens with the main character, Merrill, organizing a prank to get everybody out of band practice to go to a popular rich kid’s 16th birthday party. Merrill stashes his trombone under the bleachers and when he comes back to get it, it is being played by a polygamist kid, Robbie, who is obviously talented on the genius level. The story is about their friendship, Merrill helping Robbie escape the polygamist compound and audition for a talent show on TV.
Taya Okerlund’s young adult novel set in the small town of Hurricane connected immediately with WiDo ™ submissions editor Allie Maldonado.
“I loved the voice and characters. It is a well-developed story, highly entertaining, and I learned about some of the quirks of living in southern Utah.” Maldonado said. “Taya’s writing transported me to the area. When I looked up from the story, I was kind of surprised to see my own scenery.”
Okerlund looked into publishing with WiDo because they are a Utah-based small press. “Geography and culture are uniquely important to my book,” Okerlund said. “I liked WiDo’s philosophy about books and could see that they are putting out some very fine work.”
Taya Okerlund is on an extended leave from her work at the U.S. Department of State to be a mom and early morning/naptime writer since giving birth to her daughter 18 months ago. Former work life meant a lot of travel, particularly in Asia.
“I traveled far and wide to ultimately discover that my richest area of creative inspiration is in my southern Utah roots,” Okerlund said. “I didn’t grow up there. It was my mother’s home. But we moved frequently, and southern Utah was the one constant.”
Learn more about Okerlund at her blog.