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Moving east from Colorado to New Hampshire for her first academic job, writer Diane Les Becquets found herself "crying all the way to the other side of Kansas."

Taking a creative writing job at Southern New Hampshire University was the right decision for the then-single mother with three boys, the author of three young adult novels. But leaving behind the soil of her adopted home in northwestern Colorado was heart-wrenching.

She was raised in Nashville, but found her home as an adult in the wild places of rural Colorado. "I felt like the soil was part of me," she says of settling into the mountain town of Meeker where she lived for 14 years. "I would collect jars of soil. I wanted to know the land as intimately as I could."

To that end, she learned to bow hunt, helped friends herd sheep, and apprenticed with an archaeologist, all while hiking, camping and fishing. She gave those passions to the characters of "Breaking Wild," a novel about two very different, very strong women, Amy Raye Latour, a lost hunter, and Pru Hathaway, the ranger obsessed with finding her.

The novel, which reads with a page-turning fervor, is getting strong advance praise from trade publications like Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and was named a February 2016 Indie Next Pick by independent booksellers.

Les Becquets will be reading from "Breaking Wild" on Thursday at The King's English. In some ways, she considers her book tour stops through Western cities a return home, as she remembers her time as a work/study participant at Utah's Writers at Work annual conference, where she was assigned as an escort for Norton senior editor and vice president Carol Houck Smith, who was a literary godmother to the Utah conference and Western writers such as Rick Bass, Ron Carlson, Pam Houston and Brady Udall. That was back in 2000, and Les Becquets didn't realize that the editor was paying attention to the nascent writer in her, while she was ferrying around the editor in her beatup GMC pickup truck.

It took her years to fulfill the promise, which she did first as a freelance writer and medical journalist, and then by publishing three young adult novels. After her husband of two years died of brain cancer in her arms, Les Becquets realized she was lost in academic administration duties. She wanted to break free to write about strong women in the wilderness.

"I love books that have to do with women in the outdoors," Les Becquets says. "I need to see women in the land and getting back to the earth, doing muscular thing, using their bodies in physical ways, not just their intellect. That's what I crave in literature."

She hopes Utah readers do, too. —


Diane Les Becquets will be reading from "Breaking Wild" at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, at The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City.

"Breaking Wild"

By Diane Les Becquets


320 pages