Jun 6, 2014

Blog Tour: Essence by Lisa Ann O'Kane

Once upon a time, I was doing a college research paper on what it's like to be a zookeeper. In my research, I stumbled across the blog of a zookeeper...who was also a writer. I wanted to be an author and zookeeper, so I thought this was really cool. Today, I have that person on my blog, and that's really, really cool, because now she's a published author. So here is Lisa Ann O'Kane, discussing her debut novel Essence!

The Interview
(Note: The top pictures in each section are ones I got from Google, but the second pictures--the one with people--are from Lisa and with Lisa.)

The Centrist cult in my debut novel Essence believes expressing emotions leads to Essence drain and early death. The cult’s mantra is “Neutrality is the key to longevity,” and its followers conserve their Essences by meditating and trying to remain as dispassionate and detached as possible.

The Community in Yosemite, however, takes a completely different stance on Essences. They believe you should amplify your Essence by living passionately and surrounding yourself with things that inspire you. They are particularly reverent about nature, and they believe its grandeur has the power to nurture your soul.

I am a hippie girl at heart, so it was very easy for me to translate my love of the environment into the Community’s love of the environment. I have also found myself returning to the same natural places over and over again whenever I need a little peace and stillness.

Here are five of my favorite havens. All of these places have nurtured me during a critical time in my life, and I hope you enjoy them.

Cape Tribulation, Australia

I lived in Australia for six months during the fall of 2002, and I view that trip as one of the first defining moments of my (nearly) adult life. I was twenty years old at the time—and still kind of an idiot—but I saw and experienced and grew so much that I knew my life would never, ever be the same.

This picture was taken along Four-Mile Beach on my way north to Cape Tribulation. I remember being surrounded by kookaburras, pink cockatoos, monitor lizards and blue Ulysses butterflies the size of my hand. I think I am in the middle of a happy dance in this shot.

The Outback, Australia

I hesitated to include two photographs from the same trip, but… oh my goodness. The rainforests of northern Australia are nothing like the parched wilderness of the Outback, and this was a totally different leg of my journey—complete with its own awed humbleness, shooting stars and life lessons.

Adventures are sometimes not complete without good friends to share them, so I was especially happy to have met and buddied up with these other backpackers during this part of my journey. I still keep in touch with some of them today. (No, I’m not the gorgeous girl in the bikini. Thanks for rubbing it in.)

Yosemite Valley, California

Yosemite was clearly an inspiring destination for me—so much so that I wrote an entire book about it! I hope you can sense how much I love the place when you pick up ESSENCE. It is, hands-down, the most amazing place I have ever lived.

As for this photograph… Well, it was taken during the spring of 2004 in a secret employee spot not many people know exists. I can’t disclose the exact location for you, but let’s just say it makes a veiled appearance in ESSENCE. This picture was taken the first day my roommate Mary Siner and I discovered it, and… Yeah. I don’t think I stopped smiling like this for days.

Hatcher’s Pass, Alaska

I lived in Alaska for nearly three and a half years, and I escaped into the wilderness every chance I could. I have never lived in a place so ‘wild’ before, and the rugged isolation was both intimidating and inspiring. Bear spray was a necessary component of my life, but I was also blessed with gorgeous views like this one on a nearly daily basis.

This photograph was taken in 2009 in Hatcher’s Pass near Palmer. These days, I find this shot incredibly bittersweet, because I shared nearly eight years of my life with this man before we decided our paths were no longer aligned. We have both gone on to chase our dreams elsewhere, but for this brief moment, we were on top of the world.

Weedon Island, Florida

These days, I have returned to the solace of my home state of Florida. The ocean has never stopped calling me, and I am particularly fond of these mangrove trails in St. Petersburg’s Weedon Island Preserve. (This shot was taken just a few weeks ago.)

The mangrove tunnels at Weedon are so dense that you sometimes have to sit down on your paddleboard to squeeze through, and I often put away my paddle and pull myself through the branches like Tarzan. Underneath it all, I think I must be part-savage and part-mermaid, because nothing relaxes me more than salt in my hair and sand between my toes.

Thanks so much for sharing my journey as I recount some of my favorite, Essence-nourishing havens. I hope you enjoy the natural spaces in my debut novel Essence as well. What are some of YOUR favorite spots??

The Book
Title: Essence
Author: Lisa Ann O'Kane
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publishing Date: June 3, 2014
Pages: 384

Autumn escaped a cult, but now she realizes she's fallen into another.

Growing up in San Francisco’s Centrist Movement, sixteen year-old Autumn Grace has always believed emotions—adrenaline, endorphins, even happiness—drain your Essence and lead to an early death. But her younger brother’s passing and a run-in with a group of Outsiders casts her faith into question.

Ryder Stone, the sexy, rebellious leader of the Outsiders, claims Essence drain is nothing more than a Centrist scare tactic -- and he can prove it.

Autumn follows Ryder to his Community of adrenaline junkies and free spirits in Yosemite National Park, and they introduce her to a life of adventure, romance, sex, drugs and freedom. But as she discovers dark secrets beneath the Community’s perfect exterior, she realizes the more she risks in search of the perfect rush, the further she has to fall.

The Author
Lisa Ann O'Kane is a young adult author and former vagabond who once camped out in Yosemite National Park for an entire summer, an experience that inspired her debut novel Essence. Her background is in zookeeping and environmental education, and she has been kicked, cornered, bitten and chased by nearly every animal she has ever loved. She currently resides in Florida, and she is now a huge fan of shooting stars, indoor plumbing and keeping both her feet planted firmly on the trail.

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