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Alzheimer’s research drives novelist

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff
The Haunting is Woodlan author, Julie Casper s fourth novel published since 2003.
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The motivations for being a novelist vary.

For many, it’s the potential fame and possible fortune. For others, it’s the love of putting together sentences from the English language. For Woodland author Julie Casper, it’s raising money for Alzheimer’s research.

Casper stayed up late into the night caring for her mother who was suffering from the effects of the Alzheimer’s. Feeling powerless while caring for a loved-one with a degenerative disease dejected Casper.

"As I started getting into this, I was really frustrated that there was no cure for what my mother had," Casper said. "You always feel helpless."

Casper, who holds a doctorate in Earth science, always loved writing. In school she also wrote for the school newspaper. Naturally, her thoughts turned toward prose during the tedious care of her mother. During that time, at 42 years old, she began her first novel.

"Writing was almost like an emotional escape from the day to day of having to deal with Alzheimer’s and how depressing and frustrating that was," Casper said. "Writing allowed me an escape, the same as someone watching a movie. It was kind of respite, therapeutic in a way. It was entertainment for me while I could still be close by to her. It kind of eased the stress."

While writing, she also thought of ways to help her mother and others with Alzheimer’s. She decided to dedicate the proceeds from her book to Alzheimer’s research.

"It began as kind of a service," Casper said. "Once "Snow Eagle" (her first book) went to a publisher, the big thing was, I wanted to donate the proceeds. All of the proceeds I get from the "Snow Eagle" books I donate to Alzheimer’s.

"The whole goal was to make it a huge service project. That’s the whole fun of it. It kind of gives you a rush to do something like that because you feel like your spare time is really well spent."

"Snow Eagle," a mystery set in the mountains, was published in 2003. The next two consecutive years she published two more books, which became the "Snow Eagle Trilogy." This year she published "The Haunting: Curse of the Lost Rhoades Mine."

"It’s just coming out right now, hot off the press. You can order it now," Casper said. She currently has three other books in the hands of her agent who is sending them out o publishers.

Nature is what inspires Casper in her books. She moved to Woodland from Salt Lake six years ago.

"I got smart and moved east," Casper said. "I got tired of all the crowds of Salt Lake and wanted to have a quieter life out here, being up in the mountains for me that’s cool. We moved up there and now I can go on a hike anytime I want."

She is also enamored with Native American society, particularly the Ute tribe and the area around the Uintas. All of her novels have outdoor survivals skills.

"I’m not Native American, but I love that culture. Most of my fiction ties into that culture in some way. It fascinates me," Casper said. "When I come up with ideas, most of those are from experiences outdoors. A lot of my stuff comes from actually being outdoors, that take place in areas that I’m hiking."

The enigmatic history of the Uintas is the setting for her most recent novel.

"There’s all kinds of legends of lost Spanish gold in the Uintas. There’s the legend of the Lost Rhoades Mine, part of the legend is: this area is left protected by a Ute warrior."

Publish America summarized "The Haunting: Curse of the Lost Rhoades Mine" in a press release. The story as it follows a "16-year-old Jheri Byrdsong, who discovers moving to a small town from the Ute Reservation is not easy. She embarks on a wilderness experience at Camp Weechquootee with a group of girls, including her best friend, Morgan, and her two worst nemeses, Stacia and Whitney. One night Jheri sees Stacia and Whitney sneak out of camp, even though they’re forbidden to leave until an elusive kidnapper is caught.

"Jheri and Morgan follow them, and Jheri finds herself in a survival situation on sacred Native American ground believed to be protected by the mythical warrior Weechquootee. She must rely on skills she learned from her tribe in order to survive and save Morgan, Stacia, and Whitney.

"Jheri travels full circle from her belief that old traditions must be discarded to finally understanding the true wisdom of her grandmother’s words: ‘Like the mighty totem, you can have your feet anchored firmly onto solid ground, and still stand with wings spread to the sky.’"

According to Casper, Jheri and her friends are forced to contend with multiple villains.

"She (Jheri) is very outdoor-wise, she knows survival skills," Casper said. "The main character is 16 but what ends up happening is they are up against a kidnapper, a poacher and gold thieves. She’s up against all these different forces and trying to rescue friends. It’s like Indiana Jones with a 16-year-old main character."

For her latest book, research consumed much of her time.

"I did a lot of research on the Spanish coming into the area and the kinds of things they brought with them, a lot of research," Casper said. "I twisted it a little bit and turned it into an adventure."

"The Haunting" was nominated in 2004 for best book of the year by the Zola literary award in Seattle, Casper said. The award is given to unpublished books.

Casper wants to further her writing career to benefit more than just Alzheimer’s. She has desires to help people in need in any way she can. Hopefully, she says, writing can be her vehicle to accomplish that.

"I want to be in a position, someday, to be able to do things financially for other people without them knowing. If I could be a successful, full-time author, I would love to have that as my major career," Casper said.

The work so far has been a joy for Casper.

"Looking back on it I wish I’d done it a lot sooner," Casper said. "It’s kind of one of those life changing experiences you can do to help other people."

As her writing career is continuing, personal wealth has never been an issue.

"The whole purpose behind it is to donate to help people. That’s why I got into it, and six years later, that’s still why I’m doing it," Casper said.

For more information on Casper or her books, log on to http://www.thesnoweagle.com or http://www.publishamerica.com . Her books can also be found on Amazon.com and in local bookstores. Casper lives in Woodland with her husband and four daughters.


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