Bridge of the Gods follows a young girl as she comes to realize magic exists all around her. Diane Rios shares which experiences inspired the story.

About ‘Bridge of the Gods’

Twelve-year-old Chloe Ashton is an only child living in the remote wilderness of Oregon. She spends her days happily exploring the forests around her home, and is astonished to find the animals seem to know her, to follow her, and even try to speak to her. When a family tragedy results in Chloe’s abduction and sale to the vagabonds, she is taken deeper into the woods, and finds out just how much the animals know.

Set at a time when technology is first touching the west, there is an evil rising in the land. The country is under attack, and all creatures, man and beast, must hide. The old legends speak of an ancient, natural magic deep within the mountains and rivers, and as Chloe struggles to survive, she finds that it still exists deep within the forests. Friendship can be found even in the darkest of places, and it doesn’t always come in human form.

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Little House Truck in the Woods by Diane Rios

When I was eight years old I lived in a wooden house truck for three years with my mother and step-father. In it we traveled around the country selling my parents’ hand-made clothes and jewelry at fairs and markets. We even had a cat named Everest who lived with us!

The house truck was large and long, and very beautiful, and drew a lot of attention wherever we went. It looked like a real house complete with cedar siding, a shingled roof, and eight skylights. My parents were collectors, so the inside sparkled with antiques. It sounds luxurious, but it was often an uncomfortable way of life, and one that I didn’t always love while I was living it.

It was often too hot, and of course we didn’t have any air conditioners. To cool off you would have to go outside and find a creek or a river, and then you’d get bitten by mosquitoes, or stung by nettles, or if you weren’t careful, a bad case of poison oak. It was also often too cold, and the only heater we had was a wood-burning stove, which needed wood to be constantly chopped. We didn’t have running water, so one of my chores was to get gallons of water from whatever source I could — from a creek, river, or a campground. I often had to wash my hair in a creek in what I was sure was the coldest water in the world.

But I learned that being uncomfortable is important sometimes. It teaches you how to do things for yourself, and then you know how to do them for your whole life! Overcoming these challenges makes you feel strong and able to handle other things that happen to you. It gives you an appreciation for things and makes you want to help others. It inspires you! The time I spent living in the house truck still inspires me, and was the inspiration for my book Bridge of the Gods.

I learned that sometimes the most uncomfortable times turn out to be the best times. When it was freezing cold outside and the snow was piled high against the house truck’s wheels, when driving was impossible and we were stuck inside, instead of things being terrible, they suddenly became amazingly cozy! The pot-bellied stove, stoked-full of kindling and glowing red, heated the whole truck even while the freezing winds raged outside. My mother made pancakes with real maple syrup, and the aroma from the crackling wood and pancakes smothered in syrup was heavenly.

In the summer when it was too hot inside we’d go to the river, and spend the whole day playing along the side, jumping off logs and wading over slippery rocks. Even though you’d be scratched by sticks and blackberry brambles by the end of the day, you’d feel cool from the ice-fed river water, and then the sun would go down and you’d feel just about perfect.

It was a hard life as a child, but also a wonderful life. During the time I traveled with my family I saw the entire country roll by our windows, and spent many nights sleeping by its mountains, rivers, and deserts. I developed a deep love of nature that I will have forever — my little loft bed had a skylight that I slept under, and it felt like I was two feet away from the sky, the rain, and the stars.

Sometimes it was lonely. We didn’t always travel with other families and I didn’t have any siblings. I didn’t mind being alone too much, but I did miss going to school. I missed having school friends, school clothes, and school activities. But I loved being homeschooled by my mother! Our lessons took place everywhere, in all of the places we traveled. Imagine having your school room in the woods, or by the ocean, or on the side of a mountain where you can see for miles!

Living in the house truck as a child, traveling through the country and facing all kinds of challenges, weather, and situations wasn’t the life I would have chosen as a child — but in the end I am so very grateful for every part of it. Especially the parts that were hard because they helped me handle other hard things that came my way in life. And because they inspired me to write. Writing about Chloe’s adventure is a way to go back in time to when I was that little girl exploring the woods. Through Chloe’s eyes I can revisit the forest and the animals there, I can almost smell that rich scent of wet pines and faint tang of wood smoke. I can hear the splashing, dashing creeks and rivers, and see the dipper birds playing in the rapids. These are images that come back to me from my childhood spent living in the wooden house truck. Though it was hard, it was wonderful, and gave me experiences I could never have had otherwise. And it gave me Chloe, and all of her wonderful friends. It was one of life’s gifts, and one that will always inspire me.

About the author

Diane Rios lives in Portland with her husband Greg and rescue dog Faye. Her passion for the forests and coastline of Oregon stem from her own childhood spent living in the woods with her artisan parents. Real-life Oregon places mix with fantasy in her debut novel Bridge of the Gods, Book One in the Silver Mountain series. Diane has been published as an illustrator for Gayle Forman’s 2006 travel diary You Can’t Get There From Here, as well as wrote and illustrated the whimsical picture book Dizzy’s Dream, available on blurb.com. A long-time writer and blogger, Diane worked for three years at Powell’s Books in downtown Portland.

Visit her at her blog

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