PW: Was there anyone who was of particular help to you while you were writing Between a Rock and a Hard Place?
Aron Ralston: Up until the manuscript was turned in, Luke [Dempsey, Ralston's editor] was pretty hands off. We had a couple of phone conversations over those few months. Then he edited the book, content and line. Then we sat in New York for two weeks and hashed things out. That was the fun part, when we debated the use of a particular word or whether my style in certain sections was too over the top.
In one place, I was talking about the personification of dehydration and hypothermia, and how they became monsters that were stalking at the gates. My self-control was the only thing keeping them at bay, and I was wearing down. I could feel the breath of the monster that was the canyon, and felt the breeze that would come at the beginning of the night. I ended that paragraph with the sentence, "Death will be my only anesthetic in this house of pain." He drew a Z and struck the entire paragraph, and drew two lines through the last sentence. I could not say that; it was way too much. And I said, "Oh, come on, how about 'Island bungalow of discomfort?' " Then it would be an hour before we would get back to work. You know, literary geek kind of stuff.
In the book, you alternate chapters between your accident and earlier outdoor adventures, many of which seem reckless. Did you think including these episodes would make you a less sympathetic figure?
I don't think I was necessarily saying I was reckless. The reason I wanted to include all my experiences was to show I wasn't a weekend warrior.
People have said, "Whoa, you were out there in the middle of the desert, you were in a wilderness area, you were doing something that seems pretty extreme." But for me, that was what for most people would be taking a walk on the beach. I didn't want people to think I was some superhuman. I am an average person who had started out from a background of not knowing anything about this. I wasn't born with intrinsic knowledge of rescue.
The book will be getting a big publicity push. Will it be hard to talk about the accident again?
The main thing is that I wanted to leave a legacy. It was a miracle what I went through to survive, but not because I'm superhuman. I was an average person put into an extraordinary circumstance, and [it was important for me to get] it documented as thoroughly as I could. That's where I want the legacy to be, so that people can come to the story 30 years from now and take something from it.
I talk to a lot of kids about choices and taking responsibilities with those choices, kids in discipline programs or who have been abused and have something to struggle for. My story is that there is something worth struggling for, even when it is most difficult. I've had kids come up to me and tell me that my story made them think about how life is precious. I melt when I hear that.