First off, congratulations on your upcoming book! How does it feel to have your book published?
Excited, relieved, validated, apprehensive… obviously a mix. It feels like a big deal for me to have the backing of a reputable publisher like Five Rivers. That’s a long time coming… a lifelong dream.
What are you most excited about?
What’s exciting is to have that external, authoritative validation and backing. It’s an emotional boost as well as a practical level of support in getting the book to as many readers as possible. It’s exciting to start that ride and see where it goes. Ultimately it’s about sharing that experience of the novel as widely as possible.
What are you most anxious about?
I’m never much comfortable with self-promotion. Tooting my own horn doesn’t come naturally. So it’s a challenge no matter the outcome… whether the reception for the book is disappointing, or overwhelming!
How long has the journey of writing been?
I first recognized the ambition to write seriously when I was in college, getting so inspired reading great literature. So that has been over four decades now. Hunter’s Daughter began as a short story I wrote in 1988, and I started to develop it as a novel in 1991. The manuscript just missed the cut with a publisher in the late nineties, and I put it aside. I even put writing aside for most of ten years, getting more serious about playing music (African drums) to fill the gap. Then I resolved to take my writing to the next level and enlisted the help of a friend who had won awards and was successful. That was five years ago, and the long process finally bore fruit.
What helped the process along? What hindered it?
I was mostly self-taught as a writer, aside from a few courses, taking my learning from a wide range of quality reading. A college professor, Peter Bien, wisely steered me away from academia and toward “real life.” Publication of short work gave me the confidence and feedback I needed to fuel the journey. A big step was securing an agent (Brent Laughren) around 1990, who took an active role as a developmental editor in shaping several novels I was working on at the time, including Hunter’s Daughter. Disappointment in the long odds and wait times of traditional publishing put my ambition on hold for most of a decade, until dedicated work with a critique partner lifted me over the final hump.
What inspired you to write Hunter’s Daughter?
In terms of content, it was a great outlet to share the memorable experience I had living in the Arctic, in Inuit villages as a teacher, for three years in the late 1970s. As a piece of writing, the story began as a seed of archetypal dramatic conflict, between a father, daughter and outsider. From the beginning it had an aura of mystery, and mystique of the North in the era just before full movement to settlements. That transition occurred with the generation of my students’ parents. So along with excellent National Film Board footage of traditional life, which we watched frequently in the school, we (both teachers and students) had the privilege of experiencing traditional life in cultural activities and hunting trips out on the land. I felt that I learned more than I taught in the North, about the Inuit worldview, values, and survival skills, and I wanted to share the impact of that exposure. The essential irony was that they were moving toward the modern way of life (not entirely of their own free will), even as the shortcomings of our supposedly more advanced “civilization” were becoming more apparent in the world.
How much research have you made for the book’s completion? How did you build the setting and timeline of your story?
In addition to the above cultural contact, I had access in the North to a wide range of excellent readings on traditional Inuit life, from explorers, ethnographers, and historians. I was engaged in teaching the history of the region to my high school students, as well. The setting of the novel itself departs somewhat from the actual geography of Northern Quebec. This happened partly out of the desire to avoid strict correspondences to actual settlement populations in the region, and partly out of the organic shape of the story as it unfolded in my imagination. The basic timeline was fairly simple, with the story taking place over a matter of weeks; but complications arose in weaving the dual narrative, alternating the stories of Nilliq (the “hunter’s daughter”) and Jack McLain, the RCMP corporal. As with any novel, it became a puzzle to put together: an interesting challenge. More complicated was the matter of tracing all the complex and overlapping family connections, vital to the plot. I put that task, within the context of the story itself, in the hands of a fictional ethnographer working in the region.
Read free samples of Hunter’s Daughter: Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 (pdf)
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