For the past ten years, I have been coordinating a teen book club at the village library and through the years we've tackled different projects, along with reading and reviewing books each month. Many of the teens that have participated in the library book club love to write as well as read books and we often would play with changing endings, creating titles for dream books and other related things. This year, I decided to try a more extensive approach and began by having each member create a character. The first step was to think of a name and a description. Even at that level the variety of characters they created was amazing. There was a blue-haired girl from the future and a lad from another world with no name, a geeky musician, a painfully shy girl and an artist.
Gradually. they expanded the characters by creating their family situation, their specific location and then writing a short piece on a typical day or a scenario that showed something about their personality. Though the characters were all teen-aged, they had vastly different personalities, family backgrounds and aspirations. The fantasy character was on his own, except for the wolf that followed him everywhere. The blue-haired girl lived on a futuristic farm and the geeky musician suffered from terrible dreams in which a clown tried to kill him.
When the characters were fully rounded, I challenged the teens to create a plot that would link all the characters together. No easy task. They rose to the challenge beautifully and they threw around many ideas, but in the end they came up with a fantasy and horror genre using the clown nightmares as a device to create a theme of a threat from another world. After much discussion the story was finalised and some tentative titles suggested. I wrote it up and published it on Amazon as a short story called, 'The Othersiders'. The proceeds, the group decided, would go to Breast Cancer Ireland. So, if you are curious and would like to help a good cause, please go to the Amazon link below .
In 1987, Victor Mair, a professor of philology at the University of Pennsylvania, led a tour group through a museum in the Chinese city of Ürümchi in the central Asian province of Xinjiang. During the tour, he went into a newly opened room that showed, under glass, the recently discovered blond-haired mummies of a man woman and child with long noses and deep set eyes that were over 3,000 years old. The real shock was that they were Caucasian. Dr Mair was intrigued by the mummies’ existence, 2,000 years before the West and East admitted each other’s existence. These mummies were among some 100 dug up by Chinese archeologists over the course of 16 years. They came from the Tian Shan Mountains in northwest China and the fringes of the Taklimakan Desert.
Professor Mair attempted to investigate further, but met with some difficulties from the Chinese authorities at the time because of the political climate. Eventually, he led a small expedition to the Tarim Basin and the group found more mummies that were tall and blond, dressed in clothes that were still intact, even woolen plaids that were as brightly hued as the day they were woven.
Professor Mair and others have documented the discoveries from this research trip and some successive ones in books, film documentaries and published articles over the years (for example: The Tarim Mummies by Victor Mair and The Urumchi Mummies by Nancy Barber). I first discovered his work when reading a National Geographic article on the first expedition and was intrigued by the possibility of what could be a proto-Celtic group finding its way there.
Who were these people? As far back as the second century B.C., Chinese texts refer to alien people called the ‘Yuezhi’ and the ‘Wusun’ who lived on China’s far western borders. The texts indicate the Chinese regarded them as troublesome ‘barbarians.’ Until recently scholars have teneded to downplay evidence of any early trade or contact between China and the West regarding the development of Chinese civilization as an essentially home grown affair, sealed off from outside. Recently, some archeologists argue that these so-called ‘barbarians’ were responsible for introducing things like the wheel and the first metal objects. Professor Mair’s own research leads him to believe that these people were Tocharian, an early Indo-European group about whose origins little is known.
This article and the books inspired me to write a novel that imagined how such a group would come to be there. It took the form of Raven Brought the Light, to be published in April. In writing the novel I created what is mostly my own invention about the mummies, and also the small band of proto–Native Alaskans that they encounter. The accepted understanding for the Native Americans now is that they migrated from various areas in Asia, in waves; most by boats and others migrating across the Bering Strait at different time periods. I realize that my little group is very late to be leaving the Asian continent and I took a lot of artistic license with it. I hope that it doesn’t hinder people’s appreciation of the tale.
This month's blog is an interview with fantasy novelist, Lela Markham whose novel The Willow Branch is the first in a series set in a mythical kingdom.
Her novel is available from Amazon:
Tell us about yourself.
Thanks, for having me, Kristin. I was raised in Alaska, which is also my home now. It's a grand adventure that gives me a unique perspective on the world. We spend our summers risking our lives walking in the woods with major predators and unmarked trails and the winters following creative pursuits like writing.
I tried to be a journalist once, but objected to the politics of it, so then I went into administration. I work with road engineers these days, but I had a long period working in the social work field.
I've got a daredevil husband and two fearless offspring and we share our lives with a sentient husky who keeps a yellow Lab as a pet.
Tell us about your book, The Willow Branch.
The Willow Branch is an epic fantasy, first in the Daermad Cycle. It explores the magical world of Daermad by focusing on the kingdom of Celdrya, which has a mysterious connection with the Celts of Europe. It occurs in two time lines. The past time line follows the destruction of the royal family by a vengeful Celtic goddess and black mages, while the current time line follows Padraig and his friends as they seek the One's True King who is meant to restore Celdrya and unite them with their ancient enemy the Kin before the Svard overwhelm them.
What inspired you to write the book?
It started with research into a family name we wanted to give our daughter. It's a very unusual name (which works great for her as a professional blue-grass musician). In learning that it was a Celtic name, I also picked up some information that I found intriguing.
My stories are always character driven, so I really didn't do anything with that kernel of an idea until Padraig presented himself a couple of years later. He was clearly a Celtic character, so I went back to that research and combined it with reading I'd done in political science, history, etc. in a genre I loved to read.
Is there any one character that you love the most in your book or one that you find you dislike?
I enjoy writing Ryanna, the half-elven woman with the good sword skills who talks to dragons. I hope she's still alive at the end of the series because I do enjoy how she thinks and conducts herself.
I hate Sawyll, one of the black mages. He's totally evil and even his redeeming qualities annoy me. I hope he comes to a bad and bloody end.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
The world building. It is such a fun process to create a world that has never existed before. I enjoy writing in the real world too, but that is what I love about writing a fantasy.
There is a definite Celtic thread through your book—do you have any Celts in your background?
I hit almost all of my ethnic parts in writing The Willow Branch. My dad was Swedish and the Svard are based on Norsemen. My mother was Irish/Welsh and American Indian. I don't know if I can work the Indian into the story – no character has presented itself yet – but it was the Indian part of the family who brought a French name with ancient Celtic roots into the family which inspired The Daermad Cycle. My husband's family are very Irish. There is a thriving community of Irish immigrants here in Fairbanks and I grew up listening to their stories, music and especially their accents. My daughter studied highland dance (which is Scottish) when she was a dancer. While we're definitely American Celts, we do have some influences.
Do you plot out your books before you write them?
Yes and no. No first! I am a discovery writer initially. A character comes and wants to tell me his/her story. I play around with different ideas until something clicks. I can be halfway through a draft before I know where I want it to end. Sometimes I plot at that point, sometimes I just free-write to the ending. But when I go back for the second draft, I have a clear idea of my plot and the major points I want to hit and I mostly stick to that, but I do believe in following the creative muse in directions that I might not have considered first. An outline is a helpful road map, but just as in the real world, there are often multiple ways to get to the same location, sometimes diverging from your outline is where creativity lives.
Is volume 2 in the works yet? When can we expect to see it?
The Willow Branch was originally a huge manuscript that needed to be broken up, so Murklin Wood is about half written and I am working on the parts of the story that were not written before. That said, I am a firm believer in taking breaks from a story from time to time, so I am currently working on Life As We Knew It, an apocalyptic thriller based in a small town dealing with the aftermath of a remote terrorist attack. That will come out this spring, I think. Murklin Wood should be ready for publication late 2015/early 2016.
How did you end up becoming a writer?
I think I was born a writer. My parents were huge readers. My mother's family had a number of literary folks in it – my grandmother was second-cousin to Edwin Markham, the poet. My parents said I told tales from the time I could talk and I used to get in trouble with other kids' parents for “telling lies”. My parents actually encouraged me, so long as I told them the truth. I wrote down my first story in the 5th grade. I hated the process because the teacher had a very strict idea of what I should be doing, but it ignited something that has followed me for the rest of my life.
What books are on your bedside table?
Currently, Martin's Dance with Dragons and Sherlock Holmes and that's typical for me. I usually trade between two books both in my reading and in my writing. It keeps me from getting bored.
I was enjoying the Seamus Begley and Steve Cooney concert at the end of December, back in the Mills, (one of the pubs in the village) when I had something of a realization. It was a great treat to see the two musicians who give a really dynamic concert: Steve with his energetic style on the guitar and Seamus with his distinctive box playing. Great stuff altogether. Seamus was in his usual form throwing jokes around to the audience like they were sweeties in a mixture of Irish and English, and getting some very talented locals up on the stage to perform. Step dancers, sean nos dancers and set dancers. And wonderful singers, Nell Ní Chroinín and Ownie Maicí Ó Sulleabháin. It was friends all round and we were all loving it. Then Seamus told limerick jokes and ended with one from Kerry (his native county and great rival to Cork) and one from Cork. The one from Kerry was a typical saucy one, but the one from Cork had us roaring with laughter. No rhyme, but full of innuendo. I thought it was brilliant. Seamus cut in on the laughter and said ‘the Americans didn’t get that at all when I told it over there.’ I laughed even harder and said to my friend next to me, ‘This American gets it,’ and she said, ‘Well you’ve been living here long enough now, then.’
I realized in some ways, I suppose I have. I’m here ten years now, and though still a ‘blow in,’ I am really no longer an observer of my Irish community, but a part of it. I automatically lift my finger when I drive along the local roads to salute a passing car or person out walking. It is rare that I attend local events and don’t know at least one person there or when people are recounting some news or tale that I can’t place the person they are mentioning. But I don’t even think about these things, they just are.
My life here in Coolierher/Cúil Iarcht (I can pronounce both now—it only took me 6 years) is as different from my life in Philadelphia as anything could possibly be. I look out every morning on a meadow and a valley and hills in the distance, not my yard and the other neighbor’s flat grassy expanse. Right now there is a strong hoar frost on the grass and drops of rain clinging to the bare branches of a cherry tree. Our fruit bushes—black currant and worcester berry—are pruned back into skinny little skeletons waiting for spring. The wild daffodils that cover the meadow are starting to poke up just a little.
Every morning I walk up the road, along the furzey bogland to a farmer’s field where I’ve met the bull I thought was called Charlie because that’s what I thought the farmer said (it really was a Charlois bull) and on, to the view of the large valley capped by the Paps Mountains in the distance. It isn’t every day that I remember how fortunate I am to be able to walk it so often, certainly not when the rain is lashing down, but I do still think it on occasion.
The house is finished enough, but of course that means it’s needing attention, like the painting jobs on a huge suspension bridge: once you finish it, you have to start all over again. Such is the fact of an old stone built cottage that has no damp course and has a north wall that is below ground level. If you’d asked me in Philadelphia what a damp course was I would have said it was a series of lectures about damp. A lecture series I am well equipped to give now, since I’ve learned many little tricks about that alright, in our dear little house.
Another thing I’ve learned is that my reading desire and capacity is still more suited to a large house than a cottage. It was the one thing I wasn’t able to downsize when I came here. Books spill out of shelves and are piled on surfaces around the upstairs bedrooms, despite my best efforts at weeding. Just yesterday I was hunting for Antonia Fraser’s biography of Mary Queen of Scots that I had since I was a teen and have resigned myself to the fact that I probably got rid of it. Even my Kindle can’t resolve that problem.
I did downsize my art space. I no longer have an art room that my house outside of Philadelphia provided, but when everywhere around you outside nearly is a painting it is a fair trade off. I still paint, creating makeshift art areas in the kitchen or upstairs with my oils or water colors. I don’t paint as often, but teaching art classes certainly keeps me on my toes and allows me to nurture some of my creative self with some very talented people. In the summer I have been fortunate, so far, to work as a relief librarian in libraries in the county that are short-staffed from employees who take the summer off because of their children. I’ve worked in a number of libraries and found it a great opportunity to work in different communities and different staff. It also allows me to plunder other book stocks to check out and pile by my bedside for future reading.
I still run the book clubs in the village library and can hardly believe I’ve been doing it for ten years. The early members of the teen book club have long left university and some of them are now working in far flung areas like Canada and Australia. Sadly, one is dead, drowned in the Lee River several years ago in a tragedy that hit the community hard. But fresh groups have kept coming, giving me the enjoyment of hearing their own views on books and life in general. One of the highlights for them and for me was when the group was selected to be among the judges of a national children’s book award and travel up to Dublin for the award ceremony. That happened twice and the teens really enjoyed meeting the authors and getting a real insight into one aspect of the publishing world.
I’ve broadened the teens’ ideas about the publishing world after my own experiences of it in publishing my books as well as encouraging their interests in creative writing and understanding of writing novels. They have surprised me (and I shouldn’t be surprised) with their incredible creativity and I’ve broadened the teens’ ideas about the publishing world after my own experiences of it in publishing my books as well as encouraging their interests in creative writing and understanding of writing novels. They have surprised me (and I shouldn’t be) with their incredible creativity and imaginative approach to some of the exercises I’ve given them from designing book covers to creating a character that might go in a story. Inspiring.
I was also inspired by my years in the community to write a novel that included St. Gobnait, the local patron saint and patron saint of bees who lived during the 6th Century. It was a project that compelled me to really visit the nature of the community and their deep attachment to Gobnait, whose remains, holy well and the remains of once might have been her women’s community. It was a journey in itself for me, to learn about the legends, to immerse myself in understanding what life might have been like in that time and to come to my own understanding of the nature of Gobnait herself, ‘who drew women around her,’ as the narrative written by the scholar and former occupant of this house, Donncha Ó Líonsigh, stated. I am hoping that novel, ‘In Praise of the Bees’ will be published later this year.
And so now that I’m here ten years, in a life so different than it was before, despite the economic downturn, I still feel fortunate to be able to be here. People ask me when first meeting me what brought me to Ballyvourney and I tell them it was the music. And there is no denying that I have been privileged to meet and hear some amazing musicians, not just traditional Irish musicians either. I’ve seen my all-time favorite fiddle player Martin Hayes up close and personal on many occasions, have heard Donal Lunny, Paddy Keenan, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh (Altan), Tony McMahon and a host of other Irish traditional music legends in the intimate space of the Ionad Cultura in the village and in some cases afterwards in the pub for a session. I’ve had an opportunity to sing original pieces in Irish in the local choir and play the harp at events in the county. I was present at the Oireachtas this year when Nell Ní Chronín won the Corn na Ríada (O’Ríada Cup), the first time for someone from Munster. Wonderful thrilling opportunities to experience music happen all the time here, sometimes spontaneously. Music is certainly one of the things that drew me to this area, along with the very paintable scenery. And they help keep me here, along with the warm welcome and support and very good friends I have here.
If you're interested in reading previous Irish Observers go to the Observer section on the Website.
Welcome to the book launch for Along the Far Shores!
The story: A 12th century Irish woman sets out on the legendary voyage of Prince Madog of Wales.
Aisling, despite her best efforts, has failed to become the seer her mother desired, so when her mother dies, leaving her alone, she travels to Wales to be with her brother, Cormac, at the royal court at Gwynedd. There she finds he is joining Prince Madog’s voyage to the western lands in order to escape the threatening war. After Madog refuses to let her come with them she stows away, desperate to remain with her brother. A terrible storm arises and she is tossed overboard by a resentful Welshman and washes up on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Caxna, a Tlingit trader and former shaman, finds her and reluctantly agrees to let her join him on a trading journey to the Mayan city of Xicallanca, and then Etowah, (in present day Georgia) in the hopes she might find Madog and her brother. Caxna must succeed in this trading journey in order to free his clan, but with Aisling along everything changes.
Some advance reviews:
….Gleeson leaves us with a memorable and poignant love story and a vision of a wonderful culture, unique in my experience of literature.
Karen Charlton, author of The Heiress of Linn Hagh and Catching the Eagle
The underlying sexual tension is all the more powerful for the beautifully restrained writing, which makes the slightest touch electric; a medicinal massage becomes a moment of physical communion…. This is what Kristin Gleeson does best; portraying different cultures and showing how humanity can cross them.
Jean Gill, author of Song at Dawn and Bladesong
Amazon links for ebooks
The Legend of Madog
According to the legend, Prince Madog’s father, Owain ap Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, died leaving ten sons from several different marriages. In Welsh tradition the eldest wasn’t automatically the heir, so the throne was up for grabs. The oldest son, Iorewerth, couldn’t claim the throne because he had a deep scar across his face and anyone one with such a physical blemish wasn’t allowed to be king. Another son Howel/Hwyel, who was something of a poet and had an Irish mother, Pyvog, seized the throne and held it precariously for two years. He went to Ireland to claim his mother’s property and found on his return his brother Davydd had claimed the throne.
Against this backdrop Prince Madog, a much younger son, decided to take to the seas. He’d spent years sailing around France, Spain and into the Mediterranean, trading in various ports. Navigation was still primitive in the 12th century, but his voyage most likely began in Wales and down along the French coast and then westwards. Eventually the strong ocean currents caught him up and it is speculated that they took him into the Canaries and then to what is now the Alabama and Florida coast. There he sailed along the coast and ended up in what is now Mobile Bay, Alabama. He landed, left a few there, and returned to Wales to bring more colonists. Those left behind traveled upriver encounter friendly and unfriendly natives and built stone structures along the way until they eventually settled in the Great Plains of the Midwest.
The legend attained its greatest prominence during the Elizabethan era, when English and Welsh writers wrote of the claim that Madog had come to the Americas as an assertion of prior discovery, and hence legal possession, of North America by the Kingdom of England. In the following decades and centuries there were many reported encounters with ‘white Indians’ and a few stating also that they spoke Welsh. Most surprising is the report that in 1801 a Welshman met a group of Native American leaders and was surprised to find that one spoke in Welsh and claimed that it was the language of his mother and father and of his nation. There is no apparent strong archaeological proof of this voyage in any part of America, but the legend still continues.
I was honored this year to be asked to speak at a tribute weekend to Anahareo and Grey Owl in Waskesiu, Sasketchewan in Canada.
As I travelled from Ontario (Toronto) to Saskatoon, in Canada, the last week of August, I thought about Grey Owl and Anahareo’s journey all those years before with the beavers, after leaving Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba in November,1931. I was flying, but their journey was by train. More restful you might think, on a train. Nice and gentle, no squashed seating with knees around your ears as you try to manage a hot beverage and a plate of food on a flip down table the size of child's hand, as is the case with the plane nowadays. But then I realized they had the beavers with them, packed in their wood stove, and all the food and baggage they’d need for the coming winter. Not so easy.
Once in Saskatoon, I was met at the airport by my wonderful host and Waskesiu resident, Doreen Kerby, who packed me into her car and we drove the 3 hour journey to Waskesiu, in Prince Albert National Park. The highway was smooth, straight and clear cut through the Sasketchewan prairie land filled with ripening crops in a car with plush bucket seats and modern shock absorbers. Back in the thirties, I could imagine this journey would have been much longer, made on rough dusty roads in the back of a truck that would rattle the teeth out of your head and coat your throat with dirt.
The prairies eventually gave way to a more rugged landscape and the trees rose higher and more majestic as we entered the arboreal forest. Tall pines, black spruce, white birch, and aspen. By the time I arrived in Waskesiu it was dark. Exploration would have to wait until the next day.
The next morning I was able to have a short walk around the point, the place where the old cottages from the early days of the park are located. Among them was the oldest cabin in the park, a trapper’s cabin, now renovated into a lovely home full of whimsy. I thought about how it must have been in the days when Anahareo and Grey Owl were here. I’m sure they would have been to the old cabin and could only imagine what they would make of it now.
After the walk it was time to begin the journey to Anahareo and Grey Owl’s cabin. We drove to Kingsmere Lake, parking in the designated area, and then made the short trek to the edge of the lake. Grey Owl and Anahareo would have had to carry the beavers and all the supplies and gear in stages back and forth from the clearing where they would have unloaded the truck. For me, it was a short trek. For them, one of a series of portages they were to make to get to their new home at Ajawaan Lake.
Once at the edge of the shore I climbed into a small motor boat along with 4 companions and the guide. There was another boat of 6 others on this trip as well. All part of the tribute weekend celebrations. The journey across the lake was about 25 minutes and fairly smooth for a place that can get choppy in a heartbeat. Anahareo and Grey Owl made the journey by canoe and with the beavers crated up and loaded with all their supplies, it was neither fast, nor easy. They were expert canoeist, though, but still I appreciate their strength and stamina.
When we reached the other side, there was another portage to journey across. This one though, well marked and had boardwalks in areas where the muskeg was too wet to walk safely and comfortably across. No boardwalks for Anahareo and Grey Owl, and it was a long portage. Now they have a track with a little carriage to push up and down for easier porting. Still, it would wear out many people going back and forth for canoe, supplies and luggage.
The main cabin was in a small clearing. I could recognize it at once, of course, after seeing so many photos of it while researching the book. It still felt so special to actually see it in person. The day was grey, but at least it wasn’t raining (that sounds like I’m back in Ireland). I bounded up to the upper cabin-- the one Anahareo stayed in after Dawn was born and she needed a place for the baby away from the beavers. I wanted to look at that alone, to have some moments just with the cabin and my own thoughts. It was empty and quiet and I stood there for a little while and just took it in, imagining how it was to live there day after day, hauling water, cooking, washing clothes. Not easy.
From there I went to the graves: Grey Owl, Anahareo and Dawn. I picked some wildflowers and put it on Anahareo’s grave and said a few words to her. A few moments more alone with the three of them and then I went back down to the lower cabin where the rest of the trekkers were. I reached the lower cabin and went inside, e the lower cabin, wondering how much of it would be like the photos I poured over for hours. The corner of the cabin devoted to the beavers was still piled high with the branches and twigs. Near it was the wooden frame of the bed and the table. Even a shelf above it had a few items on it and on the other side hung an oar that Grey Owl inscribed, hung on the wall. A wood stove took up some room and I imagined them huddled round it in the dead of winter, Anahareo reading her geology books and Grey Owl scribbling away. There was a guest book on the table and beside it postcards for cabin visitors to take away.
I sighed and soaked up the atmosphere a bit and then joined the others outside to sit a while, take in the lake view and think of the hours Grey Owl and Anahareo spent in this spot. All the years that have passed and still their environmental message is as important today as it was then. Even more so.
Karen Maitland joins me this month to talk about her new novel, The Vanishing Witch, published by Headline this month. The novel is set during the troubled reign of Richard II where the poor are becoming poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets.
And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.
Headline are also publishing a short e-book, Liars and Thieves, featuring characters from Maitland's second novel, Company of Liars.
Karen Maitland travelled and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom before settling for many years in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln, an inspiration for her writing. She is the author of The White Room, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, The Gallows Curse and The Falcons of Fire and Ice. She is one of the authors of the Medieval Murders series. Their latest is called:
She has recently relocated to a life of rural bliss in Devon. All her books are available on Amazon. You can find more information about Karen on her website:
What made you choose the Peasant’s Revolt for the focus of this novel?
When selecting the setting for my novels, I like to take a modern issue and try to find a medieval parallel. I’d been watching the news coverage of the London Riots in 2011, and how it spread to other towns across England. The similarity to the Peasants Revolt of 1381was remarkable, though of course the modern rioters didn’t chop off the head of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as they did in the Peasants Revolt. But both riots happened in an usually hot summer. Both riots involved many people who were normally law-abiding and in both cases the rioters expected to be stopped quickly and weren’t. Social media was blamed for the rioting spreading in 2011, but there was no social media in 1381, yet it spread almost as fast. I wanted to explore the terror people felt and also the exhilaration when the old certainties start collapsing around them both.
Most of your novels are in late medieval England—is there something in particular that attracts you to this period?
It was a period of great advances in science, fantastic building works and exploration, but also one in which magic and superstition were part of everyone’s lives. Even when they were building a great cathedral or going into battle they would look for signs and omens before they began. It was a period so like our own – of wars between different religions, climate change, floods, sea-level rise, new pandemics, and yet the way they looked at the world was so different, they didn’t separate science and religion, or astrology and medicine. Angels and ghosts were as much a part of their everyday lives as pease pottage and public hangings.
All your books reflect an extensive amount of research of the places but also the customs and dress of the time period. How do you approach your research?
I take every opportunity I can to visit museums, churches, old sailing vessels and craft workshops to look at the objects from that period, which allows me imagine what they would be like to use and what it might have felt like to work there. Objects I see often inspire scenes too. I stumbled across tiny gold boar’s head studded with garnets in Retford Museum in Lincolnshire. That little object inspired several sinister episodes in The Vanishing Witch.
Of course, I use a mountain of academic books to research facts such as which plants grow where, but sometimes you have to think laterally to find out what you need. Books of fashion about the period are based on paintings and effigies, so they don’t show you how garments were kept on. For Company of Liars I had to track down a group of nuns who still wore the wimples of that period, to find out how many pins it took to keep it in place.
Was there any particular fact or custom that you found the most interesting or peculiar in this novel or in any others?
For The Vanishing Witch I did a lot of research into the charms people used to protect themselves against witchcraft or the evil eye. We still do some of these things today without knowing why, like using a stone that has a natural hole in it as a key-ring or hanging a holed stone by a door. This was done because they believed the holed stone prevented evil and mischief entering through the keyhole.
If you were erecting a building you built the shadow of a person into the foundations either by tricking some unsuspecting stranger into standing in a certain spot so their shadow fell on the place where you were going to put the foundation stone, or by secretly measuring their shadow with a rope and burying the rope. The nasty side of this was that they believed the person whose shadow you’d used would die within the year, because you had stolen their spirit, which would be compelled to guard the building ever more.
I found your novel, The Owl Killers, fascinating because it centred around a lay woman’s community, something unique in England but fairly prevalent enough in France. How did you ever come across information about it?
I first came across the beguinages on a weekend trip to Bruges in Belgium and became so intrigued I started to research these communities when I returned home. There are quite good records held in the city archives of towns in Belgium and also ecclesiastical records, because these women were often investigated by the Church and some were brought to trial for heresy.
We also have some books written by the women themselves, such as Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch of Brabant. I suspect there may be many more hidden away in places like the bowels of the Vatican library. But one of the most exciting things for me, is that local historians in England are uncovering references to beguinages in records of English towns and cities. These communities disappeared without trace and these are perhaps the most intriguing, especially as you can sometimes find chapels which have all the hallmarks of having once been beguinage chapels, but that part of their history is missing in the church records.
The novel, Falcon of Fire and Ice, contains two powerful characters who are conjoined twins held in a cave in Iceland. Were those characters based on some historical evidence, or was that from your fertile imagination?
Those characters were inspired in part by a legend I read about when I was a teenager when twin women appeared to William the Conqueror when he was arguing with his council about whether or not to launch an attack on England. He took their appearance as a sign he should invade England, and it changed the course of British history. That image of these women stayed in my head and was the starting point for those characters in this novel which was set at the time of the Inquisition and Reformation.
What brought you first to writing?
Originally it was telling inventing stories at night in bed as a small child, when I was supposed to be asleep. Then years later, having had fairly traumatic experiences with civil war and terrorism in the Nigeria and Northern Ireland, I wrote my first novel, a modern thriller, based on those experiences, really to get them out of my head. I think historical novels now have the greatest attraction for me in that they allow me to tell stories as I did as a child, combined with being able to share the historical facts I get excited about.
Can you tell me what books you have on your bedside table?
Currently I'm reading Deborah Harkness’s trilogy -- A Discovery of Witches -- brilliant and so funny. I’m in awe of her imagination. I’ve just finished Joanne Harris –Blueeyedboy, a very clever and chilling modern murder-mystery written in the form of blog entries posted by members of a bizarre internet group. Another in the pile is Peter Goodwin’s When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, a heart-breaking true story about his parents trapped in Zimbabwe. And last, but certainly not least, a collection of short stories, poetry and flash fiction written by the talented members of The Black Dog Writing Groups in Lyme Regis, which I am thoroughly enjoying. I always have a stack of books on the go at once, because I like reading different books in different moods.
Can you say anything about your next project?
I’ve just sent my editor the redraft of my next novel The Raven’s Head which is a dark thriller set in France and England in 1224. The Raven’s Head is the symbol of death and putrefaction in alchemy and alchemy is the central theme of the book. It is due to be published in spring 2015. The moral of the story is never try to blackmail an alchemist or you could end up as part of the experiment.
Cynthia G. Neale is a writer who is drawn to the 19th Century Irish American immigrant experience which serves as a basis for her three novels that she discusses below. A native of the Finger Lakes region of New York, Cynthia now resides in New Hampshire. She writes plays, short stories, and essays, and holds a B.A. in Writing and Literature from Vermont College. She has long possessed a deep interest in the tragedies and triumphs of the Irish during the Great Hunger. She enjoys Irish set dancing, traveling, reading, art classes, baking fanciful desserts, hiking, kayaking, creating events that include food and dance, laughing until it hurts, and dreaming about possibilities. NORAH is her first historical novel for adults and continues the story of Norah McCabe, a young Irish emigrant struggling to survive in the gang ridden neighborhood of 19th Century Five Points, New York.
You can find out more about Cynthia and her novels on her website:
Or visit Amazon or BookDepository
What was the inspiration for Norah?I
Norah McCabe, the protagonist in NORAH: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York, came to me as a child of thirteen in my first children’s novel, The Irish Dresser, A Story of Hope During The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor, 1845-1850). In 1997, although working on other stories, I felt compelled and inspired to write a story set in this time period. I was dancing one evening at an Irish pub and looked up at the well-known poster titled, “Irish Dresser,” which is in every pub in Ireland and in a few pubs in this country. The poster is of a photograph taken in the 1960s of an 1800s Irish dresser (comparable to what we know as a china cabinet). On the dresser, there are china cups, a photo of JFK and the Pope, and a red hen scratching on the floor in front of big cupboard doors. As I danced, I imagined a young girl suffering from hunger and tragedy, but dreaming of a better life when she climbed inside this place of refuge, her hiding place, and place of hope. Norah McCabe eventually travels across the sea to America hidden away in this dresser. After I wrote the first book and found a publisher, I thought I was finished telling her story. But I couldn’t leave her on the shores of America, and I also learned through genealogical research that there was a real Norah McCabe who had come from Ireland to NYC in 1847!
I had a few epiphanies that convinced me I was writing about a real person who had lived during this period. And so I wrote Hope in New York City that continued her story of survival in her new country, a country that despised the Irish immigrant. And then once again I assumed her story was over, but my heart was still being clutched and I felt the stirrings of a young woman’s dreams and struggles. And the more I read about New York City and America during the years prior to the Civil War and post massive immigration, the more intrigued I became. It was a time of Abolitionism, the Nativist Movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement was in its heyday. There were uprisings, bank runs and crashes, riots, violence, and xenophobia. I imagined the child, Norah, becoming a vibrant and determined young woman who desires to desperately climb out of her Irish skin as much as she wants to keep it. She doesn’t want the limitations of her race and dreams of success, but still longs to return to Ireland. The two children’s books about Norah McCabe convinced me she still had a story to tell and so I trusted her to continue her story through me. And so she did!
What made you focus on the Irish in America?
I had been roused to read all things Irish because heretofore I hadn’t been privy to the knowledge of my Irish heritage. As a writer, The Great Hunger period of Irish history grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go. I came to believe this event had greatly affected and altered Ireland, as well as the Irish psyche. And that there was a message, a gift, that had been given to the rest of the world through music, literature, dance, and spirit. There have been horrid “ethnic cleansing” periods in world history, and this event (the worst disaster of the 19th century) was indeed the same.
The only knowledge most American students learn is from high school history texts, “Over a million people perished in Ireland from the loss of the potato crop.” John Walters writes, “Surveys, I’m told, indicate that the Irish people do not want to hear about the Famine. But it is also precisely why the subject must be talked about until we remember the things we never knew.” As a writer with a heart beating fast in learning Irish dancing, as well as my history, I knew this was a subject that would become the vehicle for a story. Tom Hayden writes in Irish Hunger, “There are unmarked famine graves in all of us.”
Norah contains an extensive amount of research covering not only the experience of the Irish in America in the mid 19th century, but also many other issues of the time such as women’s rights, abolition and New York City gangs. How did you approach your research?
I love to research. I go on a treasure hunt that is challenging and rewarding when I research. However, after reading numerous books and writing out copious notes on legal pads, continued research can become a form of procrastination fueled by fear. Once an epiphany happens followed by an unfolding of an outline in my mind, I find it necessary to immerse myself in the period I am writing in. Oftentimes, I begin by reading historical fiction of the period far enough in advance so as not to have undue influence by another writer’s voice. At this point, I feel at ease with my own voice for historical fiction and the only things I’d gather would be interesting historical detail. I purchase many books and google like crazy, as well as ask questions of people I know who are knowledgeable about the time period I’m writing in.
If one reads most history books and watches old movies, it would be believed that nearly all young Irish girls were stupefied maids tied up in apron strings, spoiling the soup, and mouthing off to their employers. However, rarely was it written how Irish immigrant women played a vital role in the transplantation of Irish culture in America. Most of what we have learned about the leaving of ancestral homes and the ways of adaptation has been through the eyes of the male. And yet in the decades after the Famine, more Irish women than Irish men immigrated to the United States and they worked at jobs most other women turned down. Their rate of social and economic progress far exceeded the woman of other ethnic groups. They worked toward the goal of Irish independence and became involved in the Fenian Sisterhood and other organizations. One year alone in New York, $30,000 was raised by the Emmett Memorial Foundation. Certainly Irish women in New York fell prey to poverty, hopelessness, violence, and depravity. But many did not! And what a welcome they did NOT receive if one reads the newspapers of the day. A very prominent diarist of the day wrote in the Sun newspaper in the 1850s, “America would be a great nation if every Irishman killed a Negro and was hung for it.” This is the world Norah McCabe is finding her way around in during 1857 and beyond.
You set Norah in Five Points in New York. Was that the center of the Irish community in the city?
Five Points in New York City was the notorious slum where the Irish immigrants lived in broken down tenement houses. Yes, it was the center of the Irish community of the time, but there were Germans, Chinese, Jews, African Americans, and others endeavoring to find the American Dream. Five Points was a fascinating place where blacks and whites mingled at Pete Williams Dance Hall that was owned by an African American. It is where Norah sneaks off to as a child on and finds her Irish dancing feet again (Hope in New York City, The Continuing Story of The Irish Dresser). Charles Dickens visited Five Points and wrote about it in his book, American Notes. The aristocrats would go on slumming parties to visit with armed guards accompanying them. They had to see this vibrant life of all the races dancing and reveling together in Five Points. Five Points was a desperate and tragic enclave, but there were many beams of light that fell upon the people and rendered them able to climb out and onward to live meaningful and successful lives. I believe that the movie, Gangs of New York, as well as the BBC series, Copper, exaggerate the dark deeds and fail to highlight the inspiration. In fact, I was so taken with Five Points and Pete Williams Dance Hall that I wrote a play/musical called Diamond Juba based on Jack Diamond, the famous jig dancer and Master Juba (Henry William Lane), the famous ham and bone dancer. I hope to have this play produced someday in New York (one of my American dreams).
It is interesting that Norah runs a second hand dress store in the beginning. Was that a realistic avenue for women to pursue as a business opportunity?
In my research, I learned that old men donned used clothing, layering themselves with pants, suit jackets, and hats. They would stand on street corners hawking the clothes crying out, “Old Clos…old clos…old clos!” Eventually, they opened up their own used clothing shops and because I learned that many Irish women saved their money to purchase used clothing to spruce up to look as good as new, it made sense that they, too, would open up used clothing stores. In fact, it has been written that the Irish women who worked as domestic maids during the day walked down Fifth Avenue on the weekends wearing gowns and looking just as rich and cultured as the aristocratic ladies they worked for. Their female employees were incensed that their Irish maids looked like them or even better than them!
What are you working on now?
I have researched for five years a novel about a Native American woman. I’ve already started it but have put it aside to now write another Norah novel with the working title, The Irish Milliner. The period Norah is set in is pre-Civil War New York City, post massive immigration where there was a hotbed of abolitionist, women’s rights, and nativist activity. There is gang violence, xenophobia, and the struggle for survival for Norah McCabe, a child of Famine Ireland.
Are any of the characters based on your own family’s immigrant experience?
I didn’t meet my father until I was eighteen and then he passed away soon after, thus I do not know much about my Irish side. He did tell me that his grandmother, Marion McCabe, was born in Ireland. My mother’s side is English, but there’s a great, great grandmother who was a Nancy Bailey and Irish, but we do not know how she got to Vermont. The little I was told about Marion McCabe has inspired me to use the name McCabe. She was a redhead, feisty, and loved her clothing and wearing hats. She came through New York City and eventually married and settled in Corning, New York and then returned to New York after her husband died. My father was much older than my mother and Marion McCabe was probably born in the late 1800s. I use the McCabe name in my novels and Norah’s mother’s name is Marion. My great grandmother, Grace Matilda, studied art and rode her horse to Mansfield State in PA and was one of the first women to graduate from this college. I have learned also that she designed and made her own hats.
I believe that these ancestral women are with me and help me to write my stories. I acknowledge them throughout my day as I work. But even more amazing is the fact that after some research and the writing of the first two books, I learned there was a real Norah McCabe who left Ireland in 1847 and settled in New York City. I do feel that Norah was a real woman who once lived and she also enables me to write her stories. Once I was going to give up trying to find a publisher for my first book and I received an order of books in the mail through Kenney’s Book Store in Galway. One of them, titled, Surplus People, is about an entire estate from County Wicklow of 10,000 people were given passage to North America in the midst of the Famine by Lord Fitzwilliam. One of the ships was called The Star and this was the name of the ship I had chosen for my fictional ship that Norah travels on to America. On the ship, there is a family with the name of Neale and there is a young girl my protagonist’s age! Who knew! All of these things have guided me to persevere and not give up telling these stories.
What books do you have on your bedside table now?
I just got up to get all the books by my bedside and can’t carry them, so here are a few I am currently reading (for research, for travel, and for pleasure): Fodor’s Italy 2014; The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog by Patricia Monaghan (again); The Famine Plot by Tim Pat Coogan; The Irish in The American Civil War by Damian Shiels; A People’s History of The Civil War by David Williams; The Cave and the Light (Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization); and Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland.
Rena Rosner, an old pal from Authonomy, who is a great writer and now also a literary agent, kindly asked me to share in this blog hop and write about my writing. We connected because we both shared an experience of living in Ireland; Rena spent a year at Trinity College in Dublin and I of course live in Ireland still. Rena’s own blog reveals her fascinating background that has led her from America to Israel and her varying interests which resulted in a recently published cook book, Eating the Bible. Her writing seems to cover a wide range of genres including Fantasy, Jewish Fiction, Literary Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Paranomal Romance and Women's Fiction, but all with a Jewish slant.
She also has a wonderful literary novel, Master of Miracles, her agent is submitting to publishers. Please read her blog at:
Now my view:
What Do I write?
For the most part I write anything historical. Which is probably unsurprising since I studied history and have read so many historical books since I was a child. Something about the ‘story,’ in history captured me early and has never let me go. Maybe it was my mother telling me that Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger or Lady Godiva rode naked through the town with just her hair to cover her. And I have to say it was the people that fascinated me, especially the women. Leave the battles for other types, except if it was to learn that English bowmen captured during Medieval times had their middle finger cut off so they wouldn’t be able to draw a bow again.
It’s both sides of history, fiction and non-fiction that I gobbled up and later studied. I wrote many journal articles and essays and a Ph.D. dissertation before turning my hand to full length works. The first was a novel, because I always had stories running around in my head. In 2012 I published Selkie Dreams, combining my years of experience and research working in an archives with my interest in the mythical tales of the selkies.
It wasn’t just stories that captivated me. I became fascinated by the life of a Canadian First Nations woman, Anahareo, who challenged Indian stereotypes, and along with her companion, Grey Owl, was a pioneer in conservation. She became the subject of the biography I wrote and published in 2012, Anahareo: A Wilderness Spirit.
What am I writing now?
I always have many stories running around in my head and some of them make it to paper. I have just completed a novel set in 6th Century Ireland in West Cork where I live about a woman who loses her memory as a result of a brutal beating and takes refuge in a community of women run by an abbess called Gobnait. Gobnait is the patron saint of bees here in Ireland and also the local saint where I live.
I’m collaborating, too, on a novel from a great friend who laid the rough workings into my hands before she died a few months ago. It’s a cracking topic set in 1441, around the scandal of the Duchess of Gloucester. She was accused of witchcraft along with a scholar, Roger Bolingbroke, a physician and canon of Westminster Palace chapel, Thomas Southwell (also an alchemist) and a woman herbalist, Mistress Jourdemayne, known as the Witch of Eye.
There’s plenty of other stories ticking away in my mind that include a sequel to the one I’m working on, another one bequeathed by my dear friend set during the Wars of the Roses, and one set in Italy based on a poem by Keats and another by Boccacio. History never stops giving up stories.
Why Do I Write?
It’s the stories in my head. A conversation that never stops, really. It amuses me when I wait in line, drive long journeys or sit in boring meetings (luckily I don’t have to do that anymore). I have to share the stories, like I do a funny joke and hope that others find it as entertaining as I do. It gets them out of my system.
I usually write in the morning, when I’m not teaching art classes or running one of my book clubs. I go to the spare room and sit at the computer and enter the world. If I’m lucky I can spend a good solid three hours at it and get at least 1000 words, if not more out of me. But there are some months when it’s not possible and in a way that’s good. It refreshes the well.
Tagging the next three:
I want to tag the next three writers to carry on this blog hop. I hope you go on to read their blogs.
Tim Weed: http://timweed.net
Tim’s essays and articles on travel, the outdoors, and the writing craft have appeared in various national magazines and his short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Gulf Coast, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, and many other literary journals and anthologies. He is also a lecturer in the Creative Writing Program at Western Connecticut College in the USA. His novel, first novel, Will Poole’s Island, will be published by Stephen Roxburgh at Namelos Editions in August 2014.
Frances Kay: http://franceskaywriter.wordpress.com/
Frances is an Actress, playwright and novelist. Her debut novel, Micka, published by Picador, won much praise for its power. She has just released her second novel, Dollywagglers, published by Tenebris, another dark work, this time set in a dystopian world.
Third person to be announced…
The University of Manitoba is re-publishing Devil in Deerskins this month, the book Anahareo wrote about her years with pioneering Conservationist, Grey Owl. It became a Canadian bestseller when it was released in 1972. It was an inspiring book to me personally and helped me immensely when I wrote Anahareo's biography. Now, under the careful editorial supervision of Sophie McCall, this new publication contains a critical review of the book and introductions by Anahareo's daughters, Katherine Swartile and Anne Gaskell. It is part of University of Manitoba's project to bring back under-recognized books by First Nations.
Sophie McCall is a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver but has been familiar with Grey Owl and Anahareo's activities for some years. The interest in their work and the inspiration Anahareo provided for her she describes below during my interview with her.
Devil in Deerskins is available from the University of Manitoba Press and can be purchased through Amazon or their website
What in particular drew you to select ‘Devil in Deerskins’ for your project?
Like many of us I first met Anahareo through the pages of Grey Owl’s book, Pilgrims of the Wild. It was not until much later that I read Anahareo’s own book, Devil in Deerskins (1972). Although Grey Owl portrays her as an intriguing and independently minded woman, she’s a lot funnier, more down-to-earth, and more knowledgeable and accomplished than she comes across in Grey Owl’s writings. The title says it all: her mischievous, freedom-loving spirit, her wry sense of humour, and her defiance of the social conventions of the day. All of these qualities attracted me to her and to her writings. She is also exceptionally photogenic! She conveys a lot of strength of character, as well as roguish fun, through her images.
Can you explain a bit about the project behind this publication?
This edition of Devil in Deerskins is part of a series, @First People, First Texts, conceived by Warren Cariou, a professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Manitoba. The idea of the series, which is published by the University of Manitoba Press, is to generate a list of the most important and underrecognized books by Indigenous authors that have gone out of print, and then to republish critical editions of these books that situate the texts in their Indigenous cultural contexts. Up until very recently, Anahareo was known primarily as Grey Owl’s wife (with some important exceptions of course—you being a pathbreaker in carving out her family history and biography from that of Grey Owl’s). She was rarely recognized as an author in her own right and her Mohawk identity was not well understood. In fact she was usually understood as an Indigenous woman who, as a result of displacement and acculturation, had become alienated from her people’s traditions and heritage. But a closer look at Devil in Deerskins reveals that Anahareo drew upon her knowledge of her Mohawk heritage, learned primarily from her grandmother, in very tangible and important ways. This series aims to reveal how, in spite of the many challenges facing Indigenous people, their lives and ways of knowing having survived and thrived.
Another important aim of the series is to reconnect these unjustly neglected classics with their authors’ home communities. A very rewarding and important part of this project has been to get to know Anahareo’s family, particularly her daughter Katherine Swartile, who has been immensely helpful in bringing this project forward.
Is there anything distinctive about Anahareo’s writing that is different from other women authors in general or First Nations/Native American women authors in particular?
Anahareo was a rebel who always led her life on her own terms. From a very young age, Anahareo resisted the social roles she was expected to fill as a girl growing up in a Catholic working-class neighbourhood in Mattawa, Ontario. Some of her gently sarcastic, eye-rolling comments in Devil in Deerskins suggest that she did not always see eye-to-eye with her sister, who comes across as more conservative. The most important person to Anahareo as she was growing up was her grandmother who, although staunchly Catholic, was also someone very grounded in her sense of herself as an Algonquin woman who married a Mohawk man and who very deliberately passed on her knowledge, stories, and craftsmanship to her granddaughter. When Anahareo left Mattawa to meet up with Grey Owl, ultimately staying with him unchaperoned in the bush for 2 months, she precipitated almost total loss of contact with her family for the next three decades. Throughout her life, Anahareo had to deal with the often contradictory and punishing stereotypes about Indigenous women that prevailed at the time, but that did not deter her from creating her own pathway in life. As her daughter Katherine says, she was a woman ahead of her time, who defined her own ways of living as a mother, a prospector, an author, a defender of animal rights, and an environmentalist.
How does Anahareo compare as an author to First Nations men? Is her approach any different, her topics?
Anahareo describes in a deceptively off-hand manner her talents and accomplishments that revolve around what is usually referred to as ‘women’s work’ – for example, making clothes, beading, tanning, cooking, caring for kids (or beaver kits!), etc. Grey Owl claims that he taught her everything he knew about the bush but I think she taught him more than he acknowledges. What really comes through in Anahareo’s writings is that she knows more than she lets on. A lot of the humour in the book revolves around her internal commentary that reveals significant differences from Grey Owl’s opinions. That sly sense of humour, based on the disjuncture between what is said internally and what is said out loud, and often considered a hallmark of women’s writing, is beautifully exemplified in Devil in Deerskins.
Do you see anything about her First Nations background influencing how she speaks?
The book is a series of anecdotes that are not separated into chapters, creating a continuous flow of stories, which may reflect her intention to recreate her early childhood education through storytelling from her grandmother. Her daughter Katherine says that storytelling was a huge part of her own growing up, and she was often spellbound by her mother’s stories. The style in which Devil in Deerskins is written, particularly the humour and the use of expressions, is very original and distinctive, and is one of the real pleasures of the book.
Was there anything in particular about Anahareo’s story that specifically resonated with you or touched you?
I love animals of all kinds (with a special soft spot for rodents, ever since my kids adopted two gerbils into our home) and I deeply admire Anahareo’s heartfelt invocation of their lives, tastes, and preferences, as well as her defense of their rights. Let me share with you a particularly funny and endearing section from the book that describes the antics of McGinty, one of the beavers that Anahareo had rescued as a kit, and the same beaver that ultimately led Grey Owl to give up trapping for good. In this scene, Archie (aka Grey Owl) is preparing to make some bannock:
With a flourish he heaped the bowl with flour, added salt, and rummaged in the grub-box for the baking powder. While his back was turned, McGinty, the opportunist, spied the abandoned bowl. She came at a dead gallop, zoomed through the air, and landed plop in the middle, sending flour in all directions.
Archie’s shocked surprise convulsed me, but I didn’t dare laugh, because it was awful thing for McGinty to have done. Then a wild and noisy battle erupted. Archie shouted her name and mine alternately as he tried desperately to pull her away, but McGinty had a firm grip on the bowl and was determined to stay. Archie was at his wit’s end, for it was like fighting a whirring electric fan in a tub of feathers. The overwhelming speed with which Mac propelled her webbed hind feet through the flour forced Archie to let her down.
The atmosphere was so thick with flour that I could barely see them. The scuffle ended at last in victory for Archie, and McGinty ambled off in a huff. She was not in the least repentant. She cast malignant glances at Archie as she sat back, cleaning her flour-clogged nostrils with clenched fists. Such was the stand the beaver invariably took to preserve their rights.
What other publications are in the works for this project?
There are a number of exciting projects at various stages of development, but none has been officially announced yet so I would be spilling the beans if I told you. The editorial collective of First People, First Texts have discussed many possibilities, including The Fourth World by George Manuel (Secwepemc), Forbidden Voice by Alma Greene (Mohawk), The Ways of My Grandmothers by Beverly Hungry Wolf (Blackfoot), Voices of the Plains Cree by Edward Ahanekew (Cree), Potlatch by George Clutesi (Nuu-chah-nulth), and Indians Don’t Cry by George Kenny (Anishinaabe).
What audiences do you hope to reach?
When Devil in Deerskins was first released in 1972, it became a bestseller, and I know it has tremendous potential to reach a wide audience again in 2014. As the groundswell of opposition to tar sands development (particularly on Indigenous lands) continues to grow in Canada, and as awareness of climate change continues to deepen, Anahareo’s environmental and animal rights messages have renewed urgency and relevance. Devil in Deerskins will also find its way onto university curricula. As a professor at Simon Fraser University, I am certainly looking forward to teaching Devil in Deerskins in my classes, and I have colleagues at SFU and at other universities across North America who have expressed their strong interest in teaching it as well.
Thank you, Kristin, for giving me this opportunity to talk a little about Anahareo’s book!
Kristin Gleeson is a writer, artist and musician who lives in the west of Ireland in the Gaeltacht.