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Archive for November, 2009

Flight of the Goose by Lesley Thomas was kindly offered to me by the author herself.  She also generously sent me a second copy to give away to a lucky reader.  I’ve had this interview sitting around for awhile and am sorry to say that I never got around to posting it.  So without further ado, here’s Lesley Thomas and I discussing her book.  See the bottom of the interview for details on how to win your own copy of Flight of the Goose.

 

 

Flight of the Goose

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Lesley Thomas was nice enough to say yes when I asked for a short interview.  So a big thank you and welcome!

Q.  My first question is about the cover art of “Flight of the Goose”.  The front is what looks like a sepia photograph depicting a beautiful landscape (my guess is tundra?) with a child running gleefully through it.  Did you have any input with the cover and are you pleased with the result?

A. That is an old family photo. It was taken in the region in which my book is set, Bering Strait. It is tundra, Inupiaq territory and the land of so many of my relatives through marriage, and their ancestors going back centuries. My Inupiaq stepfather used to be carried on his grandmothers back through those very hills as she foraged. I grew up there too and spent much time alone in those high hills, roaming.

Though a few readers, some macho men, thought the cover should have shown a shaman mask or perhaps something with guns, (saying the girl is too “domestic” and more for a woman’s novel, like that is a bad thing. Well, I am a woman and women read my book as well as men, and the book is about a woman. I love the photo and what it represents. I think showing a child is perfect. Perhaps she is the child born from the union of the two characters. And the photo shows the land, such a big part of the story. I love how the small mountain in the photo was exactly like the mountain my main character roamed upon in summer and through her childhood (picking blueberries). And the hills are of course where Gretchen has her spiritual connection to the Earth and where she spies on her birdman. The photo doesn’t show it very clearly but the little girl has blueberries on her face from gorging on them like a bear cub, from the ancient traditional freedom of “summer camp”.

Q.  What inspired you to write this book?  I confess to knowing little to none about Alaska’s people and/or traditions.  Did you hope to enlighten those who may be in my shoes? 

A. I didn’t really set out to enlighten others so much as to understand myself better, maybe. An identity thing. Like the first part of my novel where narrator says how you have to look back from a distance to understand. I had a very rare and complex upbringing. The Arctic is my homeland and where all my family still lives; it is where I grew up and was formed – I always feel moved very deeply in my soul when in the Arctic, more than other places on Earth. My best friends were born there and died there. In addition, I am deeply bonded with the Inupiaq culture, from my early exposure to village life, and my mother encouraged me to assimilate, then through the family marriages that meshed outsiders and Native. I was taught – nurtured in – the Inupiaq ways by many traditional mentors and then my stepfather and his mother, so it is an intrinsic part of me; I am bicultural. (I think part of it might be genetic too, since my grandfather was from the Arctic, in Norway’s Lapland. It looks exactly the same as the photo, and there are reindeer, wolverine, the same berries, the same ways of sharing and honoring spirits and elders. And I am part Sami so am descended from hunting-gathering nomads of the Arctic). I also wrote the book to honor an old childhood friend who died at a very early age – in a way the story is a eulogy for her. Her spirit visited me a lot at night in dreams while I was writing the story. She influenced me – and it – tremendously. At times I felt like was channeling the Otherworld while writing, in a shamanistic way.

That’s the mystic’s answer – Freud would say I had ‘complexes’ to work out. Whenever I write a book it always manages to get set in the Arctic, as if I am unconsciously compelled to go there. I wrote a science fiction novel and even it was on an Arctic-like planet with hunter gatherers. But I also always write about the conflicts and creative union of culture, the old and the new, outsider and indigenous, good and bad, all ambiguity you get when you combine two very different world views, and that is no doubt due to the way I was raised in my bicultural family. My next books (see bottom question) will be set in the Arctic.

All that being said, sure, I wanted to let others in on the great beauty of the Arctic, its animals and people, and to warn them that is very fragile and endangered. I did want to preserve the old ways somehow, and to honor them.

Q.  I would think your surroundings would influence your writing but I notice you now live in Seattle.  Just out of curiosity, how much of the book was written in Seattle and how much in Alaska? 

A. I don’t know – I visit family a lot and spend summer in the homeland, asking all kinds of questions and absorbing new cultural and earth lessons. I never stop learning or researching and would like to keep amending Flight of the Goose. I keep learning new things about subsistence and the Inupiaq traditions as the old people up there open up more and more. My brothers learn more from their wives, and Elders feel safer to talk about the old ways now that outsiders don’t disparage, abuse the knowledge, use it against Natives through colonization, or mock it racistly (not that I ever doubted- I always honored ancient ways. But the fact remains I have a white identity, I sure look white, and will always be an outsider). The old people also feel an urgency to pass knowledge and stories along while they are still alive.

Readers ask me a lot about why I live in Seattle when I so obviously love and know the Arctic. My living in Seattle but channeling and writing about the Far North reminds me of the Kite Runner author, writing about Afghanistan as an immigrant/refugee living in California. I have a love-hate relationship with the Arctic; it is not the land I want to get away from or feel pained by, or the bears (though I fear them as well as honor them) or mosquitoes or the cold and dark or the old culture, it is the society of Alaska I feel pained by. The dysfunction of the new Alaska. It is a frontier, a colony, a deeply ravaged land, the people in post traumatic stress and ongoing stress and I get traumatized by the emotional pain, especially as a sensitive, empathic woman.

Q.  How has your life changed since you wrote “Flight of the Goose”, and do you have plans for writing another novel sometime in the future?

A. It changed big time when I was doing a lot of author events and getting to teach at writers conferences, and took a hiatus from my day job. I got to make friends with other authors from all over the nation, and wear the hat of author for the first time and it felt great. I loved it. But now I am back to the daily grind of teaching ESL for a living, having learned the lesson that for most of us authors, we have to keep the day job. Literary fiction is not very lucrative for most of us, even if we get good reviews.

I will write another novel – probably an eco=thriller – set in the very post modern Arctic. Global warming is altering the Arctic swiftly and radically, more than any other place on Earth except the Moldaves. The renewed plans for rampant oil drilling, right off the coast of my hometown and the Chukchi Sea adds another dimension.

My other plan is to write a novel set in the ancient Arctic of Scandinavia and delve into my own genetic past.

Q.  Finally, let’s finish with my usual final bookish questions! What kind of books do you like to read? What is your favorite book? Who is your favorite author? Finally, what are you reading now and why?

A. I just finished a book that delighted me: Finding Nouf, a mystery set in modern Saudi Arabia. I know a lot of Saudis at the university and since I was a kid was always fascinated with both archaic Bedouin and modern Wahabi-state controlled urbanites, especially the lives of women there. This book was well written and reminded me of Martin Cruz Smith’s work (he is a favorite, especially Polar Star) I read some reviews of Finding Nouf that criticized the author for being incorrect on some of her facts, but I feel a lot sympathy for that. We can’t be perfect. Also, I know editors and marketing teams are responsible for a lot; they will override an author and change things culturally if they feel it will make American readers like the book more.

Oh, to get back to your question: I love Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, Peter Matthiesen’s At Play in the Field of the Lord, and the post-Victorians, especially Thomas Hardy. I love Dickens and Conrad, the Romantic poets (grew up on them, since we didn’t have TV). My first adult novel, which I read and loved at the age of 7 was To Kill a Mockingbird, followed quickly by Never Cry Wolf by Mowat.

This year I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction political science, economics, the rise of American Empire, and – if you will – apocalyptic science about climate change and peak oil, ecological breakdown. I am reading that “downer” stuff because I am concerned, and want to know what is happening and what is likely to happen. They are like my oracles. And I always love anything about Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell, or world mythology and anthropology.

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Huge thanks to Lesley Thomas.  If you’d like to be entered to win this amazing book, leave a comment here telling me why you want to win a copy of this book.  For an extra chance, you can blog/tweet about this contest- but be sure to tell me you did it, and provide a link 🙂

 

Missed my last post?  It was: FOCUSING ON CHARLAINE HARRIS: SOOKIE AND TRUE BLOOD FAQ

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Many of the searches that lead people to my blog have to do with Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse (Not to be confused with Sookie from Gilmore Girls!) . I can understand this, as I’ve mentioned her and her books quite a few times on here.  It’s picked up recently, I suppose, is due to the buzz about True Blood (link takes you to IMDB.com).  More and more people have starting watching this show (including me!), and while the reactions are mixed, people often want to know what the inspiration for the show was.  So, here is a post that will tell you (I hope) everything you need to know.

What are the books (in order) of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire/Sookie Stackhouse Series?  Here’s the complete list of Sookie books:

Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 1)

Living Dead in Dallas (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2)

Club Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 3)

Dead to the World (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 4)

Dead as a Doornail (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 5)

Definitely Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 6)

All Together Dead (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 7) My Review: here

From Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 8 )  My Review: here

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 9)  My Review: here

Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10)

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 11) NOT YET RELEASED

Okay, so those are the main books of the series, but if you start reading and think that maybe you’re missing some details- you’re right.  Charlaine Harris has collaborated with other authors and published short stories featuring her vampire universe in certain anthologies.  Some of these stories feature Sookie, while others are simply stories in the world Charlaine Harris has created

Where can I find these stories?  When should I read them? Is there a chronological order?

Powers of Detection: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy

by Dana Stabenow, this book features the short story “Fairy Dust”.  It fits  features Sookie along with Claudine and Claude, and you should read it between books 4 and 5.

Night’s Edge: Dancers in the Dark\Her Best Enemy\Someone Else’s Shadow

by Charlaine Harris/Maggie Shayne, has the short story “Dancers in the Dark” by Harris.  It is not about Sookie, although the characters (Sean and Layla)  have a cameo in a later Sookie book.  It should probably be read between books 4 and 5.

Bite

by Laurell K. Hamilton, has the short story “One Word Answer.”  This story focuses on Sookie and her cousin Hadley (who was recently seen in an episode of “True Blood”) and is takes place between books 5 and 6.

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding

by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the story “Tacky” is not about Sookie but is in the general universe.  One of the main characters in this story, Dahlia, shows up in a later short story.  Consider reading it around book 6.

Many Bloody Returns

by Charlaine Harris/ Toni Kelner, again features Sookie in Harris’ short story “Dracula Night”.  Eric and Pam are also involved.  I don’t think it matters when you read it, but some suggest between books 4 and 5.

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

by Charlaine Harris/ Toni Kelner, features Sookie in the story “Gift Wrap”.  (Niall also makes an appearance.) Only read this after book 8.

Unusual Suspects: Stories of Mystery & Fantasy

by Dana Stabenow, has another story featuring Sookie as well as her friend Amelia.  “Lucky” should be read between books 7 and 8.

Blood Lite: An Anthology of Humorous Horror Stories Presented by the Horror Writers Association

by Jim Butcher, the story “An Evening With Al Gore” is in the Sookie universe but does not feature her.  It doesn’t matter when it is read.

Strange Brew

by P. N. Elrod, again the story “Bacon” is in the same universe, but does not focus on Sookie.  Dahlia (mentioned above) shows up again.  Read after book 9.

Must Love Hellhounds

by Ilona Andrews, the short story “The Britlingens Go To Hell” by Harris does not feature Sookie, but is in the same universe.  (The Britlingens are seen in a book 7.)  Read after book 9.

Death’s Excellent Vacation

by Charlaine Harris, includes the short story”Two Blondes” featuring Sookie and Pam.  Read after book 10.

A Touch of Dead (Sookie Stackhouse: The Complete Stories)

Recently released, this is an anthology that contains only stories by Charlaine Harris (unlike the anthologies listed above).  It ONLY contains the stories “Fairy Dust,” “Dracula Night,” “One Word Answer,” “Lucky,” and “Gift Wrap.” All of these were previously released in different anthologies. They are not new stories.

What about True Blood ? Is the show following the books?

True Blood” is not exactly following the books.  Some things are the same, and for the most part, seasons one and two followed the plots of books one and two.  Season three has jumped all over. 

Season one was about the telepathic (meaning she can hear the thoughts of others) barmaid Sookie Stackhouse meeting a vampire (Bill Compton), and dealing with a string of murders that happened around them.  This season, and in particular the first couple of episodes had a LOT of SEX in it.  This is not a show you should watch with your parents!  I admit to being slightly turned off my the amount of sex, but once I was able to get in touch with the characters I started to enjoy the series.  My brother had this to say: “It’s about fighting and killing and sex.  What’s not to like?”  Characters in the books like Sam, Jason, Lafayette, Bill, Eric, Pam, Tara, and Arlene all star.

 Season two dealt with murders again; this time Sookie went to Dallas to help find a missing vampire and deal with an over-enthusiastic church.  Harris has and is helping out HBO with the show, but again they are not following the books to the letter. 

Season three started involving vampire royalty, and heavily followed an invented plotline revolving around the distribution of “v” or vampire blood as a drug.

Who plays Sookie, Bill, Eric, Sam, etc on the show?

Sookie Stackhouse- Anna Paquin

Jason Stackhouse- Ryan Kwanten

Tara Thornton- Rutina Wesley

Sam Merlotte- Sam Trammell

Bill Compton- Stephen Moyer

Eric Northman- Alexander Skarsgård

A full list of characters and the actors who play them can be found on the show’s IMDB page.

Is Anna Paquin dating Stephen Moyer?  Is she pregnant?

At this time, they’re engaged.  And though there have been rumors, I’m pretty sure that Anna is not preggers.

Where can I watch “True Blood” online?

Not anywhere legally, that I know of.  The show is on 9:00 EST Sunday nights on HBO, and the season generally runs around 13 episodes.  Season one was on from June until November, with season two being on from June through September.  Some episodes may be available on HBO on Demand if you have it, or you can buy True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series) on DVD now, and you can also buy True Blood: The Complete Second Season (HBO Series) though I’m not sure when the third season will be released.  The show will continue with a fourth season in the summer of 2011.

True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series)True Blood: The Complete Second Season (HBO Series)

 Has Charlaine Harris written other stuff?

Yes! Charlaine Harris has written many other books.  I love her series about Aurora Teagarden. There are eight books, starting with Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, Book 1).  She also wrote a series about Lily Bard, which has five books and starts with Shakespeare’s Landlord (Lily Bard Mysteries, Book 1).  Neither of those deal with the supernatural world (vampires, witches, werewolves). Harris’ newest series is about Harper Connelly, a woman who was struck by lightning and can now find bodies. It starts with Grave Sight (Harper Connelly Mysteries, Book 1) and the fourth book was out at the end of October 2009.

Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, Book 1)Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard Mysteries, Book 1)Grave Sight (Harper Connelly Mysteries, Book 1)

Hope some of this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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Anybody remember the American Girl books?  When I was younger I remember reading them over and over.  I was constantly rereading the stories about Felicity, Addy, and Samantha.  I also remember wishing I owned the ones about Kirsten and Molly.  All of these girls were American, and each lived during a different time in history.  Besides the books, you could buy the dolls themselves, with matching clothing and furniture.  My cousin had Felicity’s tea-table (she grew up during the American revolution) and it came with an actual tea set.

These books were a great way to teach young children about the diversity of America.  Not only did they introduce topics like slavery (Addy grew up during the Civil War, and was a former slave) and immigration (Kirsten was originally from Sweden), but they also made readers aware of things like racism, poverty, and discrimination.  I don’t want to just emphasize the negative topics however; these books also told stories of the importance of family, the necessity of overcoming obstacles, and the beauty of true friendship.

The girl I tutor gets the American Girl catalogue and when I flipped through it, I was shocked.  What I remember fondly as wonderful stories with matching dolls, has now become so commercialized that its appalling.  The books don’t even seem to be featured in the catalogue.  Instead of the dolls in their original time period clothing, what’s pushed is modern ski clothes, or party dresses.  Want your doll to go horseback riding? There’s gear for that!  Perhaps you want your doll to keep her schoolbooks in a locker.  You can buy that. 

Rebecca, Julie, Ivy, Emily, Kit, Ruthie, Nellie, Elizabeth, Josephina, and Kaya are all new characters that I don’t remember from my childhood.  Of them, perhaps Josephina and Kaya look like they have potential to be as influential as the original five girls.  Josephina is living in New Mexico around 1824, while Kaya is a Native American in 1764.  There are also “contemporary” American Girls: Chrissa, Mia, Nicki, Jess, Marisol, Kailey, and Lindsey.  Are any of these as good as the originals? I don’t know.  What saddens me is that some of the wonderful original dolls have been “archived” or “retired”.  Obviously this all revolves around money and sales, but I wish it didn’t.  The most recent American Girl?  Gwen Thompson- her claim to fame? She’s homeless.  Critics are quick to point out that no money from Gwen’s sales is going/will go to the truly homeless.

Is there anyone out there who has read, or has children who read, these newer American Girl books?  Are they still as good as they used to be, or has the American Girl series lost its magic?

Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Check out: Samantha (New York, 1904), Felicity (Virginia, 1774), Addy (Pennsylvania, 1864 ), Molly (England, 1944), or Kirsten (Minnesota Territory, 1854), along with the rest of the “American Girls“.

 

Missed my last post?  It was: REVIEW: “THE LEAP” BY ANNA ENQUIST

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