Town Spirit has had the pleasure of interviewing Anneli Purchase, a B.C. author with a connection to the Peace Country, about her new book The Wind Weeps (see yesterday’s post for links and a teaser). Here is the interview, with Town Spirit’s questions in black and the author’s response in blue. Enjoy!
Can you tell us a little more about the main character, Andrea?
Andrea is young and energetic. She wants more from life than to follow in the footsteps of her parents, whose suburban middle-class life she compares to a boring, hamster-cage existence. Andrea randomly chooses a place on the map – a place that’s as far away as possible from busy Ontario – packs her bags and, with her parents’ reluctant support, travels alone to the small town of Lund, north of Powell River on the west coast of B.C. She is looking for a life of adventure, love, and more stimulation than her office job in Ontario could have brought her. She finds what she is looking for, and much more.
Did you choose to make your main character Ontarian because of the dichotomy between Eastern and Western cultures within Canada?
Yes, I was looking for a place that would provide a stark difference in lifestyle from the freedom and ruggedness of the West Coast. Southern Ontario is heavily populated; B.C.’s coast is not. Logging and fishing are jobs that mostly employ strong, young men. To Andrea, the wild natural beauty of B.C. represents adventure and opportunity – a new and wholesome life for her. A naive city girl, she strives to become capable and independent.
Can you define what makes West Coast culture so unique?
B.C’s coast is beautiful, but sparsely populated area. The ocean is full of life and danger. B.C.’s forests, rivers, and mountains abound with wildlife. Add to that mix, wild winter weather, windstorms, and rain. Surviving in this rough, nearly pristine coastal area is a challenge that appeals to adventurous souls.
Did writing The Wind Weeps help you clarify that uniqueness?
I tried to show the beauty of the coast, but also the danger of its darker side.
You grew up in Dawson Creek. What do you remember of the culture of the Peace? Did you use any Peace Country characters (or characteristics) in the book?
I spent most of my school years in Dawson Creek, and like Andrea, I left it for the coast. I found the attraction of the coast fascinating; to be near the ocean, to have a chance to be on a boat, to explore and fish and go camping in the woods among huge firs and cedars.
It was so different from the life I had known in Dawson Creek. One thing I learned, living in the Peace country is that survival is not a given. The elements can be extreme and harsh there, and people always help each other out. Unlike people who live in big cities, those of the Peace are open, sincere, and neighbourly. If you got your car stuck in the gumbo, the next car coming along would stop, everyone would pile out and help push you out of the muck. So what if they got covered with mud spray? They didn’t mind and were happy to help out, because ten minutes down the road, the roles might be reversed and we’d be pushing them out of a mudhole. Same thing in the winter, with the snow. In many ways, life on the coast brings out that same neighbourliness in people who live in remote areas. It’s all about survival.
I didn’t use any characters from the Peace country in this book, but my next book is all about the Peace. I actually wrote it first, but will publish it second. It should be coming out this year.
Do you think wilderness, or at least the natural environment, is an essential feature of Canadian literature?
Definitely. Canada is unique in the variety of the types of natural environment it offers. Most other countries in North America and Europe have cities and people everywhere. Canada is populated sparsely enough that the land and climate are still essential components of many Canadian stories. We are by no means limited to making our stories only about urban life.
Have you ever been in a survival situation?
When you are in a remote place the simplest outings can become survival situations. Tying a skiff to an uprooted snag and going for a walk up a river estuary and finding out the tide has cut you off from reaching your boat again can be a wake-up call, especially when you’re in grizzly country.
Going out in a boat and having the weather come up suddenly can be dicey.
Going mushroom picking in the woods and finding out that your cheap compass is spinning around and around, obviously lying to you, while the fog has moved in making everything look the same can have a person sweating blood.
In all your floating holiday explorations, have you discovered some favourite places you don’t mind revealing?
Desolation Sound is a beautiful area with many safe anchorages. Much of The Wind Weeps is set in that general area, but also the trip north to the Queen Charlotte Islands, now renamed Haida Gwaii, is featured in the book. Andrea’s love entanglements are a part of the reason for her traveling in these areas.
Where can we find your other two books and the magazine articles about coastal life?
Four magazine articles were published in The Canadian Fly Fisher magazine, which is now an e-zine called The New Fly Fisher, where another of my articles should soon appear. Three others are in Canadian Stories magazine. I have reprinted the stories in my blog. You can read them if you go through the archives of http://wordsfromanneli.wordpress.com
My two other books are in the process of being prepared for publication and, hopefully, will be out this year.
Is The Wind Weeps available from Canadian sources?
As an e-book, it is only available from amazon.com, and as a paperback it is available from amazon.com or if you contact me at: email@example.com.
The Wind Weeps sounds like a very exciting read, full of adventure and the richness of B.C.’s wild opportunity. Thank you very much, Anneli, for allowing Town Spirit an inside look at your work. Please keep us posted about your other books as well!