I’ve been writing for a number of years now, and over the years, my Muse has been both helpful and a fickle twit. Once upon a time, she abandoned me for nearly a decade. I thought I would be story-dry for the rest of my life.
Turns out, all I had to do was move back up north.
Once I settled back into a life among the wilds, my Muse raced back with a speed that was unsettling at times. It was as if she was perked up by pine-infused air, and boosted by birdsong!
One of the first short stories I began developing shortly after moving was inspired by taking my dog outside. As he was sniffing, I looked around me at our end of the valley. I was home, safe, cradled within the cliffs dotted with birch and maples. It wasn’t hard to imagine a young woman trying to climb over the ridges and make her way out of the valley. But what would make someone attempt such a hazardous trek? She has no choice…her survival, and that of her people, depends on her quest. It was easy to slip inside her skin as she huddled around her campfire that first night. She heard the coyotes that sang the song of their people outside my door. She heard the call of the owl in my backyard, and she saw the beaver that slapped its tail in the pond twenty feet away from my front door. That young woman, Butter, not only has to make her way in uncharted territory and survive in a wilderness she’s never experienced before, but she also has to decide if she can trust the outcast whose path she crosses. She cannot forget the point of her quest, either. To come back with a whole, living plant that will save her people and their future.
I am incredibly fortunate to live surrounded by trees, water and wild animals. This is a large part of my identity, both as a person and as a writer. But I have always felt the pull of the women whispering stories in my ear. The women explorers who curled up with their female companions at night. The women chasing convicted criminals across time and space. Those women that undertook impossible quests to save their people, and those that agreed to live with dragons and be a voice for her people. (Thankfully, my wife doesn’t mind sharing me with them!)
There is a growing library of work set in Canada, and for some reason, the majority of these seem to be either crime or romance. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the potential for speculative fiction here. I’ve found few pieces of fiction set in Northern Ontario. I hope to change that. I realize there may well be a small number of folks who are interested, but that’s the direction that my Muse has been tugging me. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I find further encouragement in the words of J.K Rowling, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
And on the days that I need just a bit more encouragement, I turn to this bit of wisdom from Eric Morgenstern, handwritten and taped near my computer.
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
My Muse agrees.