- Published on Thursday, 10 July 2014
- Written by Alaska Magazine
Fiction's new literary "it" girl with a psychological thrilled based in Alaska.
As told to Michelle Theall:
You were born in Traverse City, Mich., so what brought you to Alaska?
Alaska had always been on my list of places to see. I loved being outside, camping and hiking and fishing, and Alaska seemed the wildest of places to do all those things. I just wanted to be in that type of untouched wilderness, to experience it, to get to know it. When I was 26, I interviewed for a job as a kayak guide. I had never even seen a sea kayak, but I told the guy I had good balance and he hired me. By the end of the first week paddling around Tracy Arm and Baranof Island, I was hooked. After that, I worked as a lead naturalist on a small cruise boat in Southeast. Then, I lived in Petersburg working for the Forest Service studying raptors, songbirds and bears. I had a commercial fishing license for my own subsistence use, and used crab pots and a halibut longline to fill my freezer.
Tell us about the novel, Point of Direction?
Point of Direction is the story of a young couple who lease a remote lighthouse in Lynn Canal
from the Coast Guard. The previous caretaker mysteriously disappeared twenty years earlier.
It all seems a grand adventure until the weather starts to close in and an unwelcome visitor makes the secrets each are harboring from the other impossible to hide.
Eldred Rock Lighthouse inspired the book. How did that come about?
I was traveling by ferry late one summer when the Forest Service Interpreter got on the intercom as we sailed past Eldred Rock Lighthouse and said, “Anybody want to live there? You can lease it from the Coast Guard for $1 for 100 years.” Turns out that’s not exactly true, but it stuck with me. I kept wondering what would drive someone out to such a remote location where there is nothing but mountains and water and wind.
It was a difficult road to get an agent and to find a publisher. Tell us about that.
I never gave up. I sent it out to 100 agents before it got picked up. I weathered many rejections over the years and I consistently went back and rewrote and reworked until I felt the book was stronger. I did this over and over again until my writing really improved. Most agents were drawn to the wilderness and Alaska aspects of the book, but turned it down for other reasons.
Now Oprah and The New York Times have reviewed your book. What does success mean
The real success for me was finishing this book in the first year and a half after giving birth
to twin boys. My husband and I committed to making it happen and somehow we managed it.
Everything that has happened since I feel really grateful for, and I certainly owe much of the great publicity to the hard work of my publishers. Also, I love that all those years hiking around in the amazing backcountry of Alaska culminated into this next phase of my life in which it is the background for my fiction.
Will Alaska continue to inform you and your work as a writer? In what ways?
Yes, the years I spent in Alaska helped shape who I am. The book I’m currently working on about a woman who commercially fishes on her own with a young child takes place in Southeast Alaska as well.