Among the pleasures of being an author is getting to know other writers and learning the back stories of their books. One of the authors I've enjoyed meeting is Christine Smith, co-owner and operator of a small cruise ship and author of More Faster Backward: Rebuilding David B.
I first met Christine and the David B
. in Juneau and immediately decided that if we ever give up Osprey
, I'll take a cruise on the David B.
Then when I read her book, I was amazed by her story and awed by the task she and her husband Jeff undertook in rebuilding the boat. She had me laughing and crying with them as they struggled through the project.
A couple of weeks ago Christine sent me an email inviting me to join a "blog hop." I'm supposed to write a post and title it "The Next Best Thing." In the post I am to answer a few questions about my writing and spotlight a couple of my favorite authors. In turn, those authors are supposed to link to my books and spotlight other authors.
My author picks are Sheila Kelly and Migael Scherer. Both of them share my fascination with Southeast Alaska. With Migael I also share a love of sailing, and with Sheila an interest in history. I have more information on them at the bottom of this post, but first, here are the answers to the ten questions about my writing:
What is the title of your book?
Glaciers, Bears and Totems: Sailing in Search of the Real Southeast Alaska
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I enjoyed the process of writing my first book, Voyages to Windward: Sailing Adventures on Vancouver Island's West Coast
, so much that when we made plans to sail for SE Alaska, I immediately decided to write a book about it. At the time I had no idea what the theme of the book would be. That theme - finding the real Alaska in a world of tourism - came out of a conversation I had with a shopkeeper in Ketchikan. I asked him what it was like to live in Ketchikan in the winter and he replied, "...like a ghost town. Those 15,000 people who are supposed to live here? They're not real."
What genre does your book fall under?
Travel and memoir.
Which actors would you choose to play you in a movie rendition?
Since the idea of a movie based on Glaciers, Bears and Totems
is outlandish, I'll be even more outlandish and pick a dead actress: Katherine Hepburn. I've always admired the way she portrayed that plucky woman in the African Queen.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The author and her husband sail off the beaten path to find the "real" Southeast Alaska -- in stories of calving glaciers, bears feeding along the shoreline, small coastal fishing villages and vibrant Native communities.
Was your book self-published or published by a traditional publisher?
Both of my books were published by Harbour Publishing of Madeira Park, B.C. After seeing the work they had to do to put my two books together, I'm glad to let them do it!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started writing it the day we left the dock for our first trip to SE Alaska in May, 2006, and finished it in March, 2010. I might have taken a few more months but an email from Harbour Publishing saying, "If you get it to us by the end of March, we can publish it in the fall," gave me a final push.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
One of the things I share with Christine Smith is agreement on the books we admire: A Curve of Time
by M. Wylie Blanchet and Passage to Juneau
by Jonathan Raban. I think I read Curve of Time
about four times when I was writing Voyages to Windward
and Passage to Juneau
at least three times when writing Glaciers, Bears and Totems
, trying to understand how a great book about cruising comes together.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My first book inspired the second. Beyond that, the realization of a need for a cruising narrative about SE Alaska spurred me on.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
Having Glaciers, Bears and Totems
along on a trip (real or virtual) to SE Alaska is like having a biologist, geologist, anthropologist and historian aboard. Yet, despite being packed with information about SE Alaska, it's what one of my readers described as, "a good read."
Now that I've answered those questions, here's some more information about Sheila and Migael.
Sheila Kelly is the author of Treadwell Gold: An Alaska Saga of Riches and Ruin
(University of Alaska Press), a book that combines Alaska history, hard rock gold mining history and a frontier memoir. She first heard about the Treadwell gold mines as a child. Her father and aunts were born and raised in the town between 1899 and 1925, and Sheila was fascinated with their stories about a hardrock mining town with country-club amenities. Wanting more details about her family's life in Treadwell, she interviewed other people who had lived there and scoured archives, museums, libraries and personal scrapbooks. She was surprised to learn that Treadwell embodied an important piece of Alaska history that needed to be told.
I first met Sheila when we both worked at the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority in 1984. Years later we ran into each other at a conference and, when I learned she was writing a book about Alaska, I immediately suggested she join my writing group. In the group I got to see Treadwell Gold come together. I knew it was good, but when I finally sat down to read it from cover to cover, I was thrilled. It's a fascinating story of a chapter of Alaska history few people know and a family saga as well. For anyone interested in Alaska history, it's a must read.
I've been privileged to share several panels with Migael Scherer at boat shows and seminars and am always impressed by her thoughtful approach to sailing and writing.
Sailing isn't just a metaphor for Migael Scherer--it's a means of survival. Back Under Sail
describes her voyage of discovery during a five-day sailboat race in breathtaking Alaska wilderness. Three years after Scherer was raped at knifepoint in a Seattle laundromat, she resolved to overcome lingering fears by participating in a 200-mile sailing race around Admiralty Island out of Juneau, Alaska. Scherer was no stranger to sailing; she had helped her husband build a sailboat from scratch, cruised to Alaska and lived aboard in Juneau for four years. But racing and living in tight quarters with the four men who were her fellow crew members was a new experience for Scherer, and her memoir spells out the epiphanies and pitfalls. The most memorable parts of her tale explore the dynamics of the group and often lead to flashbacks about other mishaps and adventures in her sailing career. She captures so much about Southeast Alaska beyond the race: harrowing landings in Juneau airport, extreme tides, living among bears, ravens, and whales, the seemingly endless rain punctuated with days of brilliant beauty.
If you're planning a trip to SE Alaska, these three books (plus Glaciers, Bears and Totems
) should go high on your reading list.