AUTHOR Q&A

1. Seven Stones is a unique blend of Celtic and Ojibwe cultures. What is the connection between the two?

There are many connections between the two cultures. Like any other aspect of human nature, you just have to dig below the surface to see how similar we truly are. The first similarities occurred to me when I was researching Scottish history. Like Native Americans, Scottish people have suffered a history of oppression. Scottish Gaelic was suppressed to the point of near extinction, the people were forbidden to wear their traditional dress, and many were evicted from their homes during the Highland Clearances. I’m not saying that these experiences equate with the mass genocide of native peoples in America but there are definite similarities in the history of oppression that, sadly, many cultures share.

On the cultural side of things, both Celtic and Ojibwe cultures share a deep respect for the Earth. Both cultures were nature worshipping, and believed in a supernatural spirit world of immense power. The main connection I use is the power and reverence of dreams as spiritual conduits in both cultures.

2. What do you say to people who question your choice to write from a different ethnic point of view than your own?

I write not from a white or native perspective, but from a human perspective. Seven Stones is the story of a girl grappling with her identity and trying to find her place in the world. To ensure my work was authentic and accurate, I undertook years of research and learned so much more about Ojibwe and Scottish culture than I ever would have otherwise. To me, that is the true goal of reading and writing: to learn about and empathize with people around the world.

Reading books changes how you view the world around you. If a white author is only allowed to write about white characters, then should a white reader only read books about white protagonists? Confining people to restricted perspectives is a slippery slope. Literature has the power to break down barriers and introduce ideas and perspectives in ways we can understand. Culture is a beautiful representation of humanity, and I wished to bring to light both the beauty and similarities of the two cultures explored in my novel.

3. What are you hoping readers take from your novel?

Seven Stones is a celebration of cultural identity. I hope that readers take away a new respect for cultural differences in their communities. In addition, I hope that readers are inspired by the strong female characters. Keilann (the main character) really goes through an emotional and spiritual crucible, and her struggles and tri- umphs are ones readers experience every day.

4. Are you working on anything new?

Currently, I am researching and writing the sequel to Seven Stones as well as a futuristic dystopian series for young adults.

5. How long did seven stones take you to write?

The manuscript itself only took me about a year to write from start to finish. The idea, however, was around for much longer than that. I first began a rough manuscript for the story in high school. I put the story on hold for college, and did not really get a chance to work on it again until after graduation several years later. When I went back to review my work, I found that the story and writing no longer fit who I was or what I wanted to ex- press. After moving to Northern Minnesota, I became more aware of the presence of Ojibwe culture. I read all the books I could on it, and couldn’t stop thinking about how similar the culture sounded to my own Scottish- Irish heritage. I kept thinking that someone should write a novel comparing the two cultures. One day, it hit me: why don’t I write that novel? I used the same setting and some of the same character names from my original high school manuscript, threw-out the rest, and started over from scratch. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

6. Have you always wanted to be an author?

Since I can remember I’ve been fascinated with storytelling. My father used to tell the best bedtime stories, ones that he would make-up himself and perform all the character voices. I loved his stories so much that I wanted to create my own. I wrote my first story when I was in kindergarten, and I submitted a 40 page ‘novel’ to Scholastic when I was ten-years-old, complete with a cover letter!

7. What inspires you?

Good books, bad books, things my family and friends say, images, smells, lyrics, poems, people at the library, good food—everything and anything. I’ve learned to pay attention to the world around me. You never know when an idea for a story will walk in front of you.

8. Who are your favorite authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien was one of my biggest inspirations as a child, and The Hobbit is still one of my favorite books. J.K. Rowling, of course (I briefly put aside my writing dreams for dreams of attending Hogwarts. Still holding out on that hope), Jane Austen, John Green, Shakespeare, M.T. Anderson, and Markus Zusak all have places of honor on my bookshelves.

9. Favorite quote?

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Jack London said this. I try to follow it as best as I can.

10. Advice for any aspiring writers who might read your novel?

Meet people; make as many friends and connections as you possibly can (especially in the writing world). If there are any writing conferences or workshops in your area, go to them. You never know when you’ll meet someone who can help you with your writing in some way.

Most importantly, try to write every day—even if it’s only for five minutes. Enjoy every minute of your writing process. And eat lots of chocolate.