Mystery and Wilderness in Fiction

By Karen Wills

My husband and I made up a personal list of criteria for good fiction. One of our essentials is mystery. By that we don’t mean crime solving. We mean the lure of what hovers just beyond the obvious. It’s what makes us tell our book club or other friends to read it so we can talk about it.

In literature it’s sometimes found in complex characters or in nature. I used the wilderness as setting that is almost a character in my historical novel, River with No Bridge. For me, books set in the wilderness often have mystery. There’s richness to that.

In Eowyn Ivey’s historical novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, to the bright edgea husband is one of the first to head an expedition to explore Alaska Territory’s Wolverine River Valley while his pregnant wife waits at Fort Vancouver for his return. In a letter to her he muses, “I suppose the wilderness does have its draw. She always keeps a part of herself a mystery.” Later he says, “It is a grand, inscrutable wildness. Never are the people here allowed to forget that each of us is alive only by a small thread.”

For authors and artists conveying the wilderness while honoring its mystery is challenging. In her novel about the artist Emily Carr, the forrest loverthe late Susan Vreeland wrote, “She looked back at the forest—more dense and tangled and full of mystery than the forested part of Beacon Hill Park at home. How could she ever paint it? No art school taught how to paint such immense, paralyzing magnificence.”

And yet, some of us keep writing about, or painting, those precious wild places that still exist. How long wilderness has existed. We marvel at the geology of places like Glacier National Park and find an awed comfort in astronomy. Poet Robinson Jeffers wrote these lines,

The stars shine in the sky like the spray of a wave

Rushing to meet no shore, and the great music

Blares on forever…

Perhaps, the meaning of wilderness is that wild beauty creates its own mystery.

river with no bridge

 

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle

https://karenwills.com

Face Book: Karen Wills Author

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Mystery and Wilderness in Fiction

By Karen Wills

My husband and I made up a personal list of criteria for good fiction. One of our essentials is mystery. By that we don’t mean crime solving. We mean the lure of what hovers just beyond the obvious. It’s what makes us tell our book club or other friends to read it so we can talk about it.

In literature it’s sometimes found in complex characters or in nature. I used the wilderness as setting that is almost a character in my historical novel, River with No Bridge. For me, books set in the wilderness often have mystery. There’s richness to that.

In Eowyn Ivey’s historical novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, to the bright edgea husband is one of the first to head an expedition to explore Alaska Territory’s Wolverine River Valley while his pregnant wife waits at Fort Vancouver for his return. In a letter to her he muses, “I suppose the wilderness does have its draw. She always keeps a part of herself a mystery.” Later he says, “It is a grand, inscrutable wildness. Never are the people here allowed to forget that each of us is alive only by a small thread.”

For authors and artists conveying the wilderness while honoring its mystery is challenging. In her novel about the artist Emily Carr, the forrest loverthe late Susan Vreeland wrote, “She looked back at the forest—more dense and tangled and full of mystery than the forested part of Beacon Hill Park at home. How could she ever paint it? No art school taught how to paint such immense, paralyzing magnificence.”

And yet, some of us keep writing about, or painting, those precious wild places that still exist. How long wilderness has existed. We marvel at the geology of places like Glacier National Park and find an awed comfort in astronomy. Poet Robinson Jeffers wrote these lines,

The stars shine in the sky like the spray of a wave

Rushing to meet no shore, and the great music

Blares on forever…

Perhaps, the meaning of wilderness is that wild beauty creates its own mystery.

river with no bridge

 

Now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kindle

https://karenwills.com

Face Book: Karen Wills Author

Complex Lives of Local Characters

By Ann Minnett

I live in the mountains of NW Montana, twenty miles from a tourist town. My small town used to be known for logging and then became a railroad town, but the impact of those industries has waned. Our economy relies upon visitors, mostly in winter and summer, who come to enjoy our great outdoors. Construction, service industries, restaurants and bars, outdoor exploration, and retail shops keep this valley buzzing.

best sunshine 3 orange and pink

Sunrise in the Last Best Place

Thirty years ago, I was one of those tourists. I fell in love with this area and returned for vacations at least once every year for two decades. We bought property early on, finally built a house in 2009, and followed through on a promise to ourselves to live here fulltime.

 

 

 

We’ve lived here year-round for eight

31517h

Courtesy: Whitefish Convention & Visitors Bureau

years. We love sharing Montana with friends and family and have no thoughts of leaving. While dreams do come true, I’ve thought a lot about the differences between visiting a place and residing there. In all those years of playing outdoors and eating hearty meals and shopping for souvenirs, I paid scant attention to the lives of everyday residents.

 

The ‘locals’ in my picturesque hometown—those with complicated, embedded lives–are the rich characters I write about. I’ve come to know them through writing groups (everyone has a book or a poem in them), advocacy for abused and neglected children, drug/alcohol recovery in this valley, and toe-in-the-water political activism. The hairdressers, shopkeepers, wait staff, once existed to tend to the Tourist Me. Now I see them juggle childcare and work, try to find affordable housing while earning minimum wage, work one or two seasonal jobs, find time to play, and cling to the values of their grandparents, all while rubbing shoulders with billionaires or just the moderately rich.

Fifteen Years of Lies FINAL EBOOK COVERMy third novel, Fifteen Years of Lies, recounts the story of three local friends—a housekeeper, hairdresser, and owner of an auto repair shop—and the wealthy stranger who comes to town to threaten their lives. My forthcoming fourth novel, tentatively entitled Me Between Them, also takes place here. Long story short: A middle-aged widow fights to keep her family together and her grandchildren safe from domestic violence despite a daughter-in-law’s vicious lies and her husband’s revelations from the grave.

I hope you’ll visit NW Montana. If and when you do, enjoy! but notice the locals you meet. Sometimes they have the most remarkable lives.

~ Ann

Ann Minnett MWW photo

October Book News

harvest moonHarvest Moon

2017 the Harvest Moon will occur October 5th.

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Lise McClendon here… from the far southwest tip of Montana. Not the end of the world but you can see it from here! I’m still letting people know about my new women’s fiction/suspense novel set in France, the fifth in the Bennett Sisters Mysteries. It’s called The Frenchman, a title so bland it’s been used a million times. Hence, here is the link: THE FRENCHMAN. If you haven’t had a chance to read any of the novels, start with Blackbird Fly.

October brings an anthology of riffs on conspiracy theories that roiled through the Obama years, edited by the talented Gary Phillips. I have a short story in The Obama Inheritance: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir, set in a fictional Montana town called Forked Tongue. It is, needless to say, about Russian trolls and fake news (maybe not so fictional… 🙄) Walter Mosley is the big name in here but there are lots of fascinating takes on aliens, ninjas, and Michelle. Something for everyone, for sure. And, yes, Obama is blue on the cover!

From the publisher: “In an era where the outlandish and fantastic has permeated our media 24/7, where mind-bending conspiracy theories shape our views, THE OBAMA INHERITANCE writers riff on the numerous fictions spun about the 44th president of the U.S. Although Obama himself does not appear in most of these stories, contributors spin deliberately outlandish and fantastic twists on many of the dozens of screwball, bizarro conspiracy theories floated about the president during his years in office and turn them on their heads.”

It’s available for pre-order now. It goes live in ebook and paperback on October 10, and will be in Montana bookstores (or by special order.) Have a lovely, leafy autumn 🍂🍃🍁

Leslie Budewitz: Congratulations, Lise!

Christine Carbo and I just returned from the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, where we were part of a conversation about the contemporary mystery set in the west. In mid October, we’ll both be attending Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, being held this year in Toronto! And I’ll be leaving the board of Sisters in Crime, the international writers’ organization focused on the recognition, advancement, and professional development of women crime writers. It’s been an honor to serve — writing is a solo activity, but every opportunity I’ve had, and many of the joys, have come to me because of a group.

Wishing you the pleasures and joys of this sweet season!

 

September Book News

sept in mt

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: September is a month of mixed feelings in these parts. A signal of a fresh start almost as palpable as January, as the weather begins to change and the kids head back to school (we all feel it, don’t we, no matter what our age), mingled with a sense of loss, as another glorious Rocky Mountain summer slips behind us.

In Book News, Christine Carbo and I will be on a panel together, along with mystery writers Gwen Florio and Mark Stevens, at the Montana Book Festival in Missoula, Sept 29-30. (We don’t know the date or time yet, so check in with the Festival or one of us, if you plan to go.) We’ll be talking about modern mysteries set in the west, how place influences character, and much more. I hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, delighted to say that Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine will publish a short story of mine next year titled “All God’s Sparrows,” featuring the real-life—and larger than life—character, Mary Fields. I’ll share the pub date and ordering info as the date approaches.

Enjoy these last glorious days of summer, and thank you for spending them with us.

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LISE McCLENDON Okay, it’s not quite slippers-by-the-fire weather yet but in case you’re stocking up for chilly weather, my new mystery, The Frenchman, is coming out very soon. This is the fifth installment in the Bennett Sisters Mystery series and we’re back in France this time. Merle Bennett is writing her own novel while taking a leave of absence in the Dordogne, so, yes, this is a story-inside-a-story. When that Frenchman, Pascal, runs into an old nemesis and goes missing, Merle must rally the troops to find him.  After an exclusive run I’m back on all e-book platforms (yay!) Amazon Nook KOBO iBooks  Also available in paperback. Happy autumn reading 🍁

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Book Signing by Karen Wills author of River with No Bridge  Saturday, September 16, 2017, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Montana Book and Toy Company, 331 North Last Chance Gulch, Helena, Montana.                  

river with no bridgeThis month’s issue of Cowgirl calls the novel a “compelling and touching story.” Booklist’s review of the novel called it “a gripping, sometimes heartbreaking story of immigrant survival in the West.” The August Historical Novel Society Reviews sums up with,   “I love pioneering stories and gritty women, and Ms. Wills’ engrossing tale provides both.”

Sunday, September 17th at 2:00 p.m. the Lewis and Clark Library at 120 South Last Chance Gulch will present Questions and Answers on Writing a Historical Novel with Karen Wills.

Karen looks forward, as always, to a visit with friends in Helena.

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