Good Reading : May 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING MAY 2015 36 AUTHOR PROFILE 1 ... but I’m too afraid to cross the yard to my garage office alone in the dark. Did I mention that I live ... among the coyotes and mountain lions?’ Previous books by Lori Lansen Wolf ’s best friend, Byrd, whose catastrophic accident sparks the key events of the story, has Native Amer ican ancestry, which was inspired by Lor i’s interest in indigenous cultures. ‘The great Chief Tecumseh was killed in a battle on the Thames River in my hometown of Chatham, in the war of 1812,’ she says. ‘The connection to history made an impression on me [and], being a fanciful child, I often imagined the lives of the early people when I took the path by Indian Creek, a few blocks from my home. We’d walk the nearby fields in fall, looking for arrowheads or pottery shards turned up by the ploughs.’ Lor i’s early research into the Palm Springs and Mount San Jacinto area revealed much about the Cahuilla people, whose her itage Byrd shares. ‘At first I imagined him as a character more like his Uncle Harley – an earnest band member – or maybe even a birdsinger, who’s an important member of the tribe who passes down history and tradition through song. ‘Then I went on a tour of Tahquitz Canyon with a char ming, young, wise-cracking Cahuilla guide. He explained that there are few remaining tribe members, most scattered now and marr ied outside of the culture. It struck me that it would be more interesting if Byrd wasn’t full Cahuilla, but biracial.’ While the challenge to write a suspenseful story was always in the back of her mind, Lori says characters always come first. Her first three novels are character driven. Rush Home Road is the story of an old black woman, Addy Shadd, descendant of Amer ican slaves who escaped to freedom in Canada, and the five-year-old biracial child abandoned to her care. The Girls is the story of conjoined twins, Rose and Ruby, who offer their memoirs in alternating chapters. The Wife’s Tale is about shy, reclusive and morbidly obese Mary Gooch, whose husband disappears on the eve of their 25th anniversary. Lor i’s novels have a strong and loyal following, but her first fictional works were short stor ies, inspired by fellow Canadian-born writer Alice Munro. ‘Her beautiful stor ies were about people I knew and places I’d been. It was a language that I understood made into art. Her words touched me and provoked me to different ways of thinking. I wanted to move and inspire readers the way she inspired me.’ Before she became a wr iter Lori worked in the fields, at a drugstore, in a donut shop and at many restaurants. ‘I started wr iting seriously in my early 20s, but I always knew I wanted to be a storyteller. I started with short stor ies but I soon tried writing plays, then screenplays, and finally came to the novel, where I feel most at home.’ Lor i’s working hours fit around the times when her children are in school: ‘My muse is the on button on my computer,’ she jokes. ‘I’m sleepless a lot lately and would like to sit at my desk in the early morning hours, but I’m too afraid to cross the yard to my garage office alone in the dark. Did I mention that I live in a rural canyon among the coyotes and mountain lions? It’s a community of horse far ms and vineyards, an idyllic location with a long, winding road that leads to the top of a hill covered in chaparral, sycamores, errant palms and clusters of cactus. I’m inspired each day by the beauty of my surroundings. The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens is published by Simon & Schuster, rrp $29.99. If you require support for issues raised in this article, please contact Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue.org.au.