Reading and reviewing novels for YABookShelf.com is great fun. However, when I have the chance to connect with an author over an interview, I find the experience to be a very enriching one. My interview with Native author, Drew Hayden Taylor about his writing in general and his novel, The Night Wanderer, in particular was no exception. I hope that you think his responses are as insightful and poignant as I did. Enjoy!
YA Book Shelf: In a recent interview with The Globe And Mail, you said, “When I write a Native novel, the structure may be contemporary North American, but the essence of it is native.” How would you describe “the essence” you refer to?
Drew Hayden Taylor: Hmmm, tough question. I guess it all has to do with perspective. In The Night Wanderer, there is a definite (in my mind anyway) feel for the land and community. I grew up in a village of about 800 people surrounded by lakes and woods, and I think it’s made a definite impact on me. When I lecture on the structure and nature of Native humour, I frequently say that what makes us laugh will pretty much make you laugh, and vice versa, however, there are certain characteristics that may be more dominant in our humour. We don’t reinvent the wheel, we just may add a coat of paint. Same for writing a novel.
YABookShelf: While both the vampire and wendigo mythologies make up a part of Pierre L’Errant’s character, there are parts of him (at least in the present) that resist the urge to feed this monstrous side of himself. Do you think that resisting the negative and violent tendencies that come with his condition really purify and redeem him?
DHT: That question could be asked of any fasting belief. I believe (and feel free to correct me on this) in the Islamic faith, there is a fast called Ramadan. Does that act of faith do what it is believed to do? As for Pierre directly and specifically…I can’t give away all my secrets. Part of writing is to let the audience decide what or if the central character or any character have changed because of their actions.
YABookShelf: In a previous interview, you said that your publisher encouraged you to change the title of your YA novel from “A Contemporary Gothic Indian Vampire Story” to The Night Wanderer. Why did they think a name change was so important? Have you come to terms with the change or would you still prefer the working title and why?
DHT: Interesting question. For one thing, I was told teen audiences wouldn’t understand the title and the ironic contradiction within it. So they wanted something simpler. Thus The Night Wanderer. Personally, I didn’t want to sell teenagers short and the title had worked when it was a play. Also, I am known for some of my more eccentric titles – In A World Created By A Drunken God, Dead White Writer On The Floor, Funny You Don’t Look Like One, Me Funny etc. and thought this would be a great addition. Alas, I am a lowly writer. But over the years, I’ve come to like The Night Wanderer, could just be the cool cover, hard to say.
YABookShelf: History is something that Tiffany resists when she is taught with white people’s textbooks, but she becomes interested when Pierre’s tales give her a Native context for the reality of her ancestors. What pedagogical techniques do you think are necessary to reach the next and future generations?
DHT: I would answer that if I knew what “pedagogical” meant. Keep in mind, me no go university. Me storyteller. But if I am to try to read the subtext of the question and presume the inference to socio-political perception, humanize it. In journalism, we are taught that a thousand people killed in a landslide is not a story, it’s a statistic. People do not relate to statistics. One person, with a face, a name, and a family, killed by that landslide, is a story. People connect to people. Same with history. The overall view is always important, the personal factor is what grabs and keeps people’s attention.
YABookShelf: The life and death of human beings is one of the most important themes in The Night Wanderer since one of the main characters is technically dead, or undead, and the other is contemplating suicide. Why was it important to you for Pierre, the one who knows most about death, to counsel Tiffany rather than Granny Ruth or one of the other elders in the community?
DHT: Yes, that was my original focus. I wanted to, somewhere, have in the book, a discussion of death from somebody who was “dead” and somebody who was envying it. I think it’s in the book somewhere where Pierre warns Tiffany about being wanting death more than life cause “Death lasts longer.” They always say the best drug and alcohol counsellors are people who have been addicts themselves. Why can’t the same principle apply to this!?
YABookShelf: Thanks so much for stopping by my site, Drew. It was a pleasure to talk with you and to read TheNightWanderer.
For those of my readers who enjoyed my little chat with Drew Hayden Taylor, why not take the time to check out the rest of Spooky Blog Tour? Here are all the rest of the stops:
Oct. 25: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Oct. 26: A Girl Reads A Book and here, YA Book Shelf
Oct. 27: Chick Loves Lit
Oct. 28: Word of Mouse Book Reviews
Oct. 29: Tahleen’s Mixed-Up Files
Go to each site on the day that they post their The Night Wanderer posts to learn more about the novel and the author himself. Until Halloween, The Night Wanderer will be available for only $3.29 (regular price $9.99) at KoboBooks.com!