Bird Song: A Novella

Due to our move to Halifax, which will push me offline and off the computer here and there in the next 2-3 months, and currently spending 10 hours a weekday outside of home for my “day job,” I am pushing my two novels: The Stolen Child and Up the River back a year each.  I plan to have the first draft of the latter written by the end of this summer, and I’m forecasting The Stolen Child to be out in 2022. In the meantime, I’m finishing a story that was originally meant to be a novel but now is a novella, reminiscent of such stories as Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows and Michael Bernanos’s The Other Side of the Mountain.

My novella finally got a pub date this week. See Bird Song. This story is a genre mashup, including literary, young adult, coming-of-age, mythology, weird fiction, and climate change parable all in one. And it’s set on an island. I always wanted to write a book set on an island (I began this one in November 2013), as such stories have consistently blown my mind from the time I was young and read Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, to growing up and reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, John Fowles’ The Magus, and many more. I was also an obsessed “Lost” fan. Weird islands with elements of horror always appealed to me. And I’m a huge mythology reader and thought of a story involving the Greek Sirens. The island brings myth into the present.

I can say my other novels are really ones I am also very into writing and have as strong of a place in my heart. Back to the Garden came from imagining the worst of climate change in the future, but even just seven years after its first publication, I’ll just repeat what Amitav Ghosh tweeted recently:

The bookstore in the fire-ravaged village of Cobargo, New South Wales, has a new sign outside: “Post-Apocalyptic Fiction has been moved to Current Affairs.”

Up the River was born from my attendance at a presentation in 2008 when I first became a Canadian permanent resident. I listened to Andrew Nikiforuk and Ian McAllister make a presentation about the mining of oil from Canada. I spent years writing a series about the dangers of this oil, and Up the River is based upon the same heavy dilbit being piped through the Appalachian Mountains, and then letting loose through a busted pipeline into a river that runs dangerously close to a nearby aquifer and native residency. It’s a protest song against fossil fuels. My pappaw was a coal-miner, and it led to his death. The story is also a way for me to relive childhood memories, including the great food my mammaw cooked, the love I felt from relatives in that area, and the beauty of the mountains and forests and rivers.

The Stolen Child is the final part of the Wild Mountain duology–a nod to Yeats as well as to my visit to Ireland a few years ago.  It’s another place that’s dear to my heart that I needed to bring forth in a fictional tale. I think nature writers of all kinds will agree sometimes you need to place-write, to move others as you’ve been moved, by natural landscapes that mean a lot to you personally.

Bird Song is really exciting to me. I just couldn’t finish either of the above novels this year, due to their length,  and had been looking through other draft stories I’ve begun over the past few years. This one kept drawing me back and was already close to done. Currently it is slated to be published this fall.

As a writer who has been so exhausted this past year due to a big plate, along with my voluntary project, which has minimally one spotlight/interview a month and numerous contacts with other writers for future plans and collaborations–not to mention keeping up with my press that officially closes in two years–my own writing has been dismal in the past year. My books keep moving back. I miss fiction writing so much. I feel I’ve only been a part of me lately. Without persistent writing, my spirit isn’t the same. I can’t even describe how great it feels to get back to this island story, to really loving where it’s going and to get back into daily writing. It does help that my day job ends in 20 business days and there’s a sense of future time/freedom to really finish these stories, but this particular one is refreshing me right now.

Leave a Comment