Sunday, June 2, 2013

Enjoy Some Stories around Sue Harrison's Fire Circle


Back in the 1990s I read a series of books about prehistoric Alaska. The first story in the Ivory Carver Trilogy was Mother Earth Father Sky. I'm sure I partly picked it up because of that great title, but I was soon captivated by the story and the characters. Fast forward a decade and I get to know a Sue Harrison on Facebook who has read some of my books. It takes me a little while, but it finally dawns on me that I am corresponding with an author I greatly admire and I'm going "Wow! The Sue Harrison is telling me she likes my story." See, writers can have fan moments too. Her books were on my keeper shelves. 
So I checked out Sue's website and loved what I saw there too. Gorgeous photos of sunsets taken by her husband, Neil Harrison. I promise you’re in for a treat if you go to Sue’s website and check out the MySky photos

Sue’s Alaskan Ivory Carver trilogy and Storyteller Trilogy books were recently released as e-books (Sue's Amazon page). So if you missed them in print back in the '90s, you can load up your e-readers with some great stories that were international bestsellers in the general market. I will warn my readers who prefer the gentler Christian fiction, that these stories accurately depict the harsher lifestyle of that prehistoric age. But now come join Sue's fire circle and let her tell you about her books and why she could write about the outdoor of the Alaskan tribes in a way that had the reader smelling the smoke of the campfires and feeling the icy winter winds. Leave a comment on the post and you'll be entered in a drawing for an e-book copy of Mother Earth Father Sky. The winner will be picked June 9.
First tell us about Mother Earth Father Sky in your own words, Sue.

When all you love is torn away, and there is nothing left, your first decision must be whether you can bear to live. My novel MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY is that oft-told story presented through the eyes, heart, and mind of Chagak, a woman – scarcely more than a girl – who decides to survive, although everyone she loves and everything she knows is torn from her life.
This theme of complete loss is a frequent motif in stories, books, and legends. What sets Chagak’s story apart from others is its setting. Chagak lives 9,000 years ago in the archipelago now called the Aleutian Islands, a chain that forms the boundary between the waters of the North Pacific and the Bering Sea .
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Dr. William Laughlin’s book, ALEUTS: SURVIVORS OF THE BERING LAND BRIDGE, provided the time frame and setting for my novel. In this book, Laughlin, an archeologist, chronicles his uncovering of one of the oldest known villages (circa 6,700 B.C.) in North America .
As I read his book, the Aleut People captured my heart and my imagination. They settled on remote and barren islands where they established a unique and successful culture that remained constant and continuous into historic times. They were (and are) inventors, artists, and skilled hunters. The structural framing of their sea kayaks, which had bifurcated bows, has never been surpassed in usefulness, even by modern engineers. Their medical expertise, when they were “discovered” by the Russians in the 1740s, was greater than the medical knowledge and techniques of 18th century Europeans.
MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY is my attempt to give a dimensional reality, within the minds of my readers, to prehistoric events and customs, the knowledge of which has been passed down to our present age only through remains excavated by archaeologists and interpreted by anthropologists. These facts, fleshed out through the legends, beliefs, stories, dances, and songs of the Aleut People tell us that several hundred years after the people first came to the far reaches of the Aleutian Islands, they suddenly abandoned their shore-side villages and began anew with better vantage points in more easily defensible sites. The first question, of course, is “why?” And thus, the idea for MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY came about, and a story began to grow in my mind and heart.
I began the research for the novel in 1978, and by 1981, with 400 hand-written pages of notes, I started to compose the first draft. By 1984, I had completed a very rough 1,000-page manuscript. During the next five years, I received 17 rejections from agents, along with some very good ideas for revision. Finally in 1989, literary agent Rhoda Weyr agreed to represent me and a few months later sold MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY in a 3-day auction to Doubleday.

(I'm interrupting here to say auctions are very good for authors, but something most authors  never have to worry about! And I love this next part of Sue's story.)
My husband Neil and I were sitting at our kitchen table when I received the first phone call from Doubleday. As I spoke with the editor, I realized that my husband had tears streaming down his face as he realized that MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY was actually going to sell. We’d both nearly given up.
Now tell us how you could write about the outdoor life so convincingly.

When I was a child, my parents often took my brother and me camping. It was during those trips that our father taught us how to “walk softly upon the earth.” He literally taught us how to place our feet on the animal trails so that we didn’t snap twigs or rustle leaves (toe first walking) and how to watch where we walked. He taught us how to find edible mushrooms, how to fish from shore and from a boat, and how to cook over an open campfire. He taught us that a matchbook match set into hot oil in a pan will flame up at just the right temperature to cook your fish. We leaned “tent living” - wisdom in small things like zippering zippers all the way so mosquitoes don’t get it and how NOT to touch the roof or sides of the tent when it’s raining because where you touch will start a leak. And of course that sounded so silly that I had to try it for myself, and suffered the leak over my face the rest of the night. I’m not a cold weather camper, but I do remember one camping trip in Maine when we awoke to a silent and beautiful world coated with snow, and I remember the laughter of my parents as we left the tent and entered that enchanted world. We ate mostly game animals when I was growing up, venison, bear, partridge, geese, ducks, moose, elk when we could get it, and fresh water fish. We once tried to eat a muskrat. It smelled terrible. My dad tried a bite, but the rest of us passed. My mother was so disgusted with him. No more muskrats in her kitchen!
From my husband I learned how to build a fire, how to gut and butcher a deer, how to fire a rifle (not my favorite thing), how to use a bow, how to pitch a tent, ice fishing, how to dress for winter survival, how to mark a trail, how to climb a tree, how to read animal tracks, how to paddle a canoe. To survive where we live, we’ve both learned “animal etiquette”. If you meet a bear be still and speak softly. If they attack, play dead. If you meet a deer be still and sing. They’ll stand there for quite a while to listen. If you meet a cougar (mountain lion) make yourself as large and scary as possible. Act aggressive, grab a fallen branch if you can easily find one and wave it around and roar. Don’t run unless they run at you first. Fight for all you’re worth. Don’t brush up against a porcupine. Wolves usually circle out ahead of you to attack and usually don’t attack unless they are in a group. Get inside something (a vehicle) or climb a tree. Yell fiercely at coyotes if they’re approaching your territory. If you inadvertently get too close to a skunk, close your eyes tightly if they spray. Weasels are mean. If I see a non-poisonous snake and would like a little help against insects in my garden, I’ll catch it and carry it back to my house and let it go there. It probably won’t stay but you never know.
From friends and books, I learned how to kayak. One of my great joys was an opportunity to paddle a Native kayak in Alaska. Very tippy!  I learned to harvest many natural wild foods and also harvest wild plants for dyes and medicines.  
So now we know why Sue could walk with her characters through those wild lands in such a way that we, the readers who have never done all that camping could walk with them in our imaginatons too. Thanks Sue, for coming over for a visit here on One Writer's Journal.
Hope the rest of you enjoyed getting to know about Sue and her books as much as I did. You can find out lots more on her website. If you'll leave a comment for Sue or for me on my blog before next Sunday, you'll have a chance to win an e-book copy of Mother Earth, Father Sky. Remember that if you don't have a Kindle, Nook or other e-reader, you can download an e-reader application to your computer or iPhone.
Thanks for reading and more giveaways are going to be coming your way as I'm hoping to send out my newsletter with a Celebration Giveaway for Small Town Girl next week. If you don't get my newsletter and would like to, you can sign up here. Ann's Newsletter. Only a few weeks until my new Rosey Corner book will be available. I'm excited! And excited about Sue visiting here today. Always great to peek behind the scenes of books you love.

46 comments:

  1. Ann, I so appreciate the honor of being interviewed for "One Writer's Journal." God richly blessed me with your friendship!

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    1. I loved all this great information about your books, Sue. And it's always good to know what to do if you meet a bear while you're hiking through the woods. Actually black bears are moving back down here into our area of KY and my husband is always fussing about me walking in our wilder areas of the farm. Now I've been educated. However, I'm leaving the snakes out in the field, bugs or no bugs! Thanks for coming over for a visit. It was fun.

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  2. I enjoy reading books more when the author does research and throws in facts :) The story feels more believable and genuine.

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    1. Erin, I think you can be sure Sue did her research. Research and writing took her 6 years and another 5 years of revising while trying to find a publisher. Great stories. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

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    2. Erin, You probably remember those years I was immersed to my eyebrows in Alaska research!

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  3. The Ivory Carver series by Sue Harrison is one of my favorites. I read the books over and over so it will be awesome to have Mother Earth Father Sky on my e reader also!!

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    1. I loved the books too, Jackie. I'm planning to download them on my Nook as soon as I have the book I'm working on now off to the publishers. Thanks for coming by and reading about Sue and her books here.

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    2. Thank you, Jackie! I'm guessing that you would enjoy Ann's books, too. One of my favorites of hers is ANGEL SISTER!

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  4. I have not read this author but you make she and her books sound like ones I should read, thanks for letting us know about her books. photos are great, like sunsets. I will be looking for some of these stories you reccomend.
    Paula O

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    1. Always fun to see your comments, Paula. Hope you went to her website to check out the other sunset photos her husband has taken in all different seasons and weather. Beautiful. I had a hard time choosing which one to include with the post.

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    2. Thank you, pol. I'll be sure to pass your sweet comments about the sunset photos along to my husband!

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  5. Sue, you're my new hero. What a tremendous legacy of wisdom and courage you've received! It shows in your powerful and lush writing. Congrats on the new e-book released. May God's richest blessing be upon your life and these books!

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    1. Thanks for coming over, Bill. Great to get encouragement from you. And I'm overwhelmed by Sue's dedication to these stories. Six years of research and learning to Kayak. I figure I would just drown if I tried that and all that research would be lost. LOL! Sue is definitely an adventurer and a great writer as well.

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    2. I'm thinking the same of you, Bill, as I read your soon-to-be-released SECRETS TO A HAPPY LIFE. Oh my goodness, what an incredible book you've written.

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  7. Wow! Sue, "dull" certainly isn't a word in your vocabulary! I so enjoyed reading about your writing journey and your childhood adventures. (Sounds like you should write a cookbook, too!)

    Thank you, Sue and Ann, for sharing! :)

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    1. Do you think she'll put that muskrat recipe in that cookbook, Cynthia? It was fun getting this peek behind the scenes of an author friend, wasn't it?

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    2. Hmmm, muskrat quiche, Cynthia. What do you think?

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    3. It sure was, Ann! And about that muskrat... well, my mind just doesn't want to go there! Lol

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  8. I remember the first time i picked up mother earth father sky. it was when i was in jr high. I was wandering around the school library not sure what to read. i looked at it read the first couple pages and read the rest right after. i love them all. i think I've read the first trilogy a hundred times. Sue Harrison writes beautifully i always enjoying reading them and throwing myself into the stories.

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    1. Glad you chimed in again, Tashauna. I know it will make Sue smile to hear that your were reading her books when you were in Jr. High. And reading them a hundred times is the highest praise. Sue told some great stories and we'll all look forward to her future great stories.

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    2. That surely does make me smile, Tashauna! I love the way you wrote your remark. I was right there with you wandering that library. So I have to ask, are you a writer?

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    3. I noticed a couple spelling errors in the last post and wanted to correct them. I tend to type while holding at least one of my children and I notice mistakes later.
      I occasionally write but its only a hobby. I hope to have something published someday but first i must finish something. Thank you for your time.

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    4. I understand about that, Tashauna. I hate when I see the typos after I hit enter. Sometimes I've deleted my comments and tried again too. And you're right. You do need to push through to the end of whatever you're writing, but it is good to remember that everything you write can be practice and make you better whether finished or published.

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    5. I never mentioned how much i enjoyed learning more about S.Harrison's process, such a long time. The pictures.R on her site are beautiful. Recently i found a bunch of my old writings and it gave me a laugh. ten years ago i wrote everything any any thing, i wish i still did that. I use to go to thestarlitecafe.com and the comnunity there is great at giving feedback. A friend of mine reminded me that one of my poems did get in a book from poetry.com, i don't remember it but she had it. my are just starting to write and i have found they are honest about any short stories i come up with.

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    6. Wow see thats what i get for posting with my phone while holding my 1yr old.

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    7. :) It's hard enough to type on those phones without the 1 year old helping. The phones sometimes have a mind of their own, Tashauna.

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  9. Ann, great interview and the book sounds very interesting. I loved reading about the author's life also. I'd never make it as an "outdoor" person, but for those who love it, they are seeing things I'll never see. The sky photos on Sue's site were amazing! God has made such beauty in His world.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.
    Debbie

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    1. Those sky pictures made me want to go sit on her porch for a while, Debbie. Beautiful. The books are great stories. A lot different than Christian fiction, probably not something you could put in your church library, but wonderful reads. Sue's books are in lots of libraries, for sure, all over the country and the world. And now Sue is writing Christian fiction, so we'll look forward to those stories soon.

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    2. I'm not great at being an outdoor person either, Debbie, just open to God's presence. I'm not brave or well-coordinated, but I've found that just walking in God's beautiful world - whether it's the woods or shore or on a mountain hike or just in a tree-filled city park - I'm so renewed and feel so close to God when I'm contemplating his creation. We do have an awesome God.

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  10. This was wonderful Sue. I knew a few of your impressive survival skills already, but you taught me a few things. I'm thankful we don't have grizzlies in our woods, but we have had a mutually startling encounter with a very large black bear. My husband did exactly what you recommended (after the bear made a menacing "huff" at us), he began talking to the bear calmly, then we all (bear included) turned and went our separate ways.

    We think we've seen a wolf (they are making their solitary ways back into the Cascade Mountains of Oregon).

    We go carefully and like to explore game trails when we find them. Just yesterday in fact we spent time testing ourselves to see how far we could follow a game trail we ran across before it grew too faint to find. We did all right, found a watering hole and chose where we might hide in wait for game to come if we were hunting and had the patience (we don't hunt, but we do take our bows out from time to time and target shoot at tin cans left by hunters) and managed not to get lost in the mountains while having our fun.

    I'm looking forward to reading your books. The first of the Storyteller series is loaded on my PC Kindle.

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    1. Thank you, Lori!

      I'm thankful that where I live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula we have no grizzlies. We do have a lot of black bears and wolves, also mountain lions and bobcats and lynx, but my encounters have been with deer and smaller critters, luckily for me. My husband was up in a tree much longer than he wanted because a black bear decided to sit down under it. (Luckily the bear didn't decide to climb that particular tree.) Isn't it fun to follow a game trail? Have you noticed how wise animals are in choosing the easier paths? My husband and I have noticed that where we live many of our paved roads actually follow old animal trails.

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    2. Great to have you come over to read Sue's post, Lori. It won't be long now until your book, Burning Sky, (I hope I have that title right) will be out there for readers. Maybe you'd like to come visit here in August to tell about your writing journey. Folks, Lori's book is going be one everybody will love. And you'd love getting to know Lori better too if we can work out having her visit here sometime.

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  11. I'm sorry to have sort of dropped off the face of the earth in regards to these wonderful comments yesterday. It was a my privilege to speak to a group of women at a Presbyterian Women's Retreat. We had a wonderful time at a InterVarsity Christian Fellowship campus up here in the U.P. of Michigan. Laid back, peaceful, and so much sweet fellowship! (And great food, too!)

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    1. I'm sure all the women at the Retreat had a great time listening to you, Sue. The thing about blogs and comments. They sit right here and wait for you. Sort of like that dust on the shelves, except responding to blog comments is way more fun than dusting.

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  12. I am not an outdoors person, but I love reading
    about outdoor adventures. I have added Mother
    Earth Father Sky to my TBR list.

    Pat C.

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    1. Great to hear you added Mother Earth Father Sky to your TBR list, Pat. I'm looking forward to re-reading it as soon as I get my currect work in progress finished. I certainly wouldn't want to do that wilderness camping. I think I'm too old to sleep on the ground. LOL.

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    2. Hi, Pat. You are the winner of the e-book version of Mother Earth Father Sky. If you'll send me your e-mail address or the address of your e-reader to load the book on, I'll get that done or send you a gift certificate to do the download yourself. You can send the info privately if you prefer to annhgabhart@yahoo.com. If you don't have an e-reader, you can download an app to your PC or smart phone and download the book there.If I don't hear from you before June 16, I'll have to pick a different winner.

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  13. I did my fair share of camping as a child, but I must admit that the older I got the more I enjoyed my creature comforts.

    I would love to read MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY thank you.

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    1. Mary, it is a wonderful read. I know you'll enjoy it. And I have gotten to the point that I don't even like cooking out on the grill much less over a campfire. LOL. But one son and his family do tent camping and have so much fun with their kids. Great memories in the making for them.

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  14. Enjoyed reading the interview and I agree, Ann, black bears seem to be making a comeback here in our area in Kentucky. Last year, a bear was seen more than once at the cemetery where I walk. I didn't see it personally but several people were concerned that I might encounter it in my daily walks!

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    1. But now you know what to do if you meet that bear, Connie. :) My husband is always after me to carry Mace or something, but I've been walking a lot of years without incident. I got my husband one of those motion sensor cameras so we could see what's out there and I can't get him to put it up. Maybe it's better not to know. :)

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Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.