Friday, September 20, 2013

Natalee Caple

Natalee Caple's newest novel is In Calamity's Wake.

From the author's Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:

What sparked this novel? Why Calamity Jane?

I had just finished writing a novel about a mother-daughter counterfeiting team in the Upper Laurentians influenced by films from the French New Wave and I was living in the Canadian West, in the Rockies, for the first time. The idea of a Western appealed to me because the connection between landscape and culture was so palpable. In Canada, at least, the connection to landscape in the West means that the distance between Canada and America seems less than the distance between Western and Eastern Canada. I fell in love with the mountains, the prairies, the Badlands. I had my children there. I also discovered that the West was so much more diverse and international than I had seen in Westerns and I wanted to put the stories of women, indigenous peoples, Black America, Chinese America, back into the landscape and show the rest of the West. Calamity Jane was an ideal because she travelled and met so many people. She helped the sick and the poor and she was herself a kind of social outcast who was overwritten in popular culture. I wanted a story about the masses and their heroism, about the irreducible value of every human life. When Calamity Jane cared for people dying of yellow fever she risked her own life. When she went into battle and did not shoot another human being but instead pulled people out of battle, she emphasized the value of life. Whether those events happened as they were told or not she became a symbol of North America that was different to me, that showed a desire to resolve conflict, to protect and shelter human life beyond politics.

What was the research like? Did you have a preconceived notion of Calamity Jane? (Mine is actually from that old Doris Day movie about her) and what, if anything, surprised you?

Once I gave up the idea that I would find...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue