Friday, September 12, 2014

A Star to Steer By

Now at the publishers and coming very soon is A Star to Steer By, the second novel in my Alaskan Waters series. Just as my stories are based on true events, my titles are inspired by experiences in my life.

My earliest memory is a fragment from my family's trip to Alaska on my uncle's mission boat when I was two-and-a-half years old. We hit rough seas in the Inside Passage. I remember the cabin cruiser being tossed about wildly, and my mother putting me to bed in an upper bunk, which to my childish mind was a huge drawer. Years later, I asked her about that incident, and she verified it.

Growing up in Alaska, we always lived by the sea--in Southeast Alaska on channels and inlets off the Inside Passage and later on Resurrection Bay in Seward. I spent many wonderful hours sailing on my uncle's mission boat, a week on a trolling boat, summers rowing a dinghy around Lizianski Inlet in the tiny fishing town of Pelican, and many trips on the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway from Haines to Prince Rupert.

In seventh grade, my teacher, Mrs. Yates, introduced us to classical American and British poetry. Since my grandmother was a poet, my ears perked up. I already enjoyed poetry. In class, we read Poe and Dickinson and Longfellow and Burns and Kipling, to name a few, but the poem I fell in love with was John Masefield's "Sea Fever." He expressed my feelings about the sea. When our assignment was to memorize one of the poems, that is the one I chose. I can still quote it:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the the sky
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's life a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

My first book in the Alaskan series, Till the Storm Passes By, begins in Jamestown, Rhode Island, near Beavertail Lighthouse. My husband and I were stationed near there when our son was born in 1970, and we discovered that southern tip of Conanicut Island where the Atlantic Ocean crashes into it on three sides. Since then, we spend the day there whenever we can. As we sit on the rocks, watching the waves roll in and spray up against the boulders, disperse into tidal pools, then ebb away, we feel our cares being carried away too. It was there that Evie's story was nurtured in my mind until it took shape on paper.

In A Star to Steer By, Norman Pedersen is a fisherman, a man of the sea. My many experiences in the waters of Southeast Alaska--on calm, sunny days as well as in violent storms--informed the writing of this novel too. And the echoes of "Sea Fever" inspired not only the title, but Norman as well. He calls Kristina his "star to steer by." But is she really the one he should steer his life by?  

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