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When and why did you begin writing?
was impressed with the memorial I wrote for my mom and encouraged me to continue to write. That was enough of a push for me to start taking it more seriously.
What was the first serious thing you wrote?
Ironically, the script he chose had no dialog, perfect for an insecure writer. We went on to make the film and it was accepted into the Anchorage International Film Festival where it was warmly received in its category.
Aside from Atlin Where Everyone Knows Your Dog’s Name have you written anything else?
I have completed a novel, it’s a mystery aimed at tweens and older. Murphy and the Mystery of the Black Skull is set in modern-day Douglas, Alaska. Murphy’s a twelve-year-old boy, who with his dog Hogan, embarks on a perilous quest to solve a mystery that involves pirates and hidden gold. I’m actively pursuing publishers at this time and see it as a possible series.
I also have a feature length horror film script completed, called King Salmon set-in modern-day Alaska, involving experiments gone wrong, a mad scientist and the hideous monsters he unleashes on the world.
I’m continuously working on short stories that may turn into something larger or may eventually end up in a collection of some sort.
Your mother was a published author; did that influence you in any way?
Dogs in my Life
What was it like growing up with so many dogs?
Was there a down side living with so many dogs?
out of our two-door car was always a dangerous event. The dogs were very excited to go anywhere and twice as excited to get out once we arrived. It was a chaotic balancing act to quickly exit before the hoard crushed me from behind.
I think the hair bothered me the most, especially as I got older and it was important to look good for the girls. It was impossible to completely rid oneself of the hair.
Did you continue as your mother did to have dogs during your adult life?
Growing up in Atlin
What was the single greatest thing about growing up the way you did in Atlin?
How were you directly influenced by the old timers as you call them?
You were surrounded by very capable women growing up. How that did influence your adult life?
Mostly raised by a single mother, an extremely capable single mother at that, influenced me in numerous ways, some tangible and some subconscious. First, I have to say I have never had the thought that any woman was not at least equal to a man in everything they do and many times are better. I never had an issue taking direction from a woman and have had a number of women bosses over the years. I basically have little male ego and I attribute that to being raised by an unassuming but over-accomplishing woman.
You didn’t grow up with a lot of money, some would consider you poor. How did that effect your upbringing?
Short answer is, it didn’t. Of course, there were detriments, but we were all in the same proverbial boat. We all had holes in our socks and our big toe stuck out. I didn’t know I was technically poor. I had a carefree life as a youth as long as I pulled my own weight. I realized early on it wasn’t the same for my mom. She tried hard to keep it from me, and she did her best to keep us afloat and she succeeded, although it was close at times. It was a struggle that took its toll physically and mentally. I had a real dread growing up that my actions could add to her burden. I worked hard at not causing problems.
Your dad was gone for a portion of your childhood. What kind of a relationship did you have with him?
I understand you did not graduate high school and didn’t receive your GED until you were in your early forties. Where did you receive your education?
You talk about your school. What was it like having up to three grades in one room?
It was often loud, smelly and disruptive. I mention the difficulty of concentrating on your work while the loud drone of another lesson is taught within inches of your desk. We didn’t have lockers, so things like gym clothes were often shoved under desks or tossed onto the large shelf that ran across the back of the class. Under that shelf was the heater, so you can imagine what it smelled like. The spring leaks in the roof were always fun to deal with. Often our classroom resembled a trailer park after a tornado. The boot room as we called it was usually a massive jumble of boots, mukluks, snow pants and parkas. We joked that you tried to leave with something better than what you brought.
It sounds like your schooling was a community effort. Can you give an example?
Your gym was the town Rec Center and your track and field venue a field you refer to as the Campground. Can you talk more about that?
Your book covers your early childhood. Why didn’t you write about your teens or later?
Did you ever go back to Inuvik or Tuktoyuktuk?
After you moved to Canada, did your family become Canadian Citizens?
You mentioned your other book is a mystery. Can you expand on it at all?
It’s a modern-day mystery steeped in Klondike gold rush history and turn of the century ship wrecks in and around Douglas and Juneau, Alaska. It’s aimed at the youth audience. It’s called Murphy and the Mystery of the Black Skull. The protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy named Murphy who lives with his family. With his dog Hogan, he witnesses a pirate ship in the channel in front of his house. In his pursuit to prove what he saw was real, Murphy and Hogan embark on a perilous quest, pitting themselves against a ruthless gang of thieves.
You mentioned a possible series with the Murphy character. Are you currently writing another story?
This seems like a complete departure from a memoir, what got you interested in a mystery aimed at a youth audience?
It started when I met the son of a new friend in Juneau in the mid 2000s. Of course, his name is Murphy and yes, he had a dog named Hogan, a tan and white boxer with a stubby tail. When I first met Murphy, he was ten. He was wearing cowboy boots, no socks, a pair of blue shorts, a red tank top with a cowhide vest and a snorkeling mask, no tube. It was explained to me that on Saturday Murphy got to wear anything he wanted and he picked his wardrobe for that day. The description of that ensemble should give you a clue as to what kind of kid Murphy was. I first started writing about him because he was such a character. I was intending a short story to give to the family. Life has a way of interrupting our best plans but over the years I continued to shape and expand the story until it became a book. I refer to Murphy and Hogan in past tense because in Murphy’s case, he is no longer a child.
What authors influenced you as a child?
Mark Twain definitely, I loved the adventure and the living off the land aspect, especially in Huck Finn. Understanding the deep sarcasm and social commentary didn’t come until the second reading. James Fenimore Cooper, for sure. His depictions of early America and its brave people spoke to me. Robert Louis Stevenson, because who doesn’t like pirates. Farley Mowat, I loved Lost in the Barrens and Gray Seas Under. At one point I had read all of Agatha Christie’s mysteries and all of Zane Gray’s westerns. I read everything I could get my hands on, but those authors were among my favorites.
What is your future vision for your writing career?
What are you doing now?
You don’t currently live in Atlin, when was the last time you did?
I moved to Whitehorse to go to high school when I was sixteen in 1981. I came home on weekends when I could find a ride and sometimes hitch hiked when the weather was good. I only lived in Atlin fourteen years but it shaped me forever.