Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: We are delighted to have author and environmentalist Clara Hume here, to tell us about her eco-fiction novel, The Stolen Child. Clara, take us away!
Clara: The final part of the Wild Mountain duology, The Stolen Child, picks up two decades after the events in the first book, Back to the Garden, and focuses on the continued lives of the characters, and their new children, including Fae—Fran and Leo’s youngest child. A bright but reserved girl, who would rather be riding her horse in the mountains or reading a spectacular novel than socializing with the rest of the ranch family, Fae begins to shed innocence as she learns of the changing world outside her bubble. A mysterious cult is making appearances, as if extreme climate events weren’t bad enough. Rumor has it that children are missing. As Fae begins to sense she is being watched, the family is forced to move off their Idaho mountain after a wildfire ruins their homes. They make a decision to head north to an old grizzly bear sanctuary in the British Columbia rainforest. Just as Fae is getting settled in, a religious cult kidnaps her and takes her to Ireland.
Sabitha: There’s so much happening there—the intersection of climate change with extremism but also with daily life. What inspired you to write this book?
Clara: I wrote Back to the Garden (Part I) because I was wondering why climate change had not found its way into many novels. Writing about climate change, which is known as a hyperobject, is difficult to do. You have to break it down into something manageable for the reader. Back to the Garden was meant to be a stand-alone novel, but a few years later I found myself writing the sequel, The Stolen Child. I had also started the website Dragonfly.eco, which is all about eco-fiction—fiction that has strong ecological themes—so I began to find patterns and related topics, such as diaspora, that found its way quite naturally into eco-fiction. The sequel included some of these themes.
Sabitha: Was there any music that inspired you while you were writing?
Clara: My mother was born in a log cabin in the Appalachian mountains of eastern Kentucky. Her ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland, so I often heard relatives playing bluegrass. Gaelic music, along with the African banjo and Appalachian revival music, inspired a lot of my writing. We also visited cèilidhs in our own province as I wrote the novel. I based the main characters off my mother’s descriptions of how she grew up as well as my own memory of that poverty-stricken area of eastern Kentucky. The simple but resilient ways of mountain people inspired a lot of scenes in the Wild Mountain series. Many of the characters are loosely based on my memories of eastern Kentucky and our trip with Mom to Ireland later.
Sabitha: I love how you’ve woven your own story into this book. How did you choose the title?
Clara: “The Stolen Child” is a WB Yeats poem. Both its figurative and literal meanings are referenced in the novel. Yeats often wrote about cultural trappings vs. the wonderment of nature and a simpler life, which inspired the characters in the Wild Mountain series. I wrote The Stolen Child about eight years after Back to the Garden. During that gap, we visited Ireland, and I just knew I wanted to include some place-writing about Ireland. We made it a point to do some trail-running to places mentioned in Yeats’ poetry.
Sabitha: I can see that location was really important to you when you were writing this book. Can you tell me a bit about the setting in BC?
Clara: Part of the story takes place in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. I used to live near there,and we’ve traveled to many of its isolated rainforests. Of all the places I’ve lived or visited, British Columbia is the most beautiful. The rainforests there are considered the lungs of the Earth, and they offer such an amazing place to run, raft, hike, and do some amateur photography. I was fascinated by the iconic spirit bear of the area, which is a black bear with a recessive gene that makes its coat cream-colored. It’s rare, and I’ve never seen one. In the story, Fae has the same fascination and wants to see one some day.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?
Clara: You can find me on Mastodon. The Stolen Child can be ordered directly from the publisher, from Malaprops Bookstore, or from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.