Today, we’re taking a trip to Alaska, well figuratively anyway, with Margaret Mendel’s novel, Fish Kicker. I have a special place in my heart for Alaska having lived in the Yukon one summer 30 years ago. I was playing the piano in a show up there, and had a boyfriend who lived in Skagway – lots of fond memories. There are few places in the world that capture my imagination more the Great White North. Readers, if you leave a comment, you may win a copy of Margaret’s ebook.
Margaret, welcome. Please tell us about your book.
Against the unforgiving landscape of Alaska, Sharon Wolf, a single mother, struggles to reclaim her life from alcohol abuse and regain the custody of her daughter. But first she must overcome dwindling funds and find a place to live before the harsh winter sets in. She gets a job as a fry cook in a backcountry bar, aptly named The Nowhere, and begins to reconstruct her life. Her struggles are further complicated when she is stalked by a murderer who thinks she witnessed him kill an associate of his. In order to get her life back on track and regain custody of her daughter, Sharon must call upon her inner strength and learn to accept help from unexpected sources. Ultimately she learns to trust herself when the murderer kidnaps her daughter and Sharon finds herself in a life and death struggle.
That sounds like quite a suspenseful novel. Where did you get the idea for this? Do you live in Alaska perchance?
No, I don’t live in Alaska. But, strong female characters have always intrigued me. So, it was no surprise that a character and story line began to develop when my sister, who has lived in Alaska for many years, told me about a woman she met in a fish cannery who earned a living by kicking fish off the bed of pickup trucks in a local fish cannery on the Kenia Peninsula. The image of a woman wearing heavy rubber boots, standing atop a mess of salmon gnawed at me until I had a clear picture of my protagonist, Sharon Wolf, and I was off and running into the life of a FISH KICKER.
Initially, FISH KICKER started out as a short story about a woman living on the edge, alone, struggling with sobriety, no home, camping in the Alaskan wilderness, and working as a fish kicker. The story was published in an online journal, BartelbeySnopes.com. The response to the story was positive, but the readers told me they wanted to know more about what happened to Sharon. I too was not satisfied with where I’d left her, on the move with no clear destination and nothing to anchor her to the planet except the desire to stay away from alcohol, get out of the reaches of a psychotic killer who thinks she witnessed him commit a murder, and wondering if she’d ever get her daughter out of foster care.
I’ve heard writers tell about how characters take the author by the hand and together they write a novel. Well, that’s kind of how FISH KICKER, the novel, was created. Sharon Wolf did not come to me fully formed, but I knew she’d made a mess of her life and with no clear way out of what she had created, it was clear to me that she was determined not to go back to her old ways.
You know, every so often, I’ll be in some sort of old place where there are old structures, and how my memory flies back to those days in the Yukon. I lived in a small place outside of the tiny village of Carcross, pop. 200, mostly First Nations. (They taught me to jig for herring.) I lived in a cabin with no electricity or running water and I had a wood stove. Strangely, being in charge of every little aspect of my life was very satisfying. I had a husky pup too, but he kept getting out and would wander for miles. I finally gave him away to a couple who lived in a teepee. Fortunately, unlike Sharon Wolf, I had no killer after me. Phew!
Where can we buy your book?
Well, Margaret, it’s been really interesting talking to you. Readers leave a comment if you’d like to visit Alaska in your imagination. It’s a beautiful and majestic place even if there within lurks a murderer...