My hero is a Canadian Indian, from an invented tribe called the Chopa. I can’t remember now how Johnny Winterhawk came into my life. I only know that it was several years before I could feel I understood my hero and his background well enough to embark on telling his story–and even then I wasn’t sure I really got him. Re-reading the book as I prepared it for eBook release, I realized that my difficulties arose whenever I wasn’t listening to what my character was saying, what he was trying to tell me about himself. There is, I’m convinced, no more lethal mistake a writer can make. So now I’ve done some fairly substantial rewriting, and I think I’ve found my way to the real Johnny Winterhawk and his story at last. He has waited a long time for it.
The story was fuelled by Johnny’s rage against the injustices suffered by his people at the hands of the ruling class in Canada, and by my own. And lest you think that the issues presented in SEASON OF STORM will have undergone a sea-change in the past thirty years, this just in—only 3.8% of the population of Canada is aboriginal, but nearly half of the 30,000 children in foster homes are aboriginal. And nearly a quarter less money is spent per aboriginal child in welfare services than is given to others.
I fear that the biggest change may have been in nomenclature—the the Department of Indian Affairs is now called the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Some people, I know, don’t like the term ‘Indian’–but as far as I can make out, most of those who shy away from the word are not actually themselves Indian. Certainly in the days when I was researching the background for the book, no Indian told me the term was offensive. I have retained the term Indian because the book is of its time: the story takes place in 1982. The term First Nation had not yet been coined, and ‘aboriginal’ was, I think, then used only of Australian first nation peoples.
I’ve said a lot about editors, here and there, so now I have to say this: my editor on this book was a better editor than I let her be at the time. I didn’t listen to her any more than to Johnny Winterhawk. As I read the book and saw places where I’d gone wrong, I could hear her voice again, suggesting changes at some of those very points. And I could hear myself dismissing her. I’m really sorry for that, Laurie. But I have, belatedly, taken your points on board.
So here at last is Johnny Winterhawk’s story—it will be up on Amazon very soon. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it. He’s a lovely guy.