Rachel Weaver is the author of Point of Direction (Ig Publishing), a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce and May 2014 Indie Next List pick. Prior to completing her MFA in creative writing from Naropa University, Weaver worked for the Forest Service in Alaska, studying songbirds, raptors, and black bears. Her work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Blue Mesa Review, Alaska Women Speak, and Fly Fishing New England.
In Weaver’s debut novel, Anna and Kyle fall in love with each other and with the raw beauty and solitude of Alaska. To cement their relationship, they agree to become caretakers of a remote lighthouse perched on a small rock in the middle of the deep channel, a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. “Readers will find Point of Direction impossible to put down as they follow the secrets of Anna and Kyle’s lives, their adventures on Hibler Rock, and the roads each of them take toward recovery,” says Terry Gilman of San Diego’s Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.
What inspired you to write Point of Direction?
Rachel Weaver: When I was living in Alaska, I was on the ferry heading up to the Yukon for a river trip one August. Several hours north of Juneau, the ferry route goes past Eldred Rock, which is a picturesque lighthouse in a deep fjord with mountains all around. The Forest Service has a naturalist who rides on the ferries in the summer and points out interesting things. As we sailed past Eldred Rock, he got on the intercom and announced that anyone could lease the lighthouse for $1 for 100 years. I think he might’ve made it up. I’ve spoken with several folks at the Coast Guard office in Juneau recently and no one has ever heard of such an offer, but it created quite a buzz on the ferry that day and stuck with me. I kept wondering what would drive someone out to a rock in the middle of a channel with no way to leave and wind like a fist all winter long? Eventually, I decided to try to answer this question by coming up with characters and putting them out there all winter. The lighthouse on the front cover of the book is Eldred Rock.
You worked as a wildlife biologist in Alaska before going back to school for your MFA. What prompted your change in career?
RW: I didn’t really know I was changing careers when I did. I really enjoyed working as a field biologist but lived in a very small town. In order to continue on that path, I needed to move to a larger town in Alaska where there was more opportunity, or get my master’s degree in biology. I was also in a relationship I needed to get out of. I had been writing consistently at that point and when I asked myself what I really wanted to do, the answer was take two years and focus on my writing to see if I could get better at it. I always thought that after completing my MFA I’d continue writing but would go back to working as a biologist in Alaska, or go to grad school for biology, maybe fish commercially for a while to pay off my loans. But life has, of course, led me elsewhere. I continued writing consistently, but a fireman caught my attention here in Colorado and my MFA opened unexpected doors that I keep walking through to see where they lead.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
RW: Yes! Don’t give up. Write really bad first drafts. You can always fix them. And with each revision, you will learn so much more about the craft. Collect rejections. Unless you’re really lucky, you’ve got to get a fair number before you get an acceptance. Also, read as much as you can.
Were books an important part of your childhood? If so, what book had the greatest impact on you?
RW: My mom is a voracious reader. We read together all the time when I was younger, and she fostered in me a love of books. As a child, the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary was my absolute favorite, hands down, especially the one where she eats the oatmeal. As an 18-year-old trying to figure out what I was doing in life, a National Geographic compilation of personal essays by women adventurers who were brave and honest about being scared and doing it anyway was the final push I needed to head out on my own adventures.
Are you working on anything now?
RW: Yes, I’m a couple drafts away from finishing a novel I started while living in Alaska. It’s the story of a single mom who commercially fishes with her young son and what happens to them out on the fishing grounds, both good and bad. The book chronicles how the unusual choice she makes to fish on her own with a young child affects her and several other members of the fishing fleet, as well as a remote homesteading community.
When you travel, do you stop at bookstores? Any particular indies make a lasting impression?
RW: I always seek out bookstores. My first summer in Alaska, in 2001, I guided kayak tours from a 150-foot boat. We would pick up passengers in either Juneau or Sitka for six-day trips. Each time we were in either town, I’d load up on books for the week. I spent half what I made that summer at Rainy Day and Hearthside Books in Juneau and at Old Harbor Books in Sitka. The year before that, I crewed on a 52-foot sailboat in the Mediterranean. I brought 30 books with me, which took up more room in the one backpack I traveled with than the clothes. I’d read all of them a month or two into the job. We rarely stopped in any large cities, but when we tied up in Dubrovnik, Croatia, I found a bookstore that sold books in English, so I bought one of each, which was another 30, including Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jack Kerouac.
Each time I’d catch the ferry back and forth to Alaska, I’d spend time at Village Books in Bellingham and once I moved to Petersburg, I spent lots of time at Sing Lee Alley Books. And now that I’m back in Colorado, I’m a big fan of the Boulder Book Store and Tattered Cover.
What books are on your nightstand right now?
RW: Jewelweed by David Rhodes; a journal where I write down the things my 2½- year-old twins say that crack me up; and The Sea Runners by Ivan Doig.
If you were a bookseller for a day, what book would you want to put in every customer’s hand?
RW: The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Somehow, she wrote a book that’s even better than all her others.
If you were stranded on a desert island (or in an isolated lighthouse!), what three titles would you want to have with you?
RW: Written on the Body by Jeannette Winterson; Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner, and something really thick that I’ve never read before that would take me a long time to get through.
Point of Direction, by Rachel Weaver (Ig Publishing, Paperback, 9781935439912). Publication Date: May 13, 2014.
Learn more about Rachel Weaver at rachelweaver.net/home.html.
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