Hello Caroline, and welcome to the VP blog. You have two short novels coming out simultaneously in 2024, one of which, Hunting Jenet Nish, is written, edited, and ready to go, and the second, Charlotte Nish, is still a work in progress. Can you tell us a little more about the two books and where the inspiration came from for the story of the Nish family?
Charlotte Nish is now ready to run – I am completing the second revision as we speak and when I complete the third and maybe the fourth revision I will then hand it over to Victorina Press.
Hunting Jenet Nish and Charlotte Nish are two parallel historical novels set in British Columbia spanning the years 1913-1971. Hunting Jenet Nish narrates the story of the search by twenty-two year old Jenet for her namesake, her mixed-race aunt who has never been mentioned in the family, and who was unknown to her until she discovered letters sent to her grandfather, Donald Nish, from Tad Yates, his former ranching partner.
Charlotte Nish’s journal 1913-1967 charts Charlotte’s gradual realisation of how she is implicated in the colonial oppression of the First Nations peoples and in part answers the question of why she does not forward the letters from her brother Donald’s former ranching partner.
The instigation of the novels came from my brother who, when he went on a work conference in Vancouver in 1991, took the opportunity of visiting our grandfather’s ranch in the central interior which he sold in 1921. My brother took with him the family photograph album and showed it to a very old man who remembered our grandfather and claimed he had a mixed-race daughter called Caroline Moir. I forgot the story until 2017, and then started to research the treatment of the First Nations peoples in the area.
Was it always your intention to write both of the novels, or was Charlotte’s story something which grew in your mind while writing Hunting Jenet Nish? Is Charlotte’s viewpoint the key to understanding Jenet’s story – the secrets she kept and the information she withheld had a pivotal role in shaping the Nish family history – or is it so much more than that?
The writing of Charlotte Nish is a direct result of one of my Writers Rump Co-operative colleagues wanting to know why Charlotte did not forward the letters. But in fact I was querying that myself. I write what could be termed page-turners, but my stories tend to come out of questions which puzzle me. And I was fascinated by the work of Emily Carr – the paintings and the writings – which I had known about since 1971 when I taught in Newfoundland. In addition I had to do research on the suffragettes for a street theatre piece and came across the ‘Freewoman’ movement in the period before WWI, which astounded me. All these influences came together in writing Charlotte Nish.
What will you be working on after the manuscript of Charlotte Nish has been completed? Will there be another chapter in the family story? I have to confess that I really want to know if the second Jenet returns to Canada, and I am certain that the ongoing story of the first Jenet Nish is another novel in itself!
Currently I am contemplating a third novel!
The word ‘trilogy’ came out of my mouth unaided by thought in 2017. The second Jenet Nish inherits Charlotte’s journal when she dies. The handwriting is so awful she lays it aside. She rediscovers it when she is a woman of fifty or so, her children gone off to university. It reignites her desire to discover the whereabouts of her by now presumably deceased namesake. The current working title is Jenet Nish – the Postscript, but I am open to suggestions.