Q and A with Rachel Weaver, POINT OF DIRECTION
1. Tell us a little about your novel.
Here’s the jacket copy: Hitchhiking her way through Alaska, a young woman named Anna is picked up by Kyle, a fisherman. Anna and Kyle quickly fall for each other, as they are both adventurous, fiercely independent, and in love 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 a deep channel—a place that has been uninhabited since the last caretaker mysteriously disappeared two decades ago. What seems the perfect adventure for these two quickly unravels, as closely-held secrets pull them apart, and the surrounding waters threaten uncertain danger.
2. I know you spent a number of years working on this novel - did you have the basic story line down when you started or did its evolve as you redrafted?
I had no idea how to write a novel when I started Point of Direction. I figured I would just start with chapter one and then the story would whisper its secrets to me and I would write them down and when I got to the end, the book would be finished. That’s not exactly how it went. It was fun, finding my way through the story, but there wasn’t much whispering of secrets. Mostly, I started with the idea that it would be crazy to move out to a lighthouse in the middle of a dangerous channel in Alaska and from there I wrote many, many drafts (read: 30) before I really figured out the story and how best to tell it.
3. The voice of Anna, your first-person narrator, is so memorable (and intense); I never knew what to expect from her--was first-person your POV from the start?
I started in third person, but quickly switched to first and then stuck with it. The first-person POV enabled me to tell this particular story more effectively, I felt, especially once I combined it with present tense. I wanted the reader to feel a bit of the claustrophobia the characters felt out at the lighthouse and the combination of first-person and present tense helped in that regard.
4. You've lived in Alaska, Hawaii, and Colorado, among other states, and the rugged Alaskan setting of Point of Direction is very much a character - would you say that place is as important to you as any of the other primary fiction elements (e.g. characterization and point of view)?
Yes. One of the things that captured my attention so thoroughly when I moved to Alaska is how powerful that landscape is, in good ways and bad ways. The shifting landscape is a part of everyday life in a way that it’s not in other places I’ve lived. There is always a give and take relationship with the natural world that many Alaskans manage along with all their other relationships. It’s fascinating I think, and very real. I wanted to represent that in the book.
5. What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel? Tangentially, I was impressed by how well you maintained an atmosphere of suspense and dread.
The most challenging part was keeping the plot moving. I came to plotting late as a writer. I was much more interested in the characters and the setting, but as one of my mentors in grad school pointed out, two people on an isolated island can get boring fast. So true! I worked hard to have more going on at the lighthouse than was presently going on between the two characters by weaving in the story line of a previous caretaker who mysteriously disappeared years earlier but left quite a few clues at the lighthouse that were affecting my main characters. Once I settled on this aspect of the storyline, it was much easier to have more happening, to keep the plot moving forward.
6. What are you working on now?
I’m working on another novel, also set in Alaska about a single mom who commercially fishes salmon with her five-year-old son.