A woman from the Okanagan has written her first novel about American frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Alix Hawley’s All True and Not a Lie in It, released this month by Knopf, has caught the attention, and received praise, from readers and critics across the country.
Hawley is in Vernon Thursday, Feb. 26 to read from her new novel at the first Vertigo Voices of the season at Gallery Vertigo.
Hawley was raised in Kelowna and went to university in Vancouver and England.
She is a professor in Okanagan College’s English department, and is currently on a sabbatical leave.
All True and Not a Lie in It is her second published work, following the collection of short stories, The Old Familiar, which also received accolades.
So why did she choose to write about Daniel Boone and the American frontier? It’s a question she’s asked often.
“Frontier life in the 1700s, with all its rough and tumble, is entirely foreign to me, being a vegetarian and a lover of couches, but I’ve always been interested in the past,” said Hawley.
It was an image from National Geographic of Boone carrying the body of his son, in black ink with shots of colour, that Hawley said sparked her interest writing about the American frontier.
“I hadn’t seen it since I was nine. But there it was. Curious, I looked up the magazine, and dug further into Boone’s life and times, enjoying getting dirty with research again. I was amazed to realize that nobody had written the novel I wanted to write,” said Hawley, who wrote the book over six years and through the birth of her two children, now ages four and six.
“When I started the rewrites, my second baby was two weeks old. I was feeling a little bit mad with my postpartum situation, a little bit manic believing that I could do it all having just given birth to a baby.
“As it happened, my daughter was not the easiest baby in the word and having a two year old around as well wasn’t so easy. But actually both my kids ended up in the book in a way, so it was nice having them as models.”
Hawley wrote each moment, chapter, phrase and word of the 371-page novel in longhand, rewriting the story as needed. This was not an easy feat, but Hawley says it gave her a sense of freedom and allowed her writing to be much less inhibited.
Initially she drafted the story from several other perspectives, but she felt that the voice wasn’t quite right. She wanted to take the time to explore how and what perspective was best suited to tell the adventures of this great man.
Several drafts later, Hawley says she is delighted to have her novel out in the world.
“I’m still gobsmacked, as the Brits say, that the book is out and in readers’ hands.”
Hawley has now brought Boone to life for a new generation of readers.
“(His) name is known by everybody and nobody really knows what he did and so little remains of him. So it made me wonder how does that trace get left? How do some people leave that mark on time?”
Doors to Hawley’s reading Feb. 26 at Gallery Vertigo, #1-3001 31st St., open at 7 p.m., with the reading at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome, by donation. For more information, call (250) 503-2297.