Read part one here.
Airship Ambassador: When people read Buffalo Gals, what would you like for them to take away from the story and the characters that they could apply to their own lives?
Colleen Anderson: As we know, what we write and intend can become something else entirely in the eyes of the reader. While not all of my stories are morality tales, many are. This one doesn’t quite have the same deeply disturbing moral dilemma but it does have an ethical one. I guess, as I said above, people can glimpse what the world may have looked like with more women in various roles and reflect on the nature of darkness that comes out in a murderer. This story is probably the closest I’ve come to a murder mystery, which to me are like little magic puzzles.
AA: What kind of research went into creating the Buffalo Gals world?
CA: There is always a lot. Many years ago I copyedited several books on the Gold Rush and early Vancouver, as well as editing some documents for the Hastings Community Center, which predates the inception of Vancouver, so I had a good idea and image of what early Vancouver looked like. But still I had to research some pictures from the Vancouver archives. As well, I had to hunt down a way to make sure I was using a Tlingit name correctly without being offensive.
I found an online masters paper by Peter Stanton, who lives in Alaska. I tracked him down through facebook and thank him for his help, and I name my one character after him. While he wasn’t a linguistic expert he could guide me because many of the indigenous languages are very complex as you can see by my main character’s name. I was getting pretty confused and he sent me a PDF of a Tlingit-English dictionary and advised on the spelling. I also have a friend who’s First Nations and when I was chatting to him about naming my character She Walks Through Shadows (English translation) he informed me that adding he or she to a name is pretentious so I changed it to Walks Through Shadows. This is a made up name since using an actual name could infringe on cultural practices.
My story’s genesis was actually the title, Buffalo Gals, which comes from the song, “Buffalo Gals won’t you come out tonight.” So I started there, where I found the song was popular in the 1840s and different cities were substituted in. So that really didn’t serve my story. I should mention I have a collection of poems and stories by the amazing Ursula Le Guin, which is titled “Buffalo Gals and other Stories. I also had two images, one of the Buffalo Gals and one of Chex’ ináx yaa wunagút running her fingers along the detalium shell buttons of her NWMP button coat. I had to find out where button blankets originated and then work forward from there. There was a bit of local flora and fauna research as well.
AA: What elements did you specifically include so readers could feel the Buffalo Gals history?
CA: Since they are born within this story, the reader sees the reason for their genesis by the maker, as well as how they’re perceived by several people.
AA: How long did it take to write, and rewrite, Buffalo Gals? What were the deadlines and publishing schedule like for you?
CA: Often anthologies are announced and they have themes. Sometimes I have a story that might work, sometimes I have an idea. While I had several steampunk stories, none were adaptable to a Canadian setting. And sometimes I come up with an idea several months after the anthology has closed. I thought that was going to happen here so I was down to the last month. I came up with the imagery and started to research, but then I went to Spain for three weeks, where I planned to do research, but that didn’t happen.
I came back and had about a week to write the story and try to polish it in the eleventh hour. While I work better with deadlines, the amount of research and world setting squeezed my time for actual story telling. It was a bit rough when I sent it in to Dominik. He asked for a rewrite and I considered all of his very thoughtful comments. He liked the rewrite and accepted it so really it was only a few months from start to finish, with a few final copyedits and clarifications on language coming later.
AA: What kind of attention has Buffalo Gals generated with initial readers?
CA: I think the book is just hitting the shelves so I haven’t heard anything yet at all.
AA: How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?
CA: I get to a few conventions and will be at Creative Ink in May, When Words Collide in Calgary in August, and the dollar willing I hope to go to British Fantasy Con in Sept., but that’s up in the air. And maybe Vcon and Orycon. Also I have my facebook page, and my blog which is suffering because I’m too busy.
We’ll pause here in our chat with Colleen. Join us next time when she talks about her journey as a writer and some tips for aspiring writers.
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