Interview with Nancy Canyon
Ms. Canyon began writing and painting as a child. In 1997, she studied with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. She holds a Certificate in Fiction Writing from University of Washington and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific Lutheran University. She is a member of Allied Arts of Whatcom County and RWA. She has completed three novels, CELIA’S HEAVEN, STEALING TIME, and WHISPERING, IDAHO. Ms. Canyon lives in Bellingham, Washington with her Tuxedo Cat, Sid.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve had a resurgence of reading my astrology books, because I’m an astrologer. I’ve been reading about Dark Moon Lilith, a gravitational point that keeps the moon in the orbit. I’m also reading a book called LONGING FOR DARKNESS: TARA AND THE BLACK MADONNA by China Galland. It’s about this woman who goes on an adventure looking for the tara and it starts with her in Nepal climbing this mountain and she falls and breaks her leg. I like the adventure and the search for something, especially for meaning in life. In all my books that’s what I’m doing - searching for meaning.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
When I was a kid, I would go to the library, which was just down the block from where I lived and I would just fill my basket with mysteries. And I liked getting out of the kids section into the adult section and smuggling books home so my mom didn’t know I was reading more adult material.
I also started two novels in grade school and they were both mysteries. One was THE MYSTERY OF THE TIN BOX, but I never got much farther than the opening.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I like it when things just happen that are unexpected. Suddenly I have a story unraveling so that I’m surprised, too.
I don’t like the length of things going on and on with editing and the feeling like this will never ever be finished.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I write with other people and I - we - use start lines. I write with a syntax so I vary the types of sentences I’m writing from short to run-on. I know what my topic is, but I don’t know what’s going to come out. It’s pretty stream-of-consciousness. Writing with other people is good, because I can connect with their minds as well as my own mind and I can learn from them. I don’t outline anything either.
What are your passions?
Writing definitely! Painting is one. I like meeting with other people in the studio and doing art together. I like getting out and hiking and camping. I really like shamanism and journeying. I love photography, too. That’s another thing I’ve been doing since I was a kid.
What inspires you?
I think nature is my main inspiration. And dreams. I wrote a poem this morning from a dream I had last night and I think the dream was inspired by the full moon.
Why speculative fiction?
Because there’s that magic involved that is like the journey or the dream. Things happen that are surreal or out of the ordinary and I really like that. It’s fun for me.
As both a writer and reader, do you prefer either science fiction or fantasy over the other?
I’ve read more fantasy than science fiction. Science fiction seems harder and fantasy softer. Fantasy is more fairy tale-ish. Science fiction feels closer to reality in some ways.
How was “Ghost Rocks” born?
In my writing practice, Tony the shaman came about and then he went on this vision quest up to the ghost rocks. I had actually been working with a shaman who had been taking people on vision quests to the mountain. He was an interesting man and I was learning a lot from him about the Native American medicine wheel and the animal totems. I really desire to go on a vision quest myself, but it felt far too frightening to go out there by myself without food for three days. I really aspire to it and I still aspire to it, but I think I might probably die! I guess that whole story came out of the aspiration. The closest I come to doing a vision quest is when I go camping and it really does scare the bejesus out of me, but I still do it. I don’t go without food, though.
The text says “Ghosts Rocks” is an excerpt from the novel STEALING TIME. Was it challenging adapting a portion of a larger work for a shorter format?
Yes, it was slightly challenging. It became more standalone and also a much tighter story than the rest of the book was at the time. It became a standout part of that book, to make it work as a piece in itself. Then I had to rewrite the rest of the book to bring it up to that level!
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The main thing that I like to encourage people to do - because I teach writing - is to let themselves be free and let the story go will it will go and don’t try to control it. When authors say this story came alive and wrote itself, that’s truly a gift. The story becomes a gift to the writer. I think it’s better writing that way and it’s more fun that way!
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I sometimes think maybe I will meet Tony or another one of my characters in real life.
I really love adventures. I think writing about people having adventures makes me feel like I’m having that adventure.