Welcome author Eunice Boeve. She is here to share with us about her novel, The Summer of the Crow. My interview with Eunice:
Why did you write, The summer of the Crow? What was the inspiration behind your book?
I grew up in northwest Montana and Idaho with lots of trees, mountains, and water. When I moved to Kansas with limited trees, water, and hills, and heard those stories of the Dust Bowl years, I was fascinated and thankful that those days were long gone. Occasionally, however, those in the dry, flat lands of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, even today, will experience a dust storm of intense, but fairly short duration.
My husband and I were caught in one such storm in that area sometime before I decided to write The Summer of the Crow. The dust was so thick it blocked out the sun and reduced visibility to zero. We crept along at a crawl, scared of running into someone and scared of being run into from behind. We couldn’t see to pull over and the dust shifting into the car was suffocating. Sometimes I thought I couldn’t breathe and I had to fight to control a rising panic. We finally made out of the storm and into Goodland, Kansas and stopped at a motel. They were surprised to see us as the road has been closed to traffic. How did we get past the closure? We have no idea, except… Maybe the gods of writing said, “She doesn’t know it yet, but this woman is going to write a story about the Dust Bowl days. Just for fun, let’s give her a little personal experience.”
All writers take from here and there, using personal experience, information and stories from oral and written experiences. In this story, I used an experience of my father-in-law’s for Brady and his dad. (See the excerpt at the end of this interview)
So what did inspire you to write the story?
I don’t really know, but when Brady and his dad are caught in a dust storm, I didn’t have to imagine how awful, how frightening those storms were that swept across the plains in those Dust Bowl days.
What is your favorite character in The Summer of the Crow?
Well, besides Brady, it has to be Eddie or maybe Blackie, or maybe Aunt Tillie. I didn’t know it until after the story was written I had based the character of Brady’s great Aunt on my favorite aunt. Even the names are similar. Her name was Zella, but we called my aunt Aunt Teddie. I also based Grandpa Bud and Eddie’s dad on my father-in-law who was our county sheriff for ten years, but who in those years before he was sheriff, battled acute alcoholism, making him like two different men.
What is your advice for other writers?
Some will say study the market and write with an eye to capturing that market, do all the marketing you possibly can, and hope for the best. I agree, except, if vampire stories are in vogue and the creatures leave you cold, well then maybe not that first part. I say write the story that’s in you, the one that fulfills you and then do the marketing and hope for the best. Maybe someday you’ll be a best seller and those studying the market will try to emulate your work. It could happen, you know.
Where did the idea of having a pet crow come from?
Beats me. It was in chapter three, the last paragraph when Brady and I first saw the crow. (An excerpt) He turned back in time to see a white-haired boy run across the backyard. As he watched, the boy leaped up and grabbed the top of the board fence, hoisted himself over and dropped from sight. Brady blinked his eyes in surprise for flying just above the boy’s head was a big black crow. I knew nothing about pet crows and so had to stop and do some research on them. I didn’t have a title until that bird flew into the story. I had been racking my brain for a title and then along came Blackie. My July blog is about pet crows.
Will there be a sequel?
No. For a time after I finished the story I thought I might carry him on into another story. He’d be old enough to go to war by the time the Second World War broke out and I thought about that, but in the end, I left him there, still a boy.
What is your next writing endeavor?
The first publication of The Summer of the Crow was in 2000. It had been out of print a few years and was picked up and republished this year (2013) by Rowe Publishing and Design. So it’s an old-new book. I have five middle grade books and two historical fiction/westerns for adult readers. For the past three years I’ve written a 16 chapter kids serial story for a program called Newspapers in Education and the stories are carried in various Kansas newspapers. The first one is a time travel story and takes 9 year old twins, a boy and a girl, back in time to witness the events and meet those who helped shape Kansas and in many cases, all of America. After it ran in the newspapers, I added ten more chapters and it is now a book titled Echoes of Kansas Past. It was named a KART book (Kids Are Readers Too) My second newspaper story was set in Kansas during WWII and is about Bobby, 10, whose dad is oversea fighting in Germany. I just finished adding 10 chapters to that story, titled Wishing You Home, and have sent it to the artist for the illustrations. I’ll then send it to the publisher. The third story, A Home for Us, is about the Orphan Train Riders. Again, a 16 chapter story, and as soon as I can I’ll add 10 more chapters and my publisher has agreed to publish it as well. I’ve signed on to do another story for the newspapers, a serial to run in Jan-Mar 2014. I’m just now doing the research. That story will be about Hannah, 10, a slave girl, Angel, 10, and Mickey “Mick” a street kid of 12. It will take place in Lawrence, KS in August 1863 a few days before and after William Quantrill raided the town on Aug 21st , slaughtering every man and every boy big enough to hold a gun, that they could find. So to answer your question, I guess this story I just described, as yet untitled, is my next writing endeavor.The Summer of the Crow
Synopsis: In the spring of 1935, thirteen-year-old Brady Foster and his little autistic sister are sent to live with their sheriff grandpa while their parents travel to California for the mother’s health. There Brady is bullied and ostracized by the richest kid and befriended by the poorest, a boy with a pet crow. That summer the boys go on a rabbit drive, encounter bootleggers, hop a freight train and spend a night in a homeless camp.
Excerpt: (Based on my father-in-law’s experience.)
Now his dad was climbing the ladder leading to the hayloft, once filled with hay for the livestock, but empty now. He stopped where he could see into the loft and called to Brady, “I’ll going to try and get to the house.”
“How?” Brady asked. “It’s still blowing out there.” He looked at the dirt still shifting into the barn, deepening the dark hazy atmosphere and piling up in little ridges on the floor of wide wooden planks.
“I can see the windmill from here and the dust is creating static electricity and sending sparks flashing off the windmill’s metal blades, just like it does on wire fences.”
Brady thought of little Sammy Johnson and shivered.
Back down on the barn floor, his dad lifted two coiled ropes from a hook on the barn wall and tying two ends of the ropes together, explained how he hoped to get to the house. “I’ll tie one end of this rope around my waist and the other end to a corral pole. I can use the sparks from the windmill blades as a guide and I should make it. If I don’t, I’ll follow the rope back to the barn.
“What about me?” Brady asked.
“I’m sorry, son, but you’ll have to stay here until it blows over.”
“So I can worry about you? And Mom and Sarah? And Taggart?” He added the dog as an afterthought, but he was pretty worried about him. “This storm could last for hours. I can’t stay here—not without you.”
His dad looked at him for a long moment and finally said, “All right, get that handkerchief back over your face and….” He jerked his head toward a short piece of rope left on the wall, “get that and tie it around your waist and the other end to my overall straps and you can follow me.”
When Brady finished tying the rope around his waist and to the back straps on his dad’s overalls, his dad looked back over his shoulder and grinned. “Well, let’s go partner,” he said.
Brady’s answering grin ended in a grimace as the movement of his face tightened the now cold, clammy, and dirt caked handkerchief he’d tied back over his nose and mouth. It had gagged him to put it back on, but his dad was letting him go, so he wasn’t about to argue.
As they stepped out into the dark pit of swirling, stinging dirt, Brady had to fight down a moment of panic and he tightened his grip on the rope tethering him to his dad.
Slowly, blindly, and so close to the barn they sometimes scraped against it, they edged their way along until they reached the corral which butted up to the back of the barn.
As they moved out from the semi-shelter of the barn, the full blast of the storm engulfed them. His dad’s hazy shape vanished and Brady squeezed the lifeline in his hand.
When his dad stopped to tie the rope to the corral rail, Brady bumped up against him, drew back, and waited. Now he noticed the quick flashing jagged sparks of electricity bouncing off what had to be the windmill’s big steel blades, but the windmill, like everything else, was obliterated by the storm.
When Brady felt the rope tighten in his hands, he knew his dad had finished tying the rope and was heading toward the house. His head down against the onslaught of the storm, Brady followed him.
Where to find The Summer of the Crow:
Three reasons to read Eunice’s Book, The Summer of the Crow:
1. It is packed full of history of Kansas wind storms, the kind of history not found in text books.
2. There are life lessons about bullying, alcoholism, life and death.
3. This book is full of adventure and you will not want to put it down.
Have you or do you know anyone who has has been through a Kansas dust storm? Or one like it in another state?