We are so proud to feature Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice for the December box. It is a daring post-apocalyptic novel from a powerful rising literary voice, and you won’t be able to put it down. Thank you Waub for answering the burning questions we had after finishing this stunning novel!
What first sparked that idea for this novel? How did your ideas for the narrative develop?
I read and enjoyed a lot of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction when I was younger, but it wasn’t until I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy that I started thinking about writing something in that genre. So the wheels first started turning about a decade ago, and it was important for me from the beginning to imagine a so-called “post-apocalyptic” story through an Anishinaabe lens in order to convey that distinct perspective of a world ending. Indigenous nations in North America have already experienced apocalypse, and the world many communities inhabit now is a dystopia. They’ve been removed from their homelands and their languages and cultures have been severely damaged or outright destroyed. Still, Indigenous communities have survived these crises and remain resilient, which perhaps leaves them better suited to deal with a catastrophe like a blackout that we would read about in contemporary post-apocalyptic stories. And the key to survival - as always - is in the land and culture.
The idea of a power and communications outage as the apocalyptic event in this story was inspired by the widespread blackout in the eastern part of the continent in the summer of 2003. I was living in Toronto back then, but was actually in my home community of Wasauksing that day for a visit with my brothers. It seemed like the safest and most peaceful place to be in that situation. So once I settled on the theme of apocalypse as renewal and a blackout as the trigger, the story started coming together pretty smoothly. I chose young protagonists reconnecting with land and culture as the primary voices, and started actually writing the manuscript in the fall of 2015.
I found it so eerie to feel the increasing fear built in the community, as outside communication cut off and time went on. What do you think it is about isolation that brings fear?
I think our increasing reliance on communications technology compounds that fear of isolation. We’re so hyper-connected nowadays that the idea of being out of touch with others can make some people really anxious and afraid. That’s especially true for people who live in big urban settings. But if you grew up in the bush or in a rural setting, being by yourself for extended periods of time is pretty natural. So when the community in this story loses touch with the outside world, there’s no real sense of panic immediately. But I think readers who rely on modern luxuries like cell service and power can definitely feel that panic and fear right away. I sure did, anyway!
The way you built suspense throughout the novel was captivating and at times terrifying. Did you always know where the ending would lead?
Thanks! Yes, I had the story totally mapped out mentally before I sat down to type it out. Building the suspense was definitely a challenge, though. A crisis like this would unfold much more slowly in a rural setting, and community members with land-based knowledge would be able to better cope with a lot of the challenges that come with a blackout. With a slower burn, it was important to build tension in more subtle ways, like having some of the more stable characters show flashes of weakness, or illustrating the creeping fear in foreshadowing dream sequences. All of it was always going to lead to the same climax and resolution, though. But some of the characters developed in more compelling and even challenging ways as I tried to get there. In the end, though, I grew to love them and their community, which is why I wanted to stay true to my original vision.
We know all great writers are readers. Can you share some of your favourite authors with us?
Gladly! Some of my favourite authors are Richard Wagamese, Lee Maracle, Richard Van Camp, Eden Robinson, Cherie Dimaline, Thomas King, Louise Erdrich, Leanne Simpson, Tommy Orange, Terese Marie Mailhot, Katherena Vermette, Tracey Lindberg, David Robertson, Kevin Hardcastle, Cormac McCarthy, Monique Gray Smith, Isaac Asimov, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson…the list goes on!
Why do you think reading and storytelling is so special?
Sharing stories is the foundation of culture and community. It strengthens bonds between people, and creates connections among different communities. It’s a way to document and share culture, and to ensure that subsequent generations understand the importance of their identity and history. Reading and storytelling helps develop empathy, which is essential to positive relationships in a increasingly divided world.