Scary Critters in the Canadian Woods- Katie Berry

Canada is underrated for scariness. You think everyone’s nice (which is a great cover for a serial killer if you think about it) and it’s all outdoorsy and stuff. But if you’ve ever been alone in the woods at night, there’s a high creep factor. A writer from my home province of British Columbia has it figured out. I came across Katie Berry’s book Claw and figured I should introduce her to you so…

Katie, been years since I spoke to anyone from Castlegar! What should we know about you?

First of all, thank you so much for having me here today. It’s great to have a chance to speak to everyone and let them know a little about myself. Where to start? I am from Ottawa, Ontario, originally. Moved out west in a family migration when I was young. We ended up in the Okanagan in what was then called Westbank. After moving around the province several times over the years, I have settled down finally, and now live and write in the beautiful West Kootenays of British Columbia.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. My first story was written in grade three. It was a four-page murder mystery. My teacher wanted the class to write a short story. Mine was the only story with a hand drawn cover. It really stood out, since it was hand-typed (thanks to my dad’s assistance) and had a lovely colourful cover: a large pool of bright-red blood lay on a sidewalk next to a vibrant green lawn surrounded by a white picket fence. I was a regular Rembrandt. 😊 Got an A- on it, too!

Canada has plenty of scary critters, but CLAW goes way above and beyond. Tell us about it.

CLAW is about a small town in BC that has several problems. Right about this time of year, they suffer a major earthquake, the town’s sole mountain pass cut off from the world. The other problem is with the ‘wildlife’ that keeps eating people wandering around in the local forests. Finally, there is a greedy cartel of murderous morons trying to hide a massive gold strike recently discovered in the area. The main protagonists, Austin Murphy and Christine Moon have been well received, with Christine being called a ‘kick-ass conservationist’ by one reader. I have had many people write to me telling me that they know these people, or people just like them in their own communities, and how the novel all seemed very real to them.

I always feel that the more you can ground your story in a realistic world that surrounds the reader, the easier it can be to introduce the more unbelievable elements. I recently heard from a zoologist who teaches at a university in the UK who just loved the book, saying it has everything he looks for in a novel, from story, action and characters, all the way to the title cryptid villain, who is actually not called CLAW, interestingly. It’s nice to have the scientific community at your back, I must say.

As someone who grew up in a hub for Sasquatch sightings (Bigfoot is so American), I love me a good cryptid. Where did the story come from?

The roots of the story. I had a dream. After that dream, I got to wondering about certain things in my area, and it all just sort of fell into place (eventually). It was a four year journey from that dream to reality, but I feel it was worth it. I am truly proud of that novel, and especially so when people tell me they rank it right up there with stories by King, Koontz and Crichton. I truly feel blessed to have done so well. CLAW has been in the top 5,000-10,000 on Amazon.com since just about a month after its release in December 2019. As of yesterday, I have sold just a little over 10,000 copies and counting. And the two new prequel novelettes I have recently released are also doing quite well. Another aspect of the novel was that I wanted to write something like a big-action blockbuster monster movie set here in the mountains of BC. With CLAW and its upcoming sequel and prequel, I think I have achieved that. CLAW is also available in paperback and audiobook (14.5 hours of fun!)

What is it about this kind of story that appeals to you?

I have always had an affinity for the horrific side of movies and television, and especially things that go bump in the night or with monsters in them. I remember watching the old Universal horror movies with my mom, such as the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Invisible Man, etc. One of the things we also watched were reruns of Kolchak: The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin. It was that show that inspired me to be a writer. I actually wanted to be an investigative journalist like Carl Kolchak and bust monsters each week like he did. Hey, I was only ten at the time.

(WAYNE HAS TO INTERRUPT>>>LOVED Night Stalker! I actually had a dream the other night I got a TV deal to write a reboot of Night Stalker with Randall Park as the reporter. How do we make that happen?)

But that set me up with the writing bug and I never looked back. I actually did study journalism in college for a while along with abnormal psychology. Personally, I like things with the unknown in it. But unknown of the fantastic nature. I know that some people love a good psycho killer novel, but with all the horror in the world these days, I like to escape when I read, or write. Man’s inhumanity against man is something that holds little appeal to me, but nature’s inhumanity to man, or the supernatural’s, well, that’s another thing.

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

For any reader that would like to keep up with my writing, my website is always up to date with links to all of my books at https://katieberry.ca.

Also, my Amazon Author Page is a great place to go

Let’s not forget Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19756937.Katie_Berry.

Link to all of the books on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3nxDvBv

Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk is now available in paperback and kindle, and available almost anywhere from #BlackRoseWriting. It’s an American Book Festival Finalist for Best Horror of 2020. “Like Dresden Files with Bite.”

Ancient Chinese Drama with Alice Poon

Growing up in British Columbia, and having a mother who spent several years in Asia, I developed a fascination with the culture and people of China. I dig Chinese movies (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the like will bring productivity to a halt in this house) and have a very snobbish opinion of what most North Americans call “Chinese food” (friends don’t let friends eat Panda Express.) So when I came across Alice Poon’s new novel, I was intrigued.

Not only is the book set in the Ming and Qing dynasties, but Alice lives and writes in Richmond, BC, about 40 miles from my home town. She’s  an avid reader of world historical fiction. Born and educated in Hong Kong, she grew up devouring Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha’s) martial arts and chivalry novels which are all set in China’s distant past. That sparked her life-long interest in Chinese history. Writing historical novels set in Old China has been her long cherished dream. She is the author of the bestselling Chinese edition of Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong, which won the 2011 Hong Kong Book Prize. In 2007, Canadian Book Review Annual selected the original English Edition as Editor’s Choice (Scholarly). Okay, she’s way out of my league but she talked to me anyway….

What is The Green Phoenix about?

It’s about the life and times of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, the first matriarch of China’s Qing Dynasty. She was a Mongolian princess descended from Genghis Khan’s full brother Khasar and her maiden name was Borgijit Bumbutai. By arranged marriage she becomes the consort of the Manchu Khan, Hong Taiji, who is a dauntless warrior intent on conquering Ming China. But right from the beginning, deep conflicts seethe beneath the relationship with her husband, the future Qing Emperor, as she is deeply in love with his half brother Dorgon, who, it so happens, is the Emperor’s nemesis due to a deep-seated mutual hatred going back one generation. The story follows Bumbutai as she struggles to survive the Manchu court’s in-fighting, the sibling rivalry and war, burdened as she is with an heir-producing duty owed both to Hong Taiji and to her own tribesmen. Eventually, when Ming China is at last conquered, circumstances dictate that she has to take up leadership in the new Qing regime, and to help her son and grandson restore peace and rule over a war-wearied multicultural Empire.

The narrative is set against a turbulent canvas as the Ming Dynasty is replaced by the Qing Dynasty and the transition is marked by numerous vicious battles between the Manchus and the Hans. Ethnic antagonism between the opposing camps and perfidy (major points for use of perfidy!) and corruption among the Hans themselves drive conflicts to a culmination, which results in large scale deaths and sufferings.

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

The time period is most fascinating as it is marked by the violent demise of one ruling regime and the simultaneous birth of another. Such straddling periods in history, whether it’s in the West or the East, are, in my view, always a subject that bears studying. The saying that history repeats itself, though clichéd, is not far from truth. I’ve often pondered over the question, why does humankind never learn from history? Recently I came across a sobering article by Paul Lynch, recommended to me by a good friend, that says there’s no such thing as historical fiction: the modern world is governed by ancient forces – power versus weakness, truth versus falsehood, life versus death – and there’s the question of how we can survive those forces. How spot-on! When we look at our past, we are actually staring into our present.

Above all, I was motivated to write about the character of Empress Xiaozhuang because I felt that her contributions to humanity in China’s history are greatly underrated, and also because this historical character has never been introduced to the Western literary consciousness. Western readers only know about two Imperial women in Chinese history: Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty and Empress Cixi of the late Qing, but the fact is, Chinese people don’t even respect these two characters.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

There are actually quite a few. It’s hard to choose one. Let’s see. I love the scene where Bumbutai has a long conversation with her half sister Little Jade (Dorgon’s wife) in the beautiful setting of the imperial hunting park called South Park. Both women love Dorgon deeply. Here each of them expresses her own cutting insight into Dorgon’s behavioral eccentricities, while being mindful of the other sister’s sensibilities. The natural landscape exerts a rejuvenating effect on Bumbutai, who is a born lover of nature, whereas their visit to a deer farm brings out different reaction from each.

One favorite event (I’m cheating here!) is where Bumbutai tries to coax her son Shunzhi Emperor to face down his fear in a critical crisis by enlisting the help of his respected adviser, a German Jesuit priest, who she knows always has Shunzhi’s ear. As she predicts correctly, the priest gives a most convincing speech, which calms down the Emperor at once. She has the whole situation under control and knows clearly in her mind which commander to deploy and how to resolve the crisis, but keeps quiet as she does not want to appear to be overriding her son’s power in the presence of courtiers. Then when the Emperor is out of the fit of hysteria, she casually hints at the name of the commander, and gives credit to her son for coming up with the solution.

 Where can people find you and The Green Phoenix?   

Alice: The Kindle version is now available for pre-order from Amazon. The hardcover and paperback versions will be available on September 1, 2017.

The Goodreads book page:

The Amazon book page:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alice.poon.author

Twitter: @alicepoon1

My Blog: http://alicewaihanpoon.blogspot.ca