Interview with P. K. Blair

Where does your story take place?
In Alaska, but not the Alaska most people think of. Instead of writing about snow and sled dogs or what Alaskans call 'The Interior', I chose to write about the area we call Southeast Alaska.

In 1976 I moved from the Southwest United State where it hardly rains to Southeast Alaska where it rains constantly.
Here is a world of rainforest, islands, totem poles, fish, boats, and native villages. It is an isolated area only reached by plane or boat. Here is where I lived for 29 years and raised my daughters. Ketchikan is on Revilla Island, the southern most port-of-call on the Inside Passage, and receives thirteen feet of rain a year. The forest is so thick it is hard to walk through and everything is always wet. For the first year I wouldn't even touch the moss, and the fungus, growing everywhere, scared me. I persevered and I got to experience an amazing 29 years.
Describe your desk
My desk mirrors the wanna-be-me. It is long and narrow and I'm short and a bit stocky. My mind is fairly organized but a bit messy like my desk. Lots of projects are evolving in my head and the beginnings of stories are lying in piles on my computer desk-top. I have a printer, a can of pens & pencils and a pencil sharpener sitting nearby. A little stuffed monkey sits next to my lamp and admonishes me that I need to work harder.

Would you believe (this is factual) that in addition to the above, right now I have on my desk: Two calendars, note pad with chores I need to do before dinner, 11 reference books, three thumb drives, three pencils, one pen, a story to revise, my ipod, art supply catalog (I do art), and three mugs with pencils and paint brushes. Oh yes, I have a phony skull a bit like Lucy the Australopithecus ... it has USB ports I can use. (P.S. I didn't get the chores done but went for a walk instead)
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
As a matter of fact I'm still 'growing-up', but the childhood part occurred in New Mexico ... a long time ago. Kids back then didn't have a lot of 'stuff' like kids do today: We used our imagination and had to entertain ourselves. I lived near an irrigation ditch in Albuquerque's Valley area and we built forts, and played cowboys and indians among the huge cottonwood trees. There was a yard with old rabbit pens near a Mulberry tree in back of a spooky house.I never met the owners but they let us play in their yard. Along the small irrigation ditch we picked wild cherries. They were VERY sour but we loved them. I'm working on a story about these special places.

Then we moved to Gallup where I graduated from high school. Here I helped a friend herd sheep at her mother's trading post on the reservation and learned to ride a horse. Going to school with Navajo kids, as well as seeing Mesa Verde ruins, helped me develop a love of other cultures. I have so many stories that need to be written about all these adventures I will probably never have time to write them all.
When did you first start writing?
In 6th grade all my friends seemed to own their own horses, but I didn't. They would tell me what their horse looked like and I would draw it and charge a dime. (It was the same horse but each a different color ... They didn't seem to notice).

I didn't really write stories until college and then only as needed. I worked as a nurse for decades, raised my daughters, and after they grew up I took Creative Writing classes. As I got older I discovered I had more stories to tell and I haven't stopped writing since.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My book: In the Shadow of Eagles is my first novel for 4th to 8th grade kids. A lot of people don't know much about Alaska and they think it is all cold and snow. We lived in Southeast Alaska that is a network of islands in the Tongass National Forest and where it rains all the time. When my older daughter went to college and showed her friends on a map where she lived they all said "That's not Alaska!" Find a map and look it up: It is the area that runs from Skagway and Glacier Bay all the way down to Dixon Entrance. The land part is next to part of British Columbia

Life on our island was quite different than what most kids in the 'Lower 48' experience. Back then there were really no malls to go to, very few stores, and no highways. To get from one town to another, we traveled by boat or plane. We hiked on trails that were muddy and gooey or made with planks of wood. Most people were busy fishing in the summer to stock their freezer for the winter. Our scenery was spectacular: mountain trails and thick rainforest to explore. Bears and wolves roamed the forest and eagles flew overhead. The rocky beaches stretched for miles.

I wrote the book to show what kind of environment we dealt with daily and to show how hard it is to go from California sunshine to an Alaskan island and have to deal with spooky forests, Kushtakahs, totem poles, boys who always fish, and so on. What? You don't know what a Kushtakah is? Well, you'll have to read the book. Hopefully you'll fall in love with Alaska like we did.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The cultivation of imagination. I think up a story and am surprised at the way it unwinds. I write about a character and he or she takes on their own personality. It is like a 'little person' with pen and ink is sitting in my brain and decides to write its own story and to heck with what I had in mind. This 'little person' is a bully and won't let me see how the story ends until its over.

In my critique group we would talk about my story, chapter after chapter, and discuss the people in my book as though they were real. Writing is an adventure.
What are you working on next?
My next novel is a sci-fi novel aimed, once again, for 4th to 8th grade kids. A boy named Eddy is finishing up the school year. In order to please his grandma who is coming to visit, he hurries to do the Crystal Growing Kit his Auntie Phoebe sent him for Christmas. He makes a mistake in the solution he used and everything goes wrong.

I don't want to give away too much right now and I will soon start refining the first draft. Hopefully it will be ready by July.
Who are your favorite authors?
When I was a young girl I loved Margaret Henry's books that she wrote about horses. King of the Wind is my favorite and I still try to read it once a year. I know it is sad at the end, but I still cry.

As an adult I love reading Tony Hillerman. His main character is a Navajo policeman who has to solve crimes. It is deeper than this. Mr. Hillerman helps the readers to understand the difference between a Navajo's culture and a white man's culture. It is important to learn how other people view their world. Reading these books helps me relive my years living near the Navajo reservation and the friends I made.

My next favorite author is Alexander McCall Smith. He once lived in Africa and has written the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. I've been to Africa and I enjoy getting to know his characters. There is a loveliness to those people that he has perfectly captured. He has another series called Scotland Street. There is a little boy named Bertie in these books who is very smart, is about 5 when the stories begin, and he wants to be just a regular little boy who owns a swiss army knife. His mother has other ideas and makes him take music lessons, Italian lessons and see a therapist every week. She's very bossy and never considers his feelings. I am so sorry for him because he so unhappy. With each new book in the series I hope he has better adventures.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
When I was a nurse I had to get up early. I fed horses, chickens, packed lunches for the family and headed off to work. I saw a lot of sunrises. Now that I'm retired I enjoy getting up when I wake up. I have breakfast, a good cup of coffee and read for an hour. Then I begin my day: volunteer work, art projects, writing, and helping friends. Sunsets are easier to do :)
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I volunteer at our public library and at the county museum. I'm in an art group and I try to have a new project at least twice a month. I'm working on funny horse pictures right now. My writing group meets twice a month so I have at least two manuscript submissions I need to help edit every two weeks and more work to do when it is my turn to submit what I'm working on. If the weather is not too stormy I hike the hills near my home, or ride my bike around town. I enjoy wild life, and nature, and drive over to the coast to enjoy the ocean when I have time. I do a little bit of gardening and spend time with friends.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I volunteer at the library so I am aware of some of the new books arriving. I browse the local book stores and research if they are in ebook format.

My daughters are prolific readers and are always keeping me up to date. I read mostly non-fiction to supplement my science and archaeology degrees. For fun, my kindle with a good novel on it is a perfect afternoon mental escape.
Published 2017-04-05.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

In The Shadow of Eagles
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 57,630. Language: English. Published: April 5, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Coming of age
Jillian is sent to Alaska for the summer to live with her grandma. The rainforest is scary, but Jillian must solve the mysteries around her: Who is stealing the eagles, why is the neighbor boy mean to her, and why is she dreaming of flying with a human-like eagle? An otter leads Jillian to an old cabin one night where she confronts her fears, captures the poacher, and discovers who she really is.