Eowyn Ivey’s début novel, The Snow Child was released in 2012. This year the author returned with her second novel, an expedition through uncharted Alaska. Alongside the book’s release, Ivey went on a book tour around America and then onto the UK.
My lovely, local indie bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, who often hold events with authors, played host to Eowyn on the second stop of her UK book tour. I was lucky enough to attend the event on 23rd August. For anyone who loves the author but couldn’t make it to any of the events on her tour, here is just some of the topics that were covered during the evening.
“Books are a universal language”
The bubbly Eowyn Ivey sat beside Nic Bottomly (owner of Mr B’s), ready to start their conversation. The informal interview chat was begun by Mr B who, first wanted to check he was pronouncing her name correctly – for those of you who are wondering, Eowyn (a name taken from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) is pronounced A-O-Win. After it was confirmed that Mr B was, in fact, saying her name right, the questions began.
The first subject covered was, of course, her homeland, where both of her books are set. She explained that while Alaska is a truly stunning and beautiful landscape, it is also rather intimidating and harsh. By writing about Alaska she can explore her own conflicting feelings about the area.
Alongside writing, Eowyn worked in her local independent bookstore, where oddly enough she came across the inspiration for both her novels. The author joked that she may need to go back to working at the shop to find her next idea. The shop stocks both old and new books and the idea for, ‘To the Bright Edge of the World’ came from an old book she found on a real-life expedition through Alaska.
She told us, that Bright Edge took a lot more research than The Snow Child, most of which she did before writing the novel. The journalist in her, however, meant that during the writing process she would occasionally stop herself to look up some small fact, for example; what kind of boots the explorers would have worn.
Although Ivey wanted to ensure a lot of it was factually correct, she also wanted to tell her own story, which is why she also added an edge of mythology that subtly walks the line between truth and fantasy. Eowyn stated that she wanted the readers to – even if just for a second – believe some of the myths she included in the book. She even told a story of someone who had looked up monsters in the lake, after reading about them in her novel.
Eowyn explained that she is very interested in the way people perceive reality and the ways this differs within different cultures. To the Bright Edge of the World, looks somewhat at the idea of perception, in particular in the blurred lines between animals and humans.
As well as discussing the themes and story of the novel, Mr B and Eowyn discussed the book as an object of beauty. One striking feature of the book is the map inside the front cover. The map drawing was designed by Ruth Hulbert. She created it by using old maps of the area to replicate their styles and create an authentic design. She also read the book’s full manuscript in order to add in or change anything that the author had built into her story.
Another interesting part of the book is the artefacts that are found within the story, these range from; photos and old postcards to extracts and sketches from other old books. Eowyn also informed us that some of the images were ones she’d taken herself and had aged in order to make them appear more authentic. Ivey stated that the publishers were initially not sure this would work. She secured the rights and commissions and sent them alongside the manuscript anyway and was very happy when they were included in the final book.
As the conversation neared an end, the author was asked about what it’s like being on a book tour. In reply, Eowyn Ivey said something truly lovely; she suggested that although it can be intimidating coming from a rural area, once she is around book lovers, she feels immediately comfortable because books are a universal language that unite people.
The evening ended with a book signing where the audience could also ask any questions they still had. The author was friendly and approachable and kindly dedicated each of our books with personalised inscriptions.
For more from Mr B’s Emporium and their events explore more of Books Bird features here.