A warm welcome to author Francis Gideon joining us today to talk about new release “Chase This Light”. Francis talks about artist and shares an excerpt of Chase This Light.
Welcome Francis 🙂
My story Chase This Light, a contemporary romance novella set in the Yukon, is part of Dreamspinner’s World of Love Series. Since Canada was a big country to only have one romance set there, the team at DSP divided it up by province and territory. When my home province of Ontario was taken, it was up to me to find another place to explore through writing–and when I saw that the North was still free, I signed up right away and started my research.
As I mentioned in my blog post at MM Good Book Reviews, I work in a university and often times my friend group is divided by speciality and subject matter. I have my arty friends and my science ones. I leaned heavily on my science friends in order to focus on the landscape, the environmental issues, and the unique features of the Yukon (like the eighteen hour dark cycle in the winter and the threat to the land via fracking) and I leaned on my arty friends in order to explore the culture. And I was utterly amazed by what I found. In particular, thanks to the research for this story I was exposed to even more Inuit art than I knew existed, and used this knowledge to build my character of Pete Odjick.
Pete is an Inuit and Native man who has left his mother’s reserve in order to live in the city of Whitehorse. He often takes odd jobs, but his main one is at the MacBride History Museum where he dresses up as the real-life character of Skookum Jim, the first person to discover gold. This is how Pete and Jason Flores first meet one another–completely in costume during a museum demonstration and with Jason’s son Micah in tow. It’s a sweet meet-cute, but playing historical dress-up is only a fraction of Pete’s character. He’s also an environmental activist determined to help save and preserve the Yukon from being fracked and polluted, and he does so because he has a strong attachment to the land. Not just because he grew up there, but because his father is a famous artist who has painted Inuit legends and landscapes. When the summer museum season ends, Pete stays on at the history museum as it partners with the Whitehorse Art Gallery in order to work with kids and teach them about the indigenous art that’s a part of his family. The excerpt I’ve included details Pete and his relationship to art, along with the relationship he has to his family and indigenous roots.
I drew inspiration for Floyd Odjick, Pete’s dad, from several real-life Inuit artists. I highly recommend checking out Jessie Oonark, Helen Kalvak, Marion Tuu’luq, and Natar Ungalaaq (who is also an actor in The Fast Runner, which is another piece of Inuit culture) in particular. More than this, I highly suggest that if you’re ever in Whitehorse (and who knows where life will take us sometimes) that you look up these paintings in the Whitehorse Gallery. It was immense fun researching this story, and I can only hope that you enjoy it as well.
“What about adding some black?” Pete suggested.
The ten-year-old kid named Timmy scrunched up his nose. “But I don’t like that color. It’s too bland.”
“Not if you use it to highlight what you’ve done in red. And so much of the art you looked at today was in black, red, and blue. Stark, bold colors. What about trying some black here then getting out the blue?” Pete pointed to a stray corner in the boy’s page. The local fifth grade class had come into the museum for a field trip. Their first stop had been in the interactive lecture area where Pete had dressed up as one of the arctic’s most famous artists and carved a turtle out of soapstone (really, Keith had swapped the soapstone sculptures out with a quick sleight of hand). From there, Pete and Keith explained the origin myth, among other popular stories, and how the turtle played a large part in it. The slide show ended with a brief summary of the other major figures in modern Inuit art, like Jessie Oonark who Kirsten had dressed up as and Pudlo Pudlat who Keith represented. After lunch, Mrs. Lion’s class was painting what they had learned from the lecture.
Timmy still scrunched up his nose. “I don’t know….”
“Remember what Keith and I did in the last skit?” Pete asked. When Timmy was silent, Pete went on. “I was the darkness coming in and chasing the light after the darkest day. I had to have big footprints and big dance steps in order to bring it back. Like so.”
Pete mimicked the dance he had done earlier. Some of the kids from neighboring tables giggled behind their work. Even Keith, who was still mixing paint, stopped to watch. Without Pete’s costume or props, it seemed a little silly. But he liked it. He wouldn’t trade the art portion of the museum and his new job for the world. He was beyond relieved that Nadine had gotten the grant to join forces with the Whitehorse Gallery so that now he could use some of the old tricks his father had taught him as a kid.
Timmy looked at his painting again. He dabbed his brush in the black and added it to the corner. He did so with his tongue sticking out of his mouth in immense concentration.
“Okay,” he said. “I like it.”
“Good. Now. Is there anyone else who needs help?”
A girl named Abby put up her hand. Pete was delighted when she seemed to know exactly what painting she wanted to replicate and it was one of Pete’s favorites: The Enchanted Owl by Kenojuak Ashevak. He helped her draw some of the more complicated lines of the owl’s feathers and pulled up the image from a pamphlet the kids had received when they came inside.
“You see my tattoo?” Pete asked, lifting his shirt back a little.
Abby’s eyes went wide and she nodded. “It’s like the painting.”
“Yes, but not quite. My father is an artist and he helped get my design off the ground, so I could carry my own enchanted owl with me wherever I went.” Pete rolled his sleeve down again and gestured to Abby’s page. “Show me how you want your owl to look. It doesn’t have to look exactly like the original, since this one is yours to carry around with you.”
With some direction, Abby seemed a lot more at ease. She picked up the red and black paint from the center of her table and started to dab them into the intricate lines Pete had helped her draw.
“There you go! Just like that.”
When Pete rose from her table, he spotted Jason outside the art door, talking in a clipped tone to Keith. He wore a tie and a jacket under his undone winter coat. His cheeks were red as if he’d run the entire way from the office.
“Isn’t that your guy?” Kirsten asked. “Is everything okay?”
“I think so. Gimme five, though?”
Pete walked over to Jason without waiting for a response. Keith assessed Jason with a keen eye, then nodded and let Jason and Pete be alone.
When Jason Flores moves to the Yukon for a new job, he’s not sure what to expect. His son Micah seems enchanted by the wildlife, but his recent fear of the dark means that the eighteen-hour nights in the winter will be a difficult adjustment. When Jason takes Micah to the local museum’s interactive lecture series on the Gold Rush, it turns out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
Pete Odjick, a tattooed First Nations man, dresses up for the weekly lectures as Skookum Jim, one of the first prospectors to find gold. He takes an immediate interest in Micah and an even bigger interest in Jason.
As their flirtation grows into something more serious, Jason’s job at a big name oil company and Pete’s volunteer work with an environmental group become a point of contention. Can they come to an understanding and give Micah a family again? Or will the drastic differences between them tear them apart? As the winter nights grow longer, Pete and Jason worry their love won’t be enough to chase the darkness away.
Francis Gideon is a writer of m/m romance, but he also dabbles in mystery, fantasy, historical, and paranormal fiction. He has appeared in Gay Flash Fiction, Chelsea Station Poetry, and the Martinus Press anthology To Hell With Dante. He lives in Canada with his partner, reads too many comics books, and drinks too much coffee. Feel free to contact him, especially if you want to talk about horror movies, LGBT poetry, or NBC’s Hannibal.