Enthusiasts of outdoor stories, adventure and romance will find all three at the preview of Roy Ness’s first novel, Rutting Season, at the Parking Lot Reading on Friday, July 27.
The self-published book is a stand-alone adventure with a liberal dose of romance. In a September storm in the Selwyn Mountains grizzly bear eco-warrior Hannah Weinberg is thrown together with Dan McKay, a hunter by trade and necessity.
However, as their story unfolds, so does the overshadowing subplot that Dan’s daughter is in danger from the unhealthy interest his ex’s new boyfriend has in the 10-year-old.
That, mixed with the family drama of visitation rights, custody and Dan’s missed court dates, while trying to put food on the table, make Hannah’s concerns pale by comparison.
Ness, who is known for his three-part CBC radio commentary Bison Man and stage work such as Joe Meets the Wind, found that the original radio play treatment he’d given it would not work.
“The play was never produced, but the story kept rattling around in my head,” he says. “Then one November morning in 2005, 2006, I sat down at the computer and started on page one.”
Written chronologically, the story covers 12 days in mid-September—the rut.
“That first draft was dreadful, but the story was solid [after the initial edit],” says Ness.
For research, he travelled the length of the South Macmillan River. The Advanced Artist Award-funded excursion resulted in so much new material that Ness rewrote the manuscript that winter.
Miche Genest commented on the revision and in 2011 Ness attended the Sage Hill Writers Retreat to polish the work under the mentorship of noted Canadian author Steven Galloway.
“After another major restructuring, I felt it was ready,” says Ness.
When the route to traditional publication became frustrating, Ness attended the 2011 Yukon Writers Conference, where guest speaker Kathryn Rusch presented several options for print-on-demand and electronic publishing.
Ness chose to self-publish through Createspace for the design, editing and publication options they offered.
To ensure authenticity in the writing, a helicopter pilot, a government biologist, a vet, and retired and active members of the RCMP were among Ness’ advisors.
His own long history in the Yukon, many occupations, and enthusiasm for the outdoors is evident in his understanding of opposing issues. Every character in Rutting Season reveals strong opinions about hunting, land use and conservation.
Aside from a story Ness hopes is real and compelling, he hopes it provokes thought about hunting ethics.
“I’d like people to think about where the issues of ethics and animal rights diverge, and converge.”
Interludes throughout the story give Ness an opportunity to explore this through the animal consciousness of ravens, who provide a running commentary similar to the Muppet hecklers Statler and Waldorf.
“In our society we are taught to think there is a huge unbridgeable difference between animals and humans,” says Ness. “Is it a difference in kind or degree?”
In this story, “people are not the only ones with lives, thoughts, urges, emotions and feelings.”
To find out more about how those lives play out, join Ness under the blue canopy for the 7 p.m. Parking Lot Reading in front of the Coles bookstore.
Sharing the bill with Ness is Claire Eamer, reading from her latest book of science for children, The World in Your Lunch Box.