Tofino author Tom Stewart takes a cappuccino and talks shop at Driftwood Café. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Tofino author Tom Stewart takes a cappuccino and talks shop at Driftwood Café. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Q&A: Tofino author Tom Stewart talks about his new book ‘Immortal North’

“Crack your heart open like an egg for the pan. Sweat over every sentence.”

Tofino writer Tom Stewart has penned and self-published his second novel.

Immortal North was released to the world on March 7, just two years after Stewart’s memoir Under Big-Hearted Skies: A Young Man’s Memoir of Adventure, Wilderness, & Love hit Amazon’s Best Seller charts.

Although it’s still early days, Stewart said the novel has been really well-received and that some of the reviews are beyond what he could have hoped for.

WN: Tell us why you chose to set your novel in the isolation of the North.

TS: I worked in the North for years as a bush pilot, fishing and hunting guide, oil rig roughneck. My memory bank of its beauty is full. Makes it easier to write the scenes.

WN: How was the transition from Non-fiction to Fiction?

TS: The transition felt really smooth. I’m trying to write the stuff about life that matters: beauty, joy, suffering, love and love lost, laughter and death. Those types of things. So whether the medium is a fictional novel or a true memoir, they share big commonalities. But y’know, it’s nice that fiction isn’t constrained by the truth.

WN: What was the most challenging part about writing this second novel?

TS: Through one and a half years I’ve rewritten this novel at least two hundred times trying to make it something worthy of people’s time. Scrapped whole chapters, rewrote sentences over and over for hours and sometimes still threw them away. That repetitive process can be challenging.

WN: What aspects of your own life helped inspire this book?

TS: Well, in one way or another, its pages are soaked with my tears and wrinkled with my laughter.

WN: What is your favourite passage in the book and why?

TS: On page 301 it starts out, “When he returned to the sleigh his quarry was unmoving and there was no need to check for a pulse as he saw mist rising from the man’s gagged mouth.” It’s too much of a spoiler to say more, but from there until the end of that chapter, it’s an example of what I’m striving for: write beautiful prose about things that matter and with high-stakes scenes.

WN: Is Immortal North part of a series?

TS: Well, if you’re asking me if I’m currently plugging away at a manuscript with 90,000 words—10,000 more than Immortal North itself—and if its scenes are also set in the wild north with a storied family…

WN: How are sales going so far online since it was released and what does a literary success look like for you?

TS: It’s early days, the book has sold about 80 copies. My first book, Under Big-Hearted Skies, has sold over 1000—but advertising costs money and being a profitable writer takes a backlist of titles. Unbiased reviews on Goodreads have been truly positive and beyond what I could have hoped for—that means I’m moving readers, people I’ve never met—and that really matters to me. It’s very motivating. That itself is a meaningful achievement. But that does not pay the bills, and of course I want my efforts to scale. I’m working at it. I tell myself: earn it. Write several beautiful books. Crack your heart open like an egg for the pan. Sweat over every sentence. Write for hours every day and then rip most of it up and do it better. Work with professional editors. My focus is long term. I aspire to be deserved of a widening readership.

WN: Why should locals give this a try?

TS: It’s set in the isolated wilderness amongst raw beauty—that’s not so unlike our beloved little peninsula. One fateful day that woodland life is violently broken. And it’s written by your homeboy at the end of the road. Give him a shot.

Immortal North is available locally at Mermaid Tales Book Shop in Tofino and online as an eBook or audiobook.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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