Editor’s note: there is a more recent interview with Rick Revelle here.
It was by sheer happenstance that I came across Rick Revelle and his two historical novels: I am Algonquin and Algonquin Springs (2013 and 2015, Dundurn Press). I was in Kingston (Ontario) visiting family when an article in that day’s edition of the Kingston Whig-Standard about a man who had written some “books about Indians” was brought to my attention. Intrigued, I read the article and was quite impressed at the meticulous research Mr Revelle had performed to in order to make his novels about early First Nations people as realistic as possible. I have now read both books and enjoyed them immensely.
Let’s now meet the author:
Miramichi Reader: Rick, please tell me a little about your background, how you became to be a writer, etc.
Rick Revelle: I retired from Nortel at 50 years old, (never bought a share) and started to play golf every day, some days better than others. I have walked the lengths of the Rideau Trail, the Cataraqui Trail, working presently on hiking the K&P Trail plus many shorter trails. My experiences in the woods are related in my books. I am also an avid canoeist and again the canoe stories are my encounters on the water, for the most part, not all but a lot of it. During my working years I was a fastball coach and won 3 Ontario Championships and I have coached at 3 Canadian Championships winning 1 silver medal. I also have my black belt in judo for the past 30 years.I became a writer I guess you could say at the professional stage at age 58 and became published at age 60 with my first book I Am Algonquin. All self-taught, on the computer and in my writing. I know what I like to read and that is what I in turn like to write about. The reason I wrote the Algonquin Quest Series is that while searching for some books to read about my Algonquin heritage (The author is a member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation) I soon realized nothing about this Native group had ever been written, fiction or non-fiction. So I took it upon myself to research everything I could find about my roots and to put it in a novel, which in turn became the second novel and now is becoming a third novel. I tell everyone my books are Historical Fiction; the characters are fictional, but the language and the way they live are non-fiction.
MR: The two Algonquin Quest books were fantastic to read, even for a ‘mature’ reader like myself. I was especially impressed by the choreography of the action scenes in both novels. Did these just flow out of your pen, or do you do a visual mock-up of the scene to help you plan it? Also, did you visit any of the actual sites in the book? It seems like you were there when the battle(s) were going on.
RR: I would say that I have visited about half the sites my battles take place to get the feel of the surroundings. When unable to visit the area I do extensive research on the internet. For the action scenes, I have to admit I have a vivid imagination. I envision the whole scene and put myself right there. I then stand in the middle and look around and write about everything I am seeing. I imagine the noise, the smells and the overall tenseness of the situation. Once into this scene everything just erupts from my keyboard. I try to make the battles as realistic as I can without getting too horrific. Readers many times have mentioned the graphicness of the violence. I reply that it is indicative of the era using blunt force weapons and crudely pointed weapons. Wounds were broken bones, concussions, and punctures. Death came violently.
MR: The panther companion of Mitigomij was an inspired idea. Does that come from an Algonquin legend?
RR: As a kid watching movies I was always drawn to the hero with a sidekick, more so with the hero who had an animal as a companion. Mitigomij is based on the legend of Michabo the Trickster Hare who was a shape shifter. His panther is Gichi-Anamè-bizhow the Fabulous Underwater Panther, both of them Algonquin Legends.
MR: In between the two books, six years have passed in the timeline. Why not just pick up where Book One left off?
RR: Great question! I wanted the characters to progress from the last battle which was devastating for all involved. I needed some of the children to grow up and I also needed Wàbananang, Mahingan’s wife to evolve into the story and I thought the best way to do this was by creating a back story for her and bringing her to the present. I wanted things to happen without having to do a detailed story of everyone, so I just plopped them down 6 years later. My upcoming third novel Algonquin Sunset takes place 12 years later. Again some of the characters have to grow up and mature to fit into the next plot and evolution of the Series.
MR: In Book Two, the Mi’kmaq, Innu and Maliseet are introduced, and the focus is diverted from Mahingan and the Algonquin nation for a time. While it makes for a great story (and a great climax) did you feel compelled in some way to tell the story of other First Nation peoples?
RR: I had taken it as far as I wanted to with the Algonquin nation at that time and I really wanted to do research on the Mi’Kmaq nation, plus my whole plot line for this novel was introducing Glooscap. Glooscap is a Mi’Kmaq legend and he originated in the Land of Granite (Newfoundland). So I had to get everything started in the east and work it all together. The thunderstorm enabled me to describe an event that all three of the groups could experience at the same time and I could create this ending of three forces colliding with an act of nature. Unknown to the reader until the end many of the characters knew each other from the past. Of course, if you know the Legend of Glooscap you certainly know who Winpe is.
MR: Do you foresee that by Book Ten (if there will be a Book Ten) that Europeans will appear in the book to Mahingan’s great grandchildren?
RR: If I ever wrote a “contact” novel the Jesuits would be killed off in the first paragraph. But I guess we never say never?
MR: What response have you received from First Nations people to your novels?
RR: First Nation people have enjoyed my novels. The largest school board in Manitoba, the Frontier Board used I Am Algonquin in their curriculum and it went over very well. So well, that on January 22, 2016, I will be travelling to Winnipeg to be the Keynote Speaker at their Teachers Conference. If you noticed the notes from the people in the front of Algonquin Spring; they are from Native Elders and young Natives. I sent these people manuscripts to read and these were their responses, which pleased me.
MR: You often visit schools sharing your aboriginal knowledge with the younger generation. What kind of reception do you get?
RR: The teachers have told me that the kids love the books and the presentations. I bring weapons from the era in, plus sage, sweet grass, and cedar. I do not smudge. I also have huge maps mounted that I show them where everything takes place. I tell the teachers I am a travelling museum and exhibit!
MR: Downtime: what do you do when you’re not writing?
RR: I love to read, I golf 4 or 5 days a week in the summer and canoe the others. In the fall and winter, I hike. I like watching high school basketball and I have season tickets for the Queen’s University Men’s and Women’s hockey teams. I work 7 days a month for Foster Grant International. I have 22 store accounts that I look after for them. Actually, I guess I don’t do much of anything of any consequence, semi-retired and living the life.
You can read more about Rick’s first two novels here.