AHF Interviews Tanya Reimer
Tanya Reimer is an alternate history writer, author of the Sacred Land series which begins with Legends of the Prairies, and continues with Ghosts of the Prairies, and Cursed on the Prairies. Her website is at www.tanyareimerauthor.wix.com/books and her blog is at http://tanyareimer.blogspot.ca/.
Thank You Tanya Reimer for your interest in being interviewed. There follows below, the questions and answers:-
1. What is the earliest published work of yours?
I was about 15 when I published my first column in the local paper. It was so long ago, I'd forgotten about it. So, imagine my surprise when I was digging through archives at the local Community Centre where I work, and I found a bunch of clippings of that column that someone had kept and archived!
2. Who were the earliest authors to be an inspiration for your writing?
I had a fascination with history books. I was that child reading about how to mummify a corpse or about Zeus or about rituals in ancient Peru...
When it comes to fiction, Canadian author Eric Wilson was probably the first author I latched onto. I even wrote him a letter and he invited me to join his fan club. I discovered him in our local bookmobile by accident. You see, in my mind, bookshelves were organized so the forbidden books would be hidden on the bottom shelf. After digging around, I came up with a Wilson. It was a young adult mystery set in Canada and the setting snagged me. I gobbled up his entire series. I couldn't wait to see these places and make my own adventures to write about.
3. Which other authors do you consider to be an inspiration and for what reason?
Tough question. I can think of quite a few for very different reasons. To name two, some of Ann Rice's and Jean M. Auel's works inspired me to dig into my own research and put my own spin on the past I love so passionately. Getting out the raw harsh truth from a poignant and unexpected point of view felt like a challenge.
4. Are the legends based on a) history or b) stories or myths which are in common parlance?
For me, legends are an important way to pass on our beliefs from generation to generation. These stories evolve and change with each retelling to suit the new reality. The legends found in the Sacred Land Series are peppered in but explored in-depth in Legends on the Prairies. In this story they are a mixture of retold common tales and invented legends that were introduced in the other stories, making them real to this alternate world.
Of course, the fun thing about them, is that some aren't even legends but predictions based on visions and dreams. However, in a tribe that believes past, present, and future are entwined, sometimes stories yet to transpire are so certain to happen that they are already legendary.
The legend about the White Horse roaming the prairies is a wonderful story that is commonly told. I took creative freedom with it throughout the series. Our ghostly hero Silver absorbs this legendary horse in his soul to save a young woman who was cursed to live as a horse for eternity.
Many of the other legends are fiction, invented to highlight the Ghost Tribe's beliefs and culture in a vibrant way as they pass down their beliefs from generation to generation.
5. Are "ghosts on the prairies" a thing, in that people have seen them, or tradition or mythology has it?
The ghosts in Ghosts on the Prairies take on many different interpretations.
For example, a wolf shadows Antoine. He killed this wolf to avenge his sister's death many years ago but now the spirit haunts Antoine, hoping to teach him something he really doesn't want to learn. Like Antoine, many of us are haunted by mistakes of our past.
Members from the Ghost Tribe are often seen as a blur on the prairies, almost like the legendary White Horse. Perhaps it's a trick of the endless horizon. Perhaps something moved in the distance. In a vast field with a few shrubs, it's not like a warrior could vanish out here. Could they?
Seeing souls tells Hoolie a lot about those he meets and can change his path in a hurry. Even though he was ordered to bring Antoine in for a reward, after he sees Antoine's soul, he has a change of heart. Sometimes, we change our perceptions for unexplainable reasons.
The real live men walking around with sheets over their heads to conceal who they are while they terrorize the Plains are symbolic of the hate groups that tore up the prairies in the early 1900s.
Silver, Antoine's uncle, was cursed to haunt the Plains and keep an eye on his family. Sometimes, he's a little more see-thru than most.
Sacred Land is a place where life is born and where life returns. Spirits haunt it, coming and going. Some even curse the trees or the earth itself, manifesting as mud monsters sucking people in.
Lastly, there are figurative ghosts haunting each of us: the paralyzing grief that troubles Doc, the obsessions that torment Antoine, and the scars of social oppression and slavery that Emma bares.
6. How much of the real Métis history is used in your books?
Not much in a documented historical sense. The part of the prairies in question has little records, which makes it a perfect area for speculations: perhaps this area was cast aside and ignored because of a curse that goes with it?
I placed myself in time and place when dealing with the entire series and each book takes a different approach to the history of the area and the blended cultures it touches on. A lot of what was going on in the world might not have made it to this area. Of course, some things did; the poster of Louis Riel in Cursed on the Prairies is a symbolic message and reminder that even if they try to fit in, there is a part of Russ that can't escape his obligation to protect Sacred Land.
What I strived for in Ghosts on the Prairies was the feeling of belonging to two cultures and how this created a passionate man; a pioneer descendent with a deeply rooted connection to the earth that feeds us. Raised with blended cultures, Antoine struggles to fit into the pioneering world, yet he finds himself with his feet in the water, healing his deep grief with song and nature. Hating the labels he has to live under, he wants to be a part of both cultures he loves.
In Cursed on the Prairies, I took a different approach. Russ was raised to fit in with the settlers of the area and his brother was raised to fit in with the Ghost Tribe. The brothers must come together to end a curse, but how can they find common ground when each is so different? If they can't embrace both cultures, saving Sacred Land and their family will be impossible.
7. Are real Indigenous Peoples used in your stories?
The Ghost Tribe is fictitious. These heroes live only on my alternate prairies. In this creation, they keep shelter in tunnels, haunting the surface as needed. They are a small secretive tribe of warriors with a serious mission and deep cultural roots.
In Legends on the Prairies, the pioneers coming to the area refer to them as natives or locals and when Alex comes to the area to settle land, he's warned that they're savages and that some are even see-thru. No one ventures their way, even the railroad tracks end abruptly. Thankfully, Alex doesn't believe the stories and discovers for himself an incredible truth.
8. How much of your writing could be classified as alternate history in the broader sense of creating a different future, or impacting, or even changing, the rest of the world?
Since the state of Sacred Land affects the fate of the world, not saving it would greatly impact the future. Changing or defacing Sacred Land has a ripple effect. Throughout the series, when a different portion of the lands gets taken over, the world feels it. For example, they speak about what happened on the Trading Lands which became the real city of Moose Jaw. And we witness firsthand how the curse from the Cursed Lands makes the settlers go crazy with greed.
Of course, the warriors and all their cultural beliefs are influenced by their surroundings even though they are fictitious, they were inspired by the world around them and adapt when needed, blending in or vanishing.
Some of the smaller events that unfold in the series are real. How they are handled in this alternate world by the fictitious warriors impacts the real future. To name a few, there was bootlegging on the prairies, language laws, the greed or desperation of pioneers, criminals using tunnels to hide out in, hate groups terrorizing the plains, children and farmers living in poverty, and social groups that were oppressed because of their nationality, blended cultures, or skin colour.
9. Who are the role models for your female protagonists? Are they historical, mythological or from outside of the context?
Women warriors. Whether fighting for their country, their voice, their beliefs, their family, their very lives, these women are the role models for each heroine I bring to life. They can be found in history, in mythology, and even in real life.
Take for example Emma from Ghosts on the Prairies. She's an illegal slave and knows her place well, yet Antoine promises her something she longs for. To get this promise, she must defy. She's inspired by the many historical heroines who found their courage in the face of repression.
In Legends on the Prairies, Sacri is a warrior inspired by mythological war goddesses. Next in line to lead her people, she's living in a world full of men warriors who wish to claim her and the title she comes with. It's not a mystery that the man she falls for is the opposite of these men.
In Cursed on the Prairies, Russ' mother is modelled after my grandmother. A woman who raised a huge family, who was dedicated to the farm, and yet who always had time to teach and protect her family. Russ' mother does solemn things to protect her family, yet I imagine my grandmother would have agreed with her choices.
10. Your cover art is very striking - are all the covers by the same artist? Where did you find them, and how does the cover creation process work?
Thank you, but I can't take credit for these beauties. The covers for the Sacred Land Series were done by my publishing house Elsewhen Press and their cover artist Allison Buck. Each one is her artistic representation of the story it hugs so warmly. The dark troublesome tunnels open onto a hopeful setting; the ghostly wolf with a message for Antoine in Ghosts on the Prairies, Silver who sacrifices himself for Sacred Land in Legends on the Prairies, and the noose that changes Russ' destiny in Cursed on the Prairies.
Little elements in each image were taken from the story to add to the symbolism of their journeys, like the flames, the maple trees, or the sunset. Each enhances the artist's perception of the story. To me, they are an artist's view of my work, which makes them even more special
11. What inspired you to write your most recent work?
I work on several books at a time, so this is challenging to answer. If we look at the last book I published in alternate history; Cursed on the Prairies was inspired by a hate group I stumble in in my research. They were active in Saskatchewan's history and had burned crossed in towns around the one I live in, looking for French Catholics. The town where I live is the hub of French Catholics in the region, and so it amazed me that I couldn't find traces of them coming to the town to burn crosses. It seems odd that they went around the town and never came in... And so, I got speculating...What if they did come but never left...and Cursed on the Prairies was born, with Russ watching bodies get buried in the heart of the night because they tried to burn his gal, and well, no one does that on his land and lives to tell about it.
If we look at the last book I drafted, it is set in medieval times and was unplanned. I was inspired by a book with this unique premise. I saw so much potential and had so many unanswered questions. Sadly, I had perhaps too grand a vision, too many questions, and too specific a plot in mind. The book didn't deliver the story I'd hoped for. And so, I was moping around the house complaining to my husband about it and he, of course, said, "Wonderful thing about being you, is that if you're unhappy with the book you read, you can always write the book you wanted to read." And so, I did.
12. Are you inspired by any landscapes or buildings, or even towns and cities?
Living on the Canadian Prairies, I find inspiration everywhere. But if I'm to look at the Sacred Land Series, one of the biggest influences for this series was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. It's a city with tunnels and an interesting history. I found my muse while walking these tunnels, imagining my heroes venturing in them. At times, I could taste the dusty history, feel the aching desperation in the carvings on a bed frame, or even hear the forgotten echoes as I imagined my heroes screaming in agony while dropping to the dirt floor. Reading about these places is great, but standing in a tunnel, being part of the history, now that is awe-inspiring.
13. Have you been surprised by a negative reaction to any of your work?
Spoiler alert; I kill off characters, people will die. As a reader, I love it when authors twist things up or dig into issues like grief. I didn't realize how attached some readers would get to these characters I'd created with the purpose of deepening the hero's emotional journey. On the plus side, I do love to learn that my characters came to life for people.
14. Other than authors (and friends and family) who are your heroes?
My heroes are the exceptional men and women who serve our communities as leaders, emergency personnel, teachers, preachers, military, doctors...I work with them, live with them, watch them balance life and their demanding calling. Their stories are often unheard, but they are the heart of every community, the role models for my children, the inspiration I use to build my fictitious heroes, and the motivation I need to do my job. Inside each one is a hero with a story dying to be shared.
15. If you could go back in time to learn the truth about one historical mystery or disputed event what would it be?
Oh boy! Only one? So many things are running through my brain right now. I want to know it all.
I suppose, if I could learn any truth, I'd want to know why the bad guys and gals in history did what they did. Were they pure evil? Thirsty for power? Victims to circumstances? Did they have good intentions gone badly? Were they just idiots? Easily influenced?
I'd like to discover the truth behind these moments that changed cultures, societies, and influenced my own beliefs. Did we paint them into evil villains to remind us of our values? Who were the real men and women behind the darkest stories in our history books?
Feels like there might be a story or two there I could tell...
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Tanya enjoys using the tranquil prairies as a setting to her not-so-peaceful speculative fiction.
She is married with two children which means among her accomplishments are the necessary magical abilities to find a lost tooth in a park of sand and whisper away monsters from under the bed.
As director of a non-profit Francophone community centre, Tanya offers programming and services in French for all ages to ensure the lasting imprint and growth of the Francophone community in which she was raised. What she enjoys the most about her job is teaching social media safety for teens and offering one-on-one technology classes for seniors.
Tanya was fifteen when she wrote her first column. She has a diploma in Journalism/Short Story Writing. Today, she actively writes and publishes the local Francophone newsletter for her community, and maintains a blog at Life's Like That.
Her published work include the 'Sacred Land' series:-
Legends on the Prairies
Ghosts on the Prairies
Cursed on the Prairies
as well as:-
Can't Dream Without You from the Dark Chronicles
Forbidden Fruit a short story in Existence is Elsewhen
The In-Between a short story in Project 9 Vol 4
Visit her website for upcoming releases: