Author Michael Curnes, now dividing his time between Prince Rupert and Vancouver, said creating the first line of a novel is one of the first four steps he takes when he’s writing a book.
He was sharing his latest novel, For the Love of Mother, with the Prince Rupert Community Art’s Council’s RuperWrites Wednesday evening.
When he begins to write a book, he comes up with the title of a book, cover, writes the first line, followed by the first page.
“If the first page is compelling for me and gets me excited, then I’ll stick with it, but if at any point in the story I’m getting bored with it or if I’m having trouble finding time to write, it means I’m not into it. And if I’m not into it, then I have to accept that my reader’s not going to be into it,” Curnes said.
Up until his guest appearance with RupertWrites, Curnes had never done a reading before, so when he was asked to share a sample of the story, he said he preferred to start at the beginning.
His is a jam-packed opening sentence, offering the reader a setting, three characters, and some tension.
Turning back the cover Curnes shared that first sentence and read, “After ten years of second thoughts, a string of false pregnancies including the first one that had led them to the altar and the last one that had nearly ended in divorce, Ted’s four-year-old, not to mention, the cement of their Portland marriage, Teddy Jr., sat between them in the front seat of their orange pick-up as it bounded down the familiar gravel road toward the river.”
Curnes began writing this latest novel five years ago, a year after he moved to Prince Rupert from Tofino.
“I had been working for a number of non-profit organizations and had just been a writer for a national non-profit river conservation group in the States. I’m a river nut. I’m a free-flowing river nut and really wanted to write about the rivers I know,” Curnes said.
Although he’s written eight books, For the Love of Mother is his second one to be published and his first eco-thriller.
Curnes grew up in Northern Idaho and said many of the events and characters in the latest story draw from actual events that took place in the United States.
One of the main characters is based on Jeffrey Lures who in 2000 was caught after setting fire to three SUVs at a car dealership in Eugene, Oregon. In the trial that followed, he received a sentence of 21 years and eight months.
“Which at the time was three times more than you could get for involuntary manslaughter,” said Curnes, adding it was a time when the government of George Bush was trying to set an example.
“People really do risk everything. I was in Tofino for ten years where a thousand people got arrested for blocking a logging road. It was the largest arrest in Canadian history. Those people had to make a choice to put themselves on the line. I have nothing but respect for them,” Curnes said.
Published in March by a print-on-demand publisher Ink Water Press, the book is already having a rippling affect in the literary world.
This weekend Curnes is off to San Francisco to accept an award for winner of the 2011 Green Book Festival’s Fiction Category and was shortlisted for the 2011 International Book Awards category of Environment/Green Fiction.
“My publisher told me that Margaret Atwood was one of the previous recipients of the award I’m receiving this weekend,” Curnes said, looking as surprised as his listeners.