Hello, Glad to meet you

By way of introduction I would like to post a short interview I did prior to the publication of my latest novel, WILDNIS.  Visit

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer and why?

At college when I left a Fine Arts program to pursue a university degree in English. I felt I needed the complexity of words to express my vision This led to a Masters in English with a specialty in creative writing from The University of Alberta. My first novel “Bone Bird” was also my Master’s thesis completed under the supervision of Rudy Wiebe.

Have you published any other books?

Four books. See darlenequaife.com

Have you ever won an award or been recognized for your writing?

1990 Commonwealth Writers Prize for “Bone Bird”; Finalist in the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, Georges Bugnet Novel Award for “Polar Circus”; Voted ‘A Book For Everybody’ by the Canadian Booksellers Association for “Days & Nights on the Amazon; Centennial Edition, CBC Anthology, Honourable Mention, short fiction; Selected as a Lunchbox Theatre Petro-Canada Stage One playwright for the one act play, “Underdog”; Finalist in the Prairie Fire ‘Hot Shorts Contest, erotica without exploitation’ for the short story, “Burning Desire”; Runner-up in the Prism International, ‘Short Fiction Contest’ for the short story “I Ching of Shoes”; Shortlisted twice, CBC Literary Competition, fiction category, for the excerpt “Pleasure Dome’; Finalist Prism International, ‘Short Fiction Contest’ for the short story “The Invisible Part of the Spectrum’; Writing grants from: The Canada Council for the Arts, The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, The Banff Centre for the Arts.

What professional or life experiences led you to write this book?

In the greater scheme of things I’m interested in catastrophe. That is, the affect of natural disasters, economic depression, and war on the lives of ordinary people. The novel “Wildnis” explores the impact of WWII and its aftermath (1946) on those who have chosen to live beyond civilization in the wilderness of northern British Columbia. Specifically, Isa Luise Essler-See: German writer, intellectual, and pen pal to the incarcerated American poet, Ezra Loomis Pound.

What was your inspiration for this book?

Wildnis is about strength, survival and civil disobedience: the strength of character to abandon all you know for the unknown; the ability to survive isolation and hardship; and the vision to fight for your rights. Imagine travelling from Europe to the Canadian wilderness in 1926 to marry a man you’ve never met. Imagine carving out a life beyond civilization in the northern forest and lake country of British Columbia. Imagine the hard, backbreaking work. Imagine the privation that can drive you away or drive you mad. Imagine loving the adventure in this young, wild land, only to be told after twenty years that you’re going to be flooded out by your government. This novel was inspired by Else Lübcke-Seel (1894-1973).

What are your short term and long term goals with this book?

The long and short: to create an audience for the ideas in this novel. To show readers how little the human race has changed over millennia — we are still dominated by warrior culture.

What, if any, challenges did you face in writing this book?

The challenge in writing this novel was to explore complex ideas and an intellectually complex protagonist in everyday terms: Isa Luise Essler is a German writer and intellectual. She immigrated to Canada to marry the trapper and prospector, Wil See. It is now 1946, the Second World War is over and “progress” is king. Because of this post-war mindset Isa Luise and Wil are fighting the fight of their lives. While trying to keep the Nechako Dam Project from flooding their valley, Isa Luise is also corresponding with the incarcerated American poet, Ezra Pound. This is the territory I’ve paced out in my novel, Wildnis. Why, you might ask? It’s a question I have put to myself on days when the words refuse to be captured on the page, or the screen for that matter. But on most days when I research and contemplate, imagine and write, I’m fascinated by questions that bespeak the human condition. Questions that have always been part of our psyche: Where do I belong? How will I make a place for myself? I’ve followed the torturous path of these questions in Wildnis for two reasons: one creative, the other personal. As a thinker and a writer words are my compass, they help me find my way toward a better understanding of the world. As someone who has chosen to live in the country, the high country, I watch as the city encroaches, subdivision by subdivision, on the landscape to which I belong. Imagining a place called Satoo Valley, imagining people who have chosen to live there, imagining the threat to their way of life has brought me closer to understanding my own sense of belonging. But this realization has come at a price. Researching this novel has also awakened a sense of powerlessness in the face of unrelenting Progress. And how does an American poet convicted of treason fit into this picture? Let’s just say that he thought he could reason with mad men. Pound believed in the power of words, as do I, as does my protagonist, but Pound paid dearly for his belief – 12 years behind locked doors in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Ezra Pound’s crime – he spoke out against the Second World War as a citizen of the world. Belonging can be complicated.

What, if any, research did you do for this book?

I did extensive research into: the historical context, war, world war on all levels; politics; social and cultural ideas of the time; 19th & 20th century literature, art, philosophy; the setting, northern British Columbia, and the period 1900-1955; the Kenney Dam Project; prospecting, mining, trapping, homesteading, farming, ranching, pioneering women, the rural school system; German culture, art, literature, language; Ezra Pound and 20th century poetry. And any detail big or small for the sake of authenticity. I researched in person the papers of Else Lübcke-Seel that are held in the archives of The University of Victoria, including some of her letters to and from Ezra Pound.

With whom do you reside?

My partner: a wildlife biologist who has worked on environmental issues in the Canadian north; an accomplished mountain climber who has scaled peaks around the world.

Where do you currently reside? Is there anything special about where you reside?

I live in ranching country in the Rocky Mountain foothills west of Calgary, Alberta. The mountains loom large on my horizon and not only dictate the weather but also my sense of awe.

Do you have any special hobbies, sports or pastimes that you would like your readers to know about?

I’m a painter with a studio attached to my home. I hike, ski, snowshoe and kayak.