Writing Out Of My Comfort Zone – Katherine Dell

Harmless_JustFrontCover_Final This week, friend and author Katherine Dell is taking over my blog to tell you about her intriguing, upcoming book. Over to you, Kathy…

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog about stepping out of my comfort zone. I talked about facing my fears and taking the plunge into the uncertain, because … great things don’t come from inside your comfort zone! That blog post was centered on me finally learning to ski, which for some reason, I was petrified to learn how. Hey, turning into a human snow boulder is a real fear! It could happen! Any who, I’m getting distracted from what I really wanted to talk about … writing out of your comfort zone!

In my novel, Harmless, I’ve taken a daring step and written out of my comfort zone.  Sure, writing, sharing and publishing  a book is not always roses. We all know that. But have you ever considered writing on a topic that might be a little touchy? Why would anyone choose to write about something that could prove difficult? Well, as any writer might tell you, when the muse takes you, you’ve got to write it.

I’m fascinated by Canadian Native folklore. For my novel, I was inspired by the northeastern folklore about wendigos, and the western lore about white spirit animals. Both the wendigo and spirit animal stories are based in both fact and lore.

When Canada was first settled, the first reported cases of wendigo syndrome were recorded. The syndrome being, people resorted to cannibalism in an effort to survive the harsh winters. In Canada, there were wendigo hunters, similar to the witch hunters in the southern United States. The Hunter captured and killed those with wendigo syndrome.


The Native population, on the other hand, believed that these people with the syndrome were possessed by an evil spirit and that they could be cured. I also found lore about the afflicted not eating their victims, but taking their souls.

Sounds pretty dark, I know, but this is only what inspired my work, not the whole story.

To lighten things up, I incorporated uplifting tales about spirit animals. Instead of coloured fur or feathers, spirit animals are born completely white. Scientifically speaking, it’s a recessive gene that removes pigment. These animals are very rare, showing up around the world in various species. Curiously enough, there is a large population of spirit animals (white bears) in northern British Columbia. They are black bears born white, and named Kermode bears.


So with all this inspiration, I had a great story in mind! But I was faced with the sensitive realities of drawing lines between truth and fiction, while incorporating Native cultural lore that spanned a whole country. How was I to make sure I kept respect for the original culture while knitting my own characters and plot into it? I researched, I traveled, I consulted with people who knew more than me, and I edited.

I took all this ‘muse’ and created something that I hope is respectful, while also entertaining. It still gives me butterflies to think it might offend someone, but then again, I think I’ve done my due diligence with the best of intentions. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and written something I’m proud of, daring to go where some would not.

Here’s to hoping it turns out well and if not, I leave you with this quote.

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”  Jo Godwin

Happy writing everyone!

Katherine Dell

Graeme's note: Kathy's book, and the research and inspiration behind it, sounds fascinating. Follow her to learn more and to get first news of a publication date. I for one, can't wait to read it.

Katherine (42)Katherine Dell

Katherine Dell is a young adult fiction writer working on her first novel. She also hopes to publish a prequel, graphic novel series to her novel series, Harmless. Katherine takes every opportunity to hone her skills as a writer, including courses from Mount Royal University, workshops and reading everything she can get her hands on. She is also a member of the Alberta Writers Guild. Katherine has called Alberta home her entire life, currently residing in Calgary with her husband and two sons.

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