Lawrence Hill's northern inspiration


First aired on Airplay (22/03/12)

Lawrence Hill hasn't finished working on his latest book (entitled Illegal) just yet, but he's already thinking about his next big novel.

The Book of Negroes and Any Known Blood author has been up north in Dawson City, taking part in the writers' retreat program at Berton House. He's taken advantage of the opportunity to get a head start on researching a new work of historical fiction, based on the participation of 3,500 African-American soldiers in building the Alaska highway and the Canol Pipeline during the Second World War.
"I'm really interested in that story of the experiences of African-Americans drawn up from the deep south and segregated military conditions building that road and the pipeline."

Hill said being in the Yukon has been a boon. "One nice thing about being in the Yukon while working on this research is I've been able to meet people and collect information about books and basically identify the key areas of research I'll dig into when I'm free in about a year to start that book."

Hill hasn't travelled much in Northern Canada; before arriving at Berton House, his only previous foray into the region was a trip to Whitehorse for a writers' festival. He's found his stay to be a fascinating, "alien" experience for someone who grew up in Toronto.

"One of things I'll wanna do is travel the entire length of that [Alaska] highway. Maybe I could cook up some deal where book clubs invite me in to give a reading and talk and spend the night and just kinda work my way up the Alaska highway and stopping in book clubs all along the way or something. That'd be fun."