Books

Carol Rose GoldenEagle on the sinister things you learn while writing a thriller

Bone Black, Carol Rose GoldenEagle's first thriller, is about an Indigenous woman named Wren who seeks justice in the name of her missing sister.
Bone Black is a novel by Carol Rose GoldenEagle. (Nightwood Editions)

When her twin sister Raven goes missing, Wren StrongEagle immediately reports it to the local police. Feeling dismissed and worrying the case won't be investigated properly, Wren launches into action and decides to find justice on her own.

Bone Black is Carol Rose GoldenEagle's first thriller. The Cree and Dene author and journalist's previous books include the novel Bearskin Diary and poetry collection Hiraeth.

Below, she shares how she wrote Bone Black.

Time for action

"I was in the media for 32 years before I started writing full-time. I remember being a young journalist back in the 1990s, when the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People was called. There was extensive consultation across Canada about things that we need to do. I remember being excited about that.

As a former journalist and as a First Nations woman, I'm just a little tired of people talking about stuff but never doing anything.

But the commission filed its report and the report's just sitting there still. Very little has been done, even though that happened decades ago. Then again, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission went around, with extensive consultation. The inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women also filed a report. We didn't hear anything about that in the last federal election. As a former journalist and as a First Nations woman, I'm just a little tired of people talking about stuff but never doing anything."

Thinking of those who have been lost

"Every single day, when I log on to Facebook, there's a story from somewhere about another woman who's gone missing. I'm sure it's been happening for decades. It's just we never talked about it 20, 30 years ago. I'm glad we're talking about it now.

Every single day, when I log on to Facebook, there's a story from somewhere about another woman who's gone missing.

"I also have a friend. His daughter had been murdered. I can't even imagine something like that happening in my life. It would be devastating. But he found his way toward acceptance and forgiveness. But then he was saying, 'I used to be a drunk and I know if I was still drinking' — he'd been sober for decades — 'If I'd still been drinking, I know I would have gotten my shotgun and hunted that guy down.' I thought about all these things and I decided to create a character, Wren StrongEagle, who is tired of waiting and decides, 'I'm going to take matters into my own hands.'

"As a writer, it was about me getting out of a comfort zone. A crime story with elements of mythology and horror writing. It was a delight for me to try something different."

The Cree/Dene writer and journalist Carol Rose GoldenEagle on her thriller Bone Black, about an Indigenous woman who takes justice into her own hands when the system fails her. 16:14

New skills

"I had to learn how to kill people. It was the weirdest thing. I have a border collie and we walk probably two hours every day. I do a lot of thinking and observing. The land where I live is prominent in the novel and there's a scene about how the lake helps to cover up evidence.

"Thankfully, my doctor has been my doctor for a long time because he knows I'm a writer. Last year, I was talking to him about insulin and what would happen if you injected insulin into somebody who is not diabetic. Can you kill someone with insulin? H was saying, 'Well, why are you asking?' We had a chat and he gave me some information to look up.

It was a delight for me to try something different.

"Pottery as well. I have taken pottery classes, so that's where I got the idea for disposing of bodies, using the kiln almost as a crematorium. I'm in no way a great potter. But I have friends who are. I spent a lot of time chatting with friends about the temperatures that you would need to to achieve this."

Inspired by strong Indigenous women

"It bothers me as an Indigenous woman, but also as a writer, that our First Nations, Métis and Inuit women are always basically portrayed as victims. Whether it's in film, literature, the news media, wherever you look. I wanted to create the character of Wren is because she's absolutely not a victim. I thought that was an important message to put out there.

I wanted to create the character of Wren is because she's absolutely not a victim. I thought that was an important message to put out there.

"There are so many wonderful, strong women who absolutely go out of their way to build community, to build bridges within communities, make the world a better place. They're beautiful women and I thought about them and those are the traits of Kohkum, the grandmother of Wren and Raven. They're all strong. They all have some sort of darkness in their own personal backgrounds, but have found ways to move beyond it. Embracing our First Nations culture, that's where it starts. Developing those characters was not difficult because I have so many wonderful role models, right across Canada. Women who are building. I took their traits and put it into the fictional characters that I created."

Carol Rose GoldenEagle's comments have been edited for length and clarity. You can see more interviews from the How I Wrote It series here.

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