Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler on writing an Indigenous horror story
Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler's debut novel, Wrist, is not for the faint of heart. The Indigenous monster story opens with a vicious attack by a mythological creature called Wiindigo, in which a man is literally torn limb from limb. The noted horror fan said he was inspired by the works of writers like Anne Rice and Tim Powers, who write about monsters from European folklore. Adler turned to his Indigenous roots to find his monster, the Wiindigo.
In his own words, Adler describes the making of Wrist, including the two paintings that helped inspire it.
"There was a painting that Norval Morrisseau did of the Wiindigo. I think it's a spoof on another painting — Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya — but instead of Saturn, it's the Wiindigo monster and he's grabbing beavers and swallowing them whole. He's this giant cannibal monster. I remember seeing that painting and being fascinated by it. I asked my mom about it and she told me stories about that monster in particular.
"When I started to write, I wanted to have illustrations in it so I have tons of drawings and illustrations that I did for the novel. We didn't end up including them because we thought it might distract from the text, but I have all these drawings of the main characters. It helped me realize the world a bit more."
"I read myths and stories and books about mythology. I wanted the family to be securely located in Anishinaabe worldview and cosmology. I did a lot of research into the mythology they would known about and wanted them to be really embedded in that world. Then I tried to develop my own rules about the supernatural world they live in. There's a guy out west, Nathan Carlson, he does a lot of research into Wiindigo psychosis, which is an actual historic disorder people would be diagnosed with. These people thought they were Wiindigos and would want to kill and eat people. Actual people were put on trial for being Wiindigo. Nathan Carlson writes about that from an Indigenous academic perspective. He has a personal connection to it with one of his ancestors. He was a really great resource for informing the story in terms of historical accuracy."
"One thing that surprised me was that one of the characters came out of nowhere. She took over the narrative a little bit and demanded that her story get told. I was like, 'I don't know where this character came from!' She just appeared and became a big part of the story. I think it's pretty cool when that happens."