The Next Chapter

Robert J. Wiersema on why he writes about darkness in Black Feathers

Robert J. Wiersema's third novel, Black Feathers, is the kind of story that gets a grip on you from page one.
Robert Wiersema's third novel, Black Feathers, is yet another page turner.

Robert J. Wiersema's third novel, Black Feathers, is the kind of story that gets a grip on you from page one. The thriller follows Cassandra Weathers, a savvy 16-year-old who is forced to flee home and ends up on the streets of Victoria, British Columbia. Cassandra's life continues on a downward spiral when the new community she forms on the street is threatened by a vicious serial killer.

"First, that's when I write. The midnight hours between 3 AM and 6 AM when the world is asleep are a great time to write. So that's the environment that I'm in. The reason it works so well for me is because the darkness is a liminal time. There's a permeability between waking and dreaming. There's a great line in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, 'There are other worlds than this.' And that's something I gravitate toward in my writing. The darkness brings that forward. It allows an easier transition between those worlds."

"Sock monkeys are genuinely creepy: those button eyes, the way they look at you. It's an outgrowth of other inanimate objects, the traditional horror trope of porcelain dolls. Mr. Monkey [as the toy is named in the novel] is a childhood fetish object for Cassie. Mr. Monkey is one of the few things she's brought with her. He's important, not least of which because we know in the prologue he factors in her night terrors. Mr. Monkey's been with her the whole time, when things were bad for Cassie and when things got worse. It plays with that sort of dichotomy the same way relationships do in the book. They're both friendly, potentially comforting and at the same time potentially threatening."

"Victoria is a great city to write about because of its history as both a tourist destination and a retirement destination. It has a certain crystallized image in the world and it's one where if you spend any time here at all you realize isn't entirely accurate. The first time I came here, I was as a tourist. Then I came as a student, and there was a whole different world. Starting in September, Victoria is essentially a college town. The demographics shift so significantly. There's a really popular music scene, there's a literary scene, an artistic scene. But underneath that is gritty Victoria, where Black Feathers is set. Victoria has a tremendous problem with the homeless, with addiction, with lack of facilities to help these people. Because of its climate and reputation, Victoria becomes a different kind of destination. People who are living in the streets will make their way here because it's easier to survive on the streets in Victoria."

Robert J. Wiersema's comments have been edited and condensed. This interview was originally broadcast on November 9, 2015.