An interview with John Yunker, author of WHERE OCEANS HIDE THEIR DEAD

Finally, the long-awaited sequel to The Tourist Trail is here. Where Oceans Hide Their Dead, which can be read as a stand-alone novel as well, picks up where The Tourist Trail left off (which is all we can say here, in case you haven’t yet read The Tourist Trail). Hailed as “an epic, gripping, charming novel” by Jasmin Singer of VegNews and Our Hen House, this passionate, adventurous novel about living on the edge of society and love in all its myriad forms is available now from Ashland Creek Press.

Q: What made you decide to write a sequel to The Tourist Trail?

A: My millions of readers demanded it. (Kidding.) Actually, readers of The Tourist Trail will know that this first novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. And I was just as curious to know what happened next. So here we are, eight years later, following Robert as he travels to another country.

Q: What inspired the characters you chose for Where Oceans Hide Their Dead?

A: I’m continually inspired by animal-rights activists. The work they do is heroic. But unlike those who risk their lives for their fellow humans, those who risk their lives for animals are treated as criminals and terrorists. I want to show what they’re up against, as well as the emotional toll of what they deal with. It’s not easy living on the fringes of society.

Q: Was the process of writing different this time around?

A: The second book was more difficult than the first. Partly because the issues hit closer to home, literally and figuratively. And partly because the characters themselves face difficult journeys.

Q: Who are some of your favorite environmental writers?

A: My favorite environmental writers aren’t often referred to as “environmental,” but they very much are. I greatly admire writers such as Annie Proulx (Barkskins) and Carol Adams (The Sexual Politics of Meat). Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit of Tim Winton; there is an environmental streak in much of his writing as well, such as in Eyrie. Other writers that are as relevant now as they were when they first published are Rachel Carson, Brigid Brophy, Upton Sinclair. And I have to call out Midge Raymond’s novel My Last Continent, as well as the writers we’ve published at Ashland Creek Press. There are many amazing short story authors featured in our two Among Animals anthologies that are deserving of huge audiences. I’m most attracted to writing that places human and non-human animals on equal footing, or dares to place non-human animals on higher footing.

Q: What do you hope readers will take with them after reading Oceans?

A: I hope they are energized to help take up the fight for animals and the planet — a fight that concerns us all now more than ever.

Q: Is there another book featuring FBI agent Robert Porter in the works?

A: I’m afraid so. But, like Oceans, it might take some time.

Author John Yunker

Learn more about The Tourist Trail here; check out Where Oceans Hide Their Dead here. Both are available at the Ashland Creek Press bookstore, at an indie bookstore near you, and via online retailers.

Q&A with WRITING FOR ANIMALS contributor Beth Lyons

Beth Lyons’s essay “Real Advocacy within Fantasy Worlds” appears in Writing for Animals.

 

Q: In what ways has your writing changed as your knowledge and awareness of animals has evolved?

A: I am primarily a genre writer — fantasy and science fiction — and my early work was pre-vegan. I didn’t always include meat eating or animal use in those stories; I didn’t  really think about it one way or another. As my understanding of veganism and its impact grew, I was able to use that knowledge to shape stories, and now I find it difficult to include meat-eating, hunting, and animal usage in my writing.

Genre lends itself splendidly to exploring all aspects of veganism, from the impact on the environment and on the human slaughterhouse workers to the sentience of animals, the physical impact to the body from eating animals, and the unsustainability of raising animals for food. My fantasy writing tends to focus more on the physical and emotional damage to humans and animals, my science fiction on the damage to the environment and impracticality of the current meat-based food system.

Q: What is the most important thing you feel writers should keep in mind as they write about animals?

A: “Tell a good story.” If you don’t write a compelling tale with memorable characters, no one will want to read it anyway, and your message and insights will be lost to the audience. This doesn’t mean that vegan values and information have to take a backseat, but the story and characters need room to become what they must. Character motivation, tension, and desire drive the story; all the vegan information you want to give your reader will come, and that illumination is the inevitable result of these characters and situations that you’ve created playing out in their own time and pace.

Q: Which authors/books do you feel do a good job of realistically and compassionately portraying the lives of animals?

A: I was riveted by Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. The narrator, Rosemary, is human but we feel the depth of her love and loss. In addition, I have to mention Richard Adams. His books Watership Down and The Plague Dogs touched me deeply. He was a master storyteller.

 

Q: Your essay addresses the very essential aspect of what fictional characters eat and how to portray this authentically. What authors/books do you most admire for their portrayals of vegan characters?

A: First, there are not enough vegan characters out there! Many novels have vegetarian characters — the Eargon series by Christopher Paolini is a popular example. I also love Ruth Ozeki’s work. But E.D.E Bell’s Spireseeker is a great example of fantasy novel with a true vegan character — main character, even! Beryl is an elf, and in Bell’s universe, elves are vegan. Animal agency and sentience are explored as the novel unfolds, and because veganism is a core part of the elven culture and identity, it comes up again and again as Beryl navigates the world around her.

Beth Lyons is a former English literature teacher, award-winning poet, and traveler who now lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. She is the author of three fantasy novels and three science fiction novellas, all available via Amazon Kindle. In addition, she is a fiction editor, teaches workshops on editing and creative writing, and currently moderates an online writing forum.