Liz Meredith interviews Kris Farmen: Turn Again

released by VP&D House, Kris Farmen’s second novel Turn Again is set in
Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula in the late 1800’s. Shortly after Seward’s
Purchase, it’s a time when the
the highway, and when
Alaska’s indigenous people were battling to
preserve their lifestyles after the Americans arrive, intent on taking over.  Author Don Rearden calls Turn Again “a
spellbinding masterpiece… an authentic glimpse at a time when humanity was
forsaken in the name of progress.”

Here, Liz Meredith interviews the author. 

did Turn Again come into being? What sparked your imagination?
I used to work as a field archaeologist and historian for
the Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, where I was assigned the task of
preparing an assessment of historic cabins in the Kenai National Wildlife
Refuge.  Part of this involved researching and writing a history of
Kenai Peninsula and
the greater
Cook Inlet
area.  Somewhere along the way I became fascinated by the culture and
society of the Russian Creoles who constituted the main part of the colonial
Russian citizenry, and the seeds for Turn
 were sown.  But there was another spark, namely the
view from the house in
Anchorage where
I grew up.  From the deck you can see
, Point Possession, Chickaloon Bay, and
the mountains near Resurrection Creek, all locations in the
book.  The sunsets were (and are) amazing, and it was a pleasant
reverie to imagine the story unfolding under sunsets that were just as

How did
you do the research for this book?
The research was dictated by the needs of the Kenai cabin
assessment project, rather than the novel, and the esoteric government research
doesn’t exactly make for riveting blog copy.  But the historian in me
is inclined to answer by mentioning my sources.  I started with H. H.
Bancroft’s history of
published in the 1880s, though his conclusions are often regarded by modern
historians as being dubious.  (He got a lot of his information from a
gentleman named Ivan Petrov, who was what you might call a liar for all
occasions, but that’s a story for another time.)  I also learned a great
deal from Mary Barry’s A History of
Mining on the Kenai Peninsula
, and Alaska’s
Number One Guide: The Journals of Andrew Berg
 by Catherine Cassidy and
Gary Titus, as well as several archaeological reports of excavations at
Squilant town on the upper
Kenai River in the
1980s.  The writings of Peter Kalifornsky and Shem Pete were
prominent in the research, as was Andrei Znamenski’s Through Orthodox Eyes.  I also want to credit Aaron
Leggett, a Dena’ina historian at the
Anchorage Museum, for
his kind, knowledgeable, and speedy responses to my questions.

How do
you approach the editing process as you write a new book? Do you have someone
who reads your work in progress?
Nobody reads my work while it’s in progress; I’m a bit of a
stickler for that.  I can only see it as a recipe for a novel written
by committee.  Every writer works differently of course, but
artistically speaking I think you’re far better off just regurgitating what’s
in your mind onto the page, if you’ll pardon the earthy metaphor.  I
worry about editing when it’s time to edit, which is when the first draft
is done.

What is
the message you want readers to get from Turn Again?
I’d like readers from Alaska to
gain a sense of the fact that
Alaska did
not suddenly spring into existence with Seward’s Purchase or the
Klondike gold
rush, and also perhaps to acquire an understanding that there’s a lot more to
Alaska than
snow machines and shotguns and old black and white photographs of
prospectors.  There was a society already here – multiple societies,
actually.  An entire world was dismantled to build the
Alaska we
live in today, and for the most part the people of the world that came before
got no say in the matter.  We obviously can’t change the past, but we
can resolve to do better in the future. 

What is
your advice to writers who are discouraged about their chances of ever getting
Keep writing and sending your work out.  You may
never get the success you desire—that’s a reality you must be willing to
face—but quitting the game is the best way to be one hundred percent certain
you’ll never attain it.  So much is changing in publishing these
days, and new opportunities are opening up all the time if you keep your eyes
peeled for them.  Keep in mind that you have to write because you
love it, because you’re compelled to do it by forces you don’t entirely
understand, and not because you think it’s a good gig.  Artistic
integrity is often a bruised and battered prizefighter, a result of the
compromises we all have to make in life, but the fight is a noble
one.  All the same, though, there is no artistic vision that cannot
be improved by the help of a good editor.
How can
people buy Turn Again?
Right now in Anchorage it’s
at Dos Manos on Northern Lights, more or less across from the REI mall.  It
should be available in
Fairbanks at
Gulliver’s Books by the time this interview goes to press.  It’ll
find its way onto more shelves in the coming months.  You can also
order it directly from the publisher at  Digital versions are available
from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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