Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Pam Withers

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Pam Withers

Pam Withers is the author of First Descent (Tundra Books), an adventurous tale about an American-born kayaker caught up in a Colombian conflict.

Pam Withers talks with Open Book about wild rivers, collaborating with an anthropologist and the book that stayed with her from childhood.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book.

Pam Withers:

One of the world’s last great wild rivers remains unconquered. Only one man has ever attempted to kayak it: Rex’s legendary, domineering grandfather. At 17, Rex is determined to conquer it in hopes of carrying on the family legacy. He flies to South America and hires Myriam, an attractive female guide with her own agenda — and secrets — who shrugs off his advances. Then Myriam abandons Rex. Chasing his grandfather’s footsteps brought him this far, but now he must re-examine his motivations and find a way down the Furioso River.

OB:

What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

PW:

Finding information on indigenous peoples of Colombia, and writing from the point of view of one of them. This I did through intensive research and working closely with a Colombian anthropologist, who translated some of the material I needed.

OB:

With what character (or characters) in your book do you most identify?

PW:

As a longtime whitewater kayaker, I understand Rex, but as a woman, I can also identify with Myriam.

OB:

For what age group are you most drawn to writing?

PW:

Teens!

OB:

What recurring themes do you notice turning up in your writing?

PW:

All my books focus on sports and adventure, and several touch on racism. This embraces both, perhaps more intensely than the others.

OB:

What book did you read as a child or young adult that has stayed with you into adulthood?

PW:

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, a wilderness survival tale published in 1959

OB:

Who are some people who have deeply influenced (fellow writers or not) your writing life?

PW:

Farley Mowatt, Gary Paulsen, Will Hobbs, Willard Price, Robin Hanbury Tenison

OB:

What are you working on now?

PW:

Two more teen adventure novels, and a book for parents about getting boys to read.


Pam Withers is the author of fifteen bestselling outdoor-adventure novels for teens, several nominated for awards. A former whitewater kayak instructor and raft guide, she spent twenty years as a journalist and editor. She speaks extensively across North America and is co-founder of Keen Readers. She has one son and lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband, a university professor.

For more information about First Descent please visit the Tundra website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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