This week we’re getting to know Moss Whelan, author of the fantasy adventure Gray Hawk of Terrapin. Not only is this world just as magical and fascinating as Hogwarts and Narnia, but the main character, Mool, and all her imaginary friends will charm you in an instant.
Gray Hawk of Terrapin is a heart-wrenching Y/A fantasy by Moss Whelan that introduces Melanie (Mool) Fraser. Ever since her father’s death, Mool has been talking with an imaginary green lion named Inberl. When Mool s mysterious uncle gets sick, she and her mother take the train from Vancouver, Canada to the inner world of Terrapin, where Inberl is arrested because he s looking for Gray Hawk. Springing into action, Mool sets out to rescue Inberl. Mool’s know-it-all cousin, Olga, helps track down family friend Parshmander who might know how to save Inberl. They corner Parshmander at home, where they overhear mention of Gray Hawk, but the girls are captured and interrogated. Upon release, Mool feels success when she sees a secret map, finds a hidden bridge and crosses it with Olga. On the other side of the bridge, they find a secret city that keeps Terrapin at war. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey laced with evil, chronicling histories of cruelty, kidnapping, and false imprisonment in search of meaning and justice.
Moss Whelan (1968) born in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the Canadian author of Gray Hawk of Terrapin published on January the 12th, 2018. He is an English Literature Bachelor of Arts, a Creative Writing Associate, and possesses a Diploma in Writing for Film, Television, and Interactive Media. He is active in the online Fantasy community and teaches Creative Writing. His work depicts a return to transcendent self-esteem in contrast with worldviews that shape perceived reality. He received the President’s Award at Douglas College and the M. Sheila O’Connel Undergraduate Prize in Children’s Literature at Simon Fraser University. A survivor of PTSD, he hopes to be a voice for continued access to mental health.
1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.
My name is Moss Whelan. I’m Canadian. I grew up in a kind of hippy / commune environment that had its pros and cons. I’m middle-aged so I keep seeing damsels in shining armor and knights in distress. The more I write, the more I realize that I’m working on my Self (the archetype of oneness). Every day I ride my wooden horse that looks suspicously like a desk into the world of the psyche. On a grander scale, I’m in a dialogue with the reader and asking how we can turn away from the outside world (or at least balance it) and focus on the world within.
You As A Reader
2. When did you first fall in love with books?
It’s been a love / hate relationship. My mother was a librarian, and I was always prying her nose out of mystery novels and feminist SFF like Mists of Avalon and Left Hand of Darkness. My step-father was an English major and there was always the presence of high brow lit’ as well as the trashy pulp he loved like Conan, Elric of Melnibone, and Cthulhu. Dune by Frank Herbert was required reading. In a sense, I’m still vying for my parent’s attention.
3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?
I have a weird relationship with The Hobbit because I didn’t read it first. I listened to it on an old vinyl record as a kind of bedtime story. So the book was oral / audio first, with a machine telling me all kinds of horrible things like Trolls were going to eat the wonderful Mister Baggins, then Gollum was going to eat Mister Baggins, then Spiders, and then a Dragon! What makes it my favourite is what it did in my mind. For brief moments of made belief, I was there. It was real. I was transported.
4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?
It’s less of the actual book that changed me and more the relationship that continues to change me. After hearing The Hobbit, and then seeing the animated movie (which is one half of the story) I desperately wanted to know how the story ended. As an elementary student, I read the trilogy and hurdled the words I didn’t understand. And then I wanted to know who did this thing. Who was this person? So I read the Father Christmas letters. I learned that the author’s father had died, that he had left the country he’d been born in, and that he had been in a war. I wanted to somehow get back to that place that he had introduced me to, that Deep England that doesn’t exist but we desperately know, so I studied Beowulf because that was where Smaug came from. I read “On Fairie Stories”, where the author talked about a Return to that place we’ve all lost, and then I began writing my own story.
5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?
Candide by Voltaire is the last book I read. I have difficulty reading, so slim reads are preferable. When I’m doing constructive criticism on writing, I’m able to go deep but not very far. I’m great at checking first chapters or scenes but lousy at full novels. I have no current favorite book; another writer pointed out that writers wear goggles (looking at structure, etc.) whereas readers are more about broad strokes. Mechanics versus drivers. So, I’m all about a well-designed, cleaned, oiled machine. Candide is a philosophical work that is equal parts comedy of errors, parody, and sauciness. I keep wanting to dis it, but it does what a story is supposed to do.
6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?
Hemingway but not for the obvious reasons. I don’t like it when people say R.I.P. about suicides. I want to grab him by the jugular and get to the heart of the matter. “Hemingway,” I would say, “Cut the bull. Let’s talk about your mental health. Why are people so ashamed of asking for help?” But I already know how incapable people can be about addressing mental health. “Hemingway,” I will say, “Let’s take self-doubt and self-hate by the horns. Let’s stop promoting a self image of inner poverty—to children, adults, and the elderly. Let’s hold advertising / news / media accountable for our mental health. Let’s write a happy ending.”
You As A Writer
7. When did you first know you were a writer?
I first knew I was a writer (or wanted to be one) in the mid 90’s. I was around twenty-five years old and it was somewhere between writing my first manuscript. It was more of a novella, now that I’m looking at it. I remember being surrounded by dead end job, and I was looking at a Clive Barker novel (Weaveworld) and realizing that someone had been paid to do something amazing. It is obviously not easy to do such a thing—I mean anyone can write a book, few can write a good story, and even fewer can get published. But I remember that was where the first kernel of the idea began to sprout. On one hand, however, it is a huge mistake because for the amount of time and frustration it is not worth it. But on the other hand, there’s that moment where you are in the zone and it means everything. Forget publishing. Writing is the motherlode. And when I’m writing what I love it’s all magic beans and carpet rides. Can I get a yee-haw up in here?
8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?
It was in elementary school. It was for a class assignment, and we were supposed to write a one page story focusing on scene. I remember it was hugely fantastical, visual, and exciting. The teacher had me stand up and read my work. I was blitheringly confused about the event, but my work had been praised and valued. But that was an oasis in the desert of my education. I didn’t experience that again until I pursued Creative Writing in college.
9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?
The most difficult part was working with my agent. I had to push aside my ego and collaborate. It was painful. The whole, “Kill your darlings,” notion is there. I had received constructive criticism in Creative Writing classes but this took it to a whole new level. And when the top twenty publishers said no—something kind of broke inside, in a good way. I think it was because I had pushed myself so far that I broke through even the idea of failure. People in New York publishing houses were reading my story. I should say “our” story, because I’m not an auteur. It’s not about genius—it’s about hard work. And even though they rejected me, and I was a failure, I had never been that high before. It’s like a baby falling down after the first step. And I stood up again.
10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?
“Write for the reader.” It’s so simple and yet so impossible. My ego wants to get in the way, and say, “Me. It’s about me. This is what I think,” and it takes the world to tear the manuscript away from the dragon and say, “It’s about the reader.” The reader is the audience. The reader is everything. If they don’t like it, they won’t buy it. “But I made it!” says my ego. “It’s beautiful! It’s art!” And so I go and rewrite and try to imagine how the reader wants the story—not what the story is, but how it is told. In my case, I have to imagine a younger reader. And, I have to imagine what it would be like to be that age, get this tome, open it up, look at it, and read. But it’s also the opportunity to say to the children of my culture, “You mean everything.” And if I can just invest in that kid, and have them know that they are more valuable than gold, diamonds, or money, then we both win.
11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.
I had a teacher, a screenplay writing instructor actually, that said there was only one book that the writer works on. The story is the writer—meaning, the book is a reflection of the writer’s life, hopes, and concerns. And the writer (or artist) is always working on that story even though it seems to be a different book. Looking back over my manuscripts, I see me wrestling with me—with my life. There I am wrestling with finances. Now it’s morality, mortality, and another M -ity word. Of course it seems like a different book, but underneath the story is me.
Fun Stuff About You
12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?
I’m a space enthusiast. I love the final frontier. I don’t write sci-fi but it’s in my blood. I grew up watching Kirk, Spock, and Bones. I want to fly in space and travel the stars. That probably won’t happen, but one day it is possible that everyone will have that opportunity. That is where dreams are now, out there in the great unknown like a map where only the coastlines are known. I’ll go walking and wonder which stars are planets or ruminate over the spiraling, five-pointed orbit of Venus. I keep returning to the myths surrounding constellations that we still use to name rocket ships. Our history interweaves with wonder.
13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?
It’s between Fine Art and Psychology. I used to be more visual, but I’m on a mission in writing. I have places to “meet” and people to “go”. I would love to take time and lavish a canvas. Alternately, I would love to be in a room with a person and help them piece together their life—heal their mind. I suppose this is something I’m doing in writing. I am addressing the mind of the reader in a kind of therapy. And if it’s just a painting, that’s fine. But I want to make it obvious what my intentions are—especially if a reader walks away and realizes that they can do art, get inside their brain, and have a better life.
14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?
Hawaii is the immediate response. But it wouldn’t be the tourist trap Hawaii. I would be going to invest in the First Nation / Native Americans there. I’m not sure what form that would take, but I would be looking to push aside the symptom / tourist narrative and talk about what is really important. Natives everywhere are finding themselves culturally and ethnically threatened. It’s bitter sweet answering this question, because I love the notion of Deep Hawaii. It’s like the Shire—if I could only find that place that doesn’t exist I will be happy. And you get there and it’s Paris Syndrome all over again. I want the real thing, and I want to honor the real people and put the focus on them and their struggle to survive ethnocide.
15. How can people connect with you?
Let’s really connect. We are all distant cousins. Let’s treat each other like family. Why not be equal? Let’s really connect. Why are we fighting? Let’s grow up, spread our wings, and fly. Why not? Let’s end war, build a Moon base, and travel the stars. We can do it. Let’s be awesome, do this thing, and shine!
16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’d like to say fiction, especially Fantasy, isn’t escapism. Fiction, even if you don’t intend it to be, is political. Just like a neutral country, that stance is political. Perhaps say, one isn’t aware of the social engineering at work behind the scenes—but it is there. Even the act of escape is an expression of a desire for meaning. What are we escaping from? What are we looking for in this bastion of freedom and liberty that surrounds us? What is missing? We are all participants in society, and even though we don’t realize it, picking up a book—the very choice, selection, and recommendation—has the power to topple regimes, free enslaved minds, and promote the very best in human beings.
Thanks for letting us get to know you! I’m both excited and nervous to continue reading Mool’s story. Excited cause I love Mool. Nervous because I know I’m in for some heart crushing conflict.