Native Voices: Cherie Dimaline Talks About Her Love of Story

By AJ Eversole

Today we are honored to welcome veteran author Cherie Dimaline to the blog to discuss the people who inspire her and her love of story. Her latest novel, Hunting By Stars (Abrams Kids/Penguin Teen, 2021), released last month.

What do you love most about the creative life/being an author? Why?

I grew up in a community of storytellers. They were a part of everything we did—dinners, hunting trips, parties, even in times of crisis. The thing I love most about writing is story. I love everything about story—listening, learning, creating, studying. Stories are the most honest way to understand people and places. They are the keys to knowledge. And with the study and learning of story comes the opportunities to travel, to meet other storytellers, to learn and grow. It’s honestly the best way I could imagine spending a lifetime; getting underneath the surface, beyond the brochure version, and into the cellular architecture of it all.

What appeals to you about writing for the YA age group?

There are readers and then there are YA readers. Young readers are a harder group to access—they are picky, have limited time and attention to spare and are quick to move on. But they are also passionate and involved, and if you do manage to capture their imagination, they are ardent and loyal. They ask the best questions and drive you to do better as a writer.

Having young readers means having a direct line to future leaders. You get the opportunity to help inform their opinions, to introduce new perspectives and histories, to offer alternatives and educate through emotion and connection. It is honestly a privilege to be a part of a young person’s library.

What writers have influenced your writing the most?

Oh, so many. The key to being a good writer is reading diversely, reading everything, reading outside of your comfort zone. In that respect, the writers who have influenced me are varied: Charles Bukowski for his emotional imagery; Maria Campbell for her language medicine; Dostoevsky for his epic narratives; Heather O’Neil for her magical worlds. These days I’m reading more and more screenplays and people like Taika Waititi and Barry Jenkins are just blowing me away.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a witchy novel, three YA books, adapting one of my books for screen, one of my books for the stage (opera!) and developing a new TV series and a feature with a producer I really respect. There’s a lot going on. For me, the trick is to match up the stories in my head with the mediums at my disposal. So that means I am always looking for new mediums. For example, I just learned how to write a libretto and for the first time heard a brilliant soprano (Karen Slack) sing my words. Friends, I wept.

Cherie’s office featuring Hecate, about to fight the printer.

I am also getting to the point in my career where I am thinking about mentorship. I have benefitted from such brilliant mentors in my life in every aspect and I want to be able to pass that along. So I am always keeping my feelers out for someone who might want to take what I’ve learned and build their own world(s) with whatever can help.

Do you have any tips for debut authors about balancing the roles of author and writer?

Keep some things for yourself. Being a writer at this time often means being fully transparent. Social media and online connectivity lays so much bare. But you have to hold back a piece of yourself, the piece that holds your stories in their most essential form, otherwise, what is left to write from?

All I’ve ever wanted to be, my entire life, is an author. That’s it, there was never a Plan B. So, I need to remind myself of this advice- the keep the place you write from for yourself. That’s not being selfish. That’s being human.

Writing from her hammock.

Cynsational Notes

Cherie Dimaline is an author from the Georgian Bay Metis Community in Canada. Her 2017 book, The Marrow Thieves, won the Governor General’s Award and the prestigious Kirkus Prize for Young Readers, among others. The Marrow Thieves was named a Book of Year on numerous lists, including the National Public Radio, the School Library Journal, the New York Public Library, the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, and the CBC, has been translated into several languages, and continues to be a Canadian national bestseller years later. Cherie lives in Canada, where she is adapting work for stage and film and working on her new novels. Hunting By Stars is her most recent novel.

AJ Eversole covers children’s-YA writing, illustration, publishing and other book news from indigenous authors and illustrators for Cynsations. She grew up in rural Oklahoma, a place removed from city life and full of opportunities to nurture the imagination. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and writes primarily Young Adult fiction. She currently resides in Fort Worth, Texas with her husband. Follow her on Instagram @ajeversole or Twitter @amjoyeversole