A Conversation With Nevada Barr
Q. How do you choose the settings for your novels?
A. In the beginning of the series, I wrote about the parks I had worked in. Since retiring parks have a number of ways of creeping into my consciousness. First, are they a good place to die? Second, do I know anybody there I can use as a contact to weasel my way into the heart of things?
Q. What was the inspiration behind the creation of Anna Pigeon?
A. Anna was conceived as my alter ego when I was working as a law enforcement ranger in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. Track of the Cat, the first book, was not written as the first in a series, but as an expression of who I was then set amid murder and mayhem. Since then, Anna has evolved into her own person.
Q. In Flashback, Anna is considering marriage. Does this mean she'll be settling down? Where will she go next?
A. Anna may marry I haven't decided yetbut settle down? Never! The next book is set in Yosemite National Park and tentatively titled High Country. The superintendent there is a friend of mine and he very kindly arranged for me to spend some time horse packing in the backcountry with Laurel Boyers, a wonderful ranger who really is the heart and soul of Anna Pigeon. It will be out in the spring of 2004.
Q. Anna seems to love diving. Do you share her fascination with the underwater world?
A. Yes, no doubt about it. In the water, there is a fabulous realm where we are not designed or equipped to tread, a place inhabited by creatures so bizarre and fierce and beautiful that they would beggar Isaac Asimov's imagination that I cannot resist. The sea both attracts and terrifies me. Diving is not only a way into this world but enhances one of my favorite neuroses, claustrophobia.
Q. Flashback has historical aspect, as well as the mystery that Anna must deal with. How was the writing of this novel different from your past work? Was it any harder?
A. In FlashbackI had the great fun of writing from the first person for the historical chapters and of creating a world very different from those Anna and I have been wandering in all these years. To do a totally different form and character was marvelously refreshing. The difficulty lay in tying the two mysteries together in a believable way and in capturing in words and language the feel of the 1860s without being stiff or pretentious.
Q. How did you make the leap from acting to rangering?
A. I'd been acting professionally for about 10 years and interested in the environmental movement for seven of those. I was making a living as an actor (a minor miracle) but I'd reached my peak. Meryl Streep was not losing sleep for fear I would show up at an audition for a part she wanted. In working seasonally for the NPS I could continue to make my living acting and still have a connection with the real world. Once I'd begun the parks stole my heart and acting went by the wayside.
Q. Of all the parks you have worked or visited, which is your favorite? Would Anna settle near one of her beloved parks?
A. I've never been able to pick a favorite. They are, literally, incomparable. For canoeing you can't beat Voyageur or the Everglades, for climbing Rocky Mountain and Yosemite are unbelievable, for diving it's St. John and Dry Tortugas. They are so different and so perfect each in their own way. Anna might live near one but settle? I don't think so . . .
Q. Anna Pigeon is a wonderful series, but do you plan to write another series, maybe of a different genre?
A. I love the idea of writing a different series, historical mysteries perhaps. And I've written a book of spiritual meditations, Seeking Enlightenment Hat by Hat, which will be out summer of 2003, but I've no real plans. At present I have just vague yearnings.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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