Author Spotlight for December – Richard Van Camp

As we come to the close of our 30th anniversary year, we shine our final author spotlight on the incomparable Richard Van Camp. Richard, who is a proud Tlicho Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, has published numerous short story collections, novellas, graphic novels, and children’s books. His novel, The Lesser Blessed, was made into a feature film in 2012.

Way back, he published his very first short story collection with Kegedonce Press. In 2020, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of that collection, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, with a brand-new, redesigned edition.

Richard, who also happens to be one of the kindest and most generous people you could meet, sent some of his reflections about Angel Wing Splash Pattern (AWSP). Here is what he had to say.

“AWSP was my second book [after The Lesser Blessed]. I have 28 now out in the world.

“I think “My Fifth Step” from Angel Wing Splash Pattern is the one story that people still thank me for because we rarely talk about men’s healing and male grief in Indigenous Literature and it’s all there: in that short story. Most of my graphic novels deal with healing and I often return to that sense of self discovery when I work on graphic novels. It’s so interesting to me, that out of all the genres I work in, it’s my illustrated work where I feel safest welcoming that healing in my characters, but I think that was the first short story where I risked something difficult to put into the spoken word or even in dialogue, and I returned with something beautiful that still touches everyone who reads it.

“Brutus and company in “Let’s Beat The Shit Out of Herman Rosko!” first appear in AWSP and they’ve gone on to high adventure together in stories like “Children of the Sundance” and “Dogrib Midnight Runners” in my other short story collections.

“I’m so proud that we published the comic “Mermaids”, illustrated by the maestro Scott Henderson, in the 20th anniversary of Angel Wing Splash Pattern. Scott nailed the tone and ferocity of Torchy and I have been so blessed work with Scott on our graphic novel series The Spirit of Denendeh: Volume 1: A Blanket of Butterflies and Volume 2: As I Enfold You in Petals (with HighWater Press), but it’s here, in “Mermaids”, the comic, in AWSP where you get a first look at Torchy and Sfen as illustrated characters. 

“As I put the finishing touches of my new short story, “Mouthless”, for the upcoming Kegedonce horror anthology, I think of all of the horror I’ve written in my short stories: all the Wheetago War stories, all the human horror stories, all the spiritual horror stories. My goodness. You can actually read my very first spiritual horror short story in AWSP: “Snow White Nothing For Miles” (Yes, lyrics from the Sisters of Mercy song “Driven Like the Snow” from their Floodland album).

“It seems to me now, looking back, AWSP was a garden and a testing ground for where my writing was destined to go: in every genre, using many voices, experimenting with voice and structure, and a lifelong willingness to welcome the sweetest slow motion lightning strike because that’s what it feels like when a story chooses me.”

Mahsi Cho, Richard!

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