Author Interview: Claudia McGehee
I saw an exhibit on American artist Rockwell Kent (1892-1971) and one particular painting struck me. It was of a man and boy outside a log cabin, mountainous wilderness beyond. I discovered the painting was a scene from Kent’s own life and that he and his nine-year-old son Rocky lived on remote Fox Island (near Seward, Alaska) for several months in 1918. Kent painted the rugged wild terrain surrounding him, and his son explored it. I thought “Fantastic!”, and began writing this father-son adventure into a picture book. I wrote the story from Rocky’s point of view, basing his daily romps from the historic materials I researched.
Do you have a special connection with Alaska or is it more Rocky’s story that you are drawn to?
A bit of both! I grew up in Washington state and studied Anthropology and Archaeology as an undergrad. I had camped on our coastline on a couple digs and felt a special connection to our Pacific beaches, not so different from the SE Alaska coastal area. When I stumbled onto the Kent’s story, it was easy to imagine their time there. I could see the dark pebbled beach, the evergreen mountain islands, the animal sea life…I knew the awe Rocky and his Dad must have felt to live there for that time. I could imagine being Rocky, because I loved to explore like this as a kid. I could also imagine being Rocky’s dad, as an artist myself who finds solitude in nature an excellent way to focus on my work. But I thought young readers could better connect with Rocky’s perspective- kids 100 years ago shared the same curiosity and sense of fun as kids today!
“My Wilderness, An Alaskan Adventure” is available at Independent bookshops everywhere and online, Amazon, or through Sasquatch Books.