I was asked recently what my new collection, Godless but Loyal to Heaven, is about. I thought about it for a few seconds and my reply was, “Faith.”
This is my third collection of short stories, and I’m so proud of it because these stories braid so many of my essential characters together--like Torchy, Sfen, Snowbird and Stephanie from “Mermaids”, Grant, Clarence and Brutus from “Let’s Beat the Shit out of Herman Rosko” and “Dogrib Midnight Runners”, Kevin and Dean Meddows from The Lesser Blessed and “The Last Snow of the Virgin Mary”. It also introduces a new character, Bear, who is on a path of revenge.
I think it’s safe to say that most of my characters have faith in humanity, a respect for the Creator and a wish for a “master plan” that finds them all at peace: you see how in “Mermaids” from Angel Wing Splash Pattern, Torchy asks the blind medicine man Snowbird to bless his hands to win a bingo game, but we see a larger picture in play in their novella “Godless but Loyal to Heaven.” My characters are always welcomed into more than they ever dreamed: sometimes for good (“Mermaids”); sometimes for the horrible (“Snow White Nothing for Miles) ; and sometimes for the mysterious (“I Count Myself Among Them”).
In Godless but Loyal to Heaven, we have stories that take place in Vancouver, Fort Smith, the fictional town of Fort Simmer, Behchoko, Nunavut and the future.
All of these characters in Godless but Loyal to Heaven are at the crossroads: a young Clarence is torn between his childhood friend, Brutus, but wants to hang with the cool kids in “Children of the Sundance”; “On the Wings of this Prayer” is the ultimate warning of what may happen to all of us if the Tar Sands of Alberta are allowed to burn wider and deeper into the earth; “The Fleshing” is about Bear having to choose to stand his ground with a Wheetago in order to save lives; “Tony Toenails” is about how nicknames are sometimes given and earned at the same time; “Love Song” is about Grant wanting the best for a friend in order to take from a sworn enemy; “Devotion” is about a wish for a deal with the mysterious white caribou people; “Lizard People” is about an infiltrating race who may be leading us. “Godless but Loyal to Heaven” is about Torchy in the fight of his life and his inheritance as a brother and adopted grandson to Snowbird; “The Contract” is about Bear on a path of vengeance and “Feeding the Fire” is about two warriors who want to punish the Fort Simmer principal for doing the unthinkable.
Yes, there’s intended violence here, but there’s also hilarity and where there was pain you’ll find the Great Mystery at play for all of these characters.
My greatest joy in writing this collection was realizing how deeply I adore these characters: Snowbird, Torchy and Stephanie already have a new story I’m working on right now titled “Furnace”, in which you learn more about Torchy and Sfen’s Uncle Frank. Bear is already submerged in a new story called “Blood Rides the Wind” and Kevin Garner has a story called “Born a girl”, which you’ll be able to read very soon in the NorthWords anthology titled Coming Home: Stories from the NorthWest Territories, also published by Enfield & Wizenty.
Godless but Loyal to Heaven confirms what I’ve been suspecting for some time: while I may be the author of the these books, it’s always the characters who lead me, and I can’t wait to see where they are taking me next. They have faith in me and their stories confirm my faith in humanity and the Creator and a spiritual path that we set in motion with our actions, thoughts and intentions.
I was asked in an interview yesterday what I wanted for book and my answer came to me in an instant: “I want readers to wonder about these characters and these stories years after they’ve read them.”
Our first print run of Godless but Loyal to Heaven is a collector’s edition of 750 hardcovers. I’m grabbing as many as I can for myself because they go fast. After that, we switch to soft cover and I’m proud to say we will be an E Book very soon.
I am grateful to Enfield & Wizenty for publishing me, and I’m grateful to Maurice Mierau and Catharina de Bakker for all of their editorial help. Great editors make superb writers. Mahsi cho to you both for pushing me so hard to make this a collection we can all be proud of.
Mahsi cho, everyone. I can’t wait to hold this collection in my hands.
I hope these stories blow you away!
Richard Van Camp
Richard Van Camp joins Meira Cook, Stella Leventoyannis Harvey, Carrie Snyder, Cordelia Strube, and Jess Walter on the Mainstage, "Life Lessons," on Monday, September 24, 8:00-10:00pm at MTYP at the Forks. He's also part of THIN AIR's School Program, visiting High Schools throughout the city during Festival Week.