KERNAGHAN, Eileen




Author Tags: Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult

Three-time winner of the Aurora Award for Canadian speculative fiction, Eileen Kernaghan was born and raised in the North Okanagan. Educated at UBC, she taught school in the North Okanagan in the early Sixties, then moved to the Lower Mainland and has lived there ever since.

According to her website, "Eileen Kernaghan grew up on a dairy farm outside Grindrod, B.C., Canada, population 600. The reading material she found on the family shelves - Greek myths, historical novels, G.A. Henty's boys' adventure books, a musty collection of Weird Tales and Thrilling Wonder Stories - helped to shape her writing career. Her first published story, written when she was twelve, appeared in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. It earned her a byline, an illustration, and a cheque for $12.65. Her next appearance in print, twenty years later, was with a cover story in the New York science fiction magazine Galaxy. She went on to write the "Grey Isles" series, a bronze age trilogy based on the origins of Stonehenge. Journey to Aprilioth, Songs from the Drowned Lands and The Sarsen Witch were published by Ace Books during the 1980's."

Kernaghan was co-ordinator of the Burnaby Arts Council (1979 to 1984) and for twelve years, from 1987, she operated Neville Books, a used bookstore in South Burnaby, with her husband Patrick, also a writer. They later moved to New Westminster. She has taught writing for the City of Burnaby and City of Port Moody Arts & Recreation departments. She is also a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, SFCanada and Federation of BC Writers.

Eileen Kernaghan has been profiled in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 251: Canadian Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers (Gale Group 2002). She has long played an important supportive role for other writers as a founding member of, and newsletter editor for, the Burnaby Writers' Society.

"R.L. Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses was the first book I ever owned," says Eileen Kernaghan. "and it inspired a life-long fascination with exotic, far-off places." For instance, Kernaghan's third young adult fantasy novel, The Alchemist's Daughter (2004), is set in Elizabethan England one year prior to the invasion of the Spanish Armada. Sidonie Quince, an alchemist's daughter, is ensnared in intrigue and magic as she attempts to save her father. The Alchemist's Daughter was shortlisted for the Aurora Award for best Canadian speculative novel in English as well as the Sheila A. Egoff Award for Children's Literature.

Kernaghan simultaneously released a sorcery novel set in the lost cities of the Indus Valley, Winter on the Plain of Ghosts (2004), partially based John Newberry’s Indus Script Monographs, privately published in Victoria.

Eileen Kernaghan’s reworking of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen, earned her the 2001 Prix Aurora Award from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. “I’ve always loved the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen," Kernaghan has said, "and toyed for years with the idea of reworking it as a fantasy novel. Part of the appeal, for someone brought up on Jack London and James Oliver Curwood, was Andersen’s wolf-haunted northern landscape. And there’s the oddness of the story—its disregard for many fairy tale conventions. The robbers’ camp is grittily realistic, its inhabitants ferociously dysfunctional. The girl hero sets off on an epic adventure to rescue a boy in distress. My Snow Queen was first a poem, then a short story, and finally a novel. While writing the short-story version, I plunged into the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. Behind Andersen’s 19th century Christian myth I began to hear echoes of the older, darker world of northern shamanism. In my mind the figure of the Snow Queen merged with the Kalevala’s Witch of Pohjola, the Woman of the North. Andersen’s mid-Victorian audience expected morally uplifting endings. His Little Robber-Maiden puts her pistols in her holsters and rides off to see the world, the other main female character Gerda seems fated for a life of contented domesticity. After all her adventures, would that have satisfied Gerda? My version of the story takes quite a different turn…”

Set in London and Paris, circa 1888, Eileen Kernaghan's YA novel Wild Talent is the story of a 16-year-old Scottish farmworker named Jeannie Guthrie who flees to London to escape the advances of her n'er-do-well cousin. Introduced to Madame Helena Blavatsky's famous salon for occultists, she discovers she has an unwanted "wild talent" for supernatural communication. With her free-spirited friend Alexandra David, she meets more spiritualists, theosophists, anarchists and theosophists in Paris, while venturing further in the frightening world of the Beyond. Wild Talent was shortlisted for the 2009 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

This novel was followed by Tales from the Holograph Woods: Speculative Poems (Wattle & Daub, 2009), a thirty-five-year retrospective of her published work.

Sophie in Shadow (Thistledown 2014) is set in British India in 1914. Against the backdrop of World War One, paranormal events occur amid terrorist plots and enemy spies. Kernaghan writes, "My latest novel, Sophie, in Shadow, set in 1914 India, required a daunting amount of research. Since a great deal has been written about India under the Raj, a broad picture of life in British India was not difficult to find. But what I also discovered -- in the memoirs of private citizens, and in histories like Margaret MacMillan’s Women of the Raj -- were fascinating, less often recorded details of everyday life. When the ladies of the Raj escaped from the sweltering plains to their rented houses in the hill stations, they transported not only clothing and supplies, but a good deal of household furniture. A list of basic necessities in The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook (1888) includes crockery and kitchen utensils, carpets, a chest of drawers, bed linen, iron cots, three boxes of books, ornaments ,coats for the servants, an iron bath, and a great deal else -- eleven camel loads in all. (Cited by Margaret MacMillan in Women of the Raj)"

CITY/TOWN: New Westminster

DATE OF BIRTH: 6 January 1939

PLACE OF BIRTH: Enderby BC

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Writing instructor

AWARDS: Aurora Award for Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy, three times; PORGY award for original paperback fantasy.

BOOKS:

Sophie, in Shadow (Thistledown 2014) $15.95 978-1-927068-94-6
Tales from the Holograph Woods: Speculative Poems (Wattle & Daub, 2009). $9.95
ISBN 978-0-9810658-2-3
WILD TALENT: A NOVEL OF THE SUPERNATURAL (Thistledown, 2008)
WINTER ON THE PLAIN OF GHOSTS: A Novel of Mohenjo-daro (Vancouver: Flying Monkey Press, 2004)
THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER. Thistledown, 2004.
WINTER ON THE PLAIN OF GHOSTS (historical fantasy) Flying Monkey Press, 2004
THE SNOW QUEEN (novel) Thistledown Press, 2000
QUINTET: Themes& Variations (co-authored poetry collection) Ekstasis Editions, 2000
THE DARK GARDENS OF THE ZODIAC (Neville Books Chapbook #1, 1999). Speculative poems of the zodiac.
DANCE OF THE SNOW DRAGON (novel) Thistledown Press, 1995
LIGHT LIKE A SUMMONS (co-authored poetry collection) Cacanadadada Press 1989
WALKING AFTER MIDNIGHT (co-authored nonfiction) Berkley 1989
THE SARSEN WITCH (novel) Ace Books, 1989
SONGS FROM THE DROWNED LANDS (novel) Ace Books, 1983
JOURNEY TO APRILIOTH (novel) Ace Books, 1980
THE UPPER LEFT-HAND CORNER: A Writer's Guide for the Northwest (co-authored nonfiction) J.J. Douglas 1975; Self-Council Press 1984.

[contact Flying Monkey Press, 225 Townsend Place, New Westminster, BC V3L 1L4]

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2008] "Fiction" "SF"