Alethea Eason is the author of Heron’s Path (Spectacle Publishing Media Group) and Hungry (HarperCollins). Her picture book Turtle Soup is a part of the Imagine It! Reading Series for second grade. Alethea has published stories in several anthologies for children including A Glory of Unicorns, edited by Bruce Coville. Stories have also appeared in New Moon Magazine and Shoo-Fly Audio Magazine. She also writes for adults, and her work has appeared in Sweet Fancy Moses, Radiance, and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, among others. She won the Eugene Ruggles Poetry Award, sponsored by The Dickens, published by Copperfiled Books of Sonoma and Napa Counties.
As a reading specialist and ELD teacher, Alethea has taught grades kindergarten through high school. She spent a year and a half at St. Margaret’s British School for Girls in Concon, Chile where she worked in English literacy for the Junior School and as an IB English teacher for the Senior School. She now teaches at Minnie Cannon Elementary School in Middletown, California.
Alethea lives in Cobb, California with her husband, Bill, and Jinxy, their tabby cat with high self esteem.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Heron’s Path is the first novel I wrote, but the second to be published. What inspired me to write it? In college I encountered the poem “The Black Swan” by Randall Jarrell. The narrator is a child mourning a sister. The beauty of the writing and clarity of images touched me deeply and reading the poem many, many times planted the seed for a novel about sisters. In fact, the first draft of Heron’s Path was called Swan Sisters. My sister, Gwyn, was the pretty, fair, and popular one, the older sister I idolized but also really didn’t know too well as she was almost eight years my senior. I was the dark-haired, studious introvert. Strangely, having written the book helped me deal with her death nine years ago. The lynchpin that changed Swan Sister to Heron’s Path was a trip my husband, Bill, and I took to the Klamath River in the extreme northern part of California in the early 90s where I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power of the area, along with its history.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I believe I have two. One is literary and poetic, which is the way Heron’s Path is written. The other is when my narrators have attitude, such as Deborah in my science fiction novels Hungry and Starved. Serious issues are addressed but with a sense of humor and the absurd.
How did you come up with the title?
Deciding on the right one took fairly long. The old Indian doctor, Olena, tells Katy Farrow, the narrator of Heron’s Path, that her sister Celeste has to “take the heron’s path home.” When I wrote that line I knew I had a title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Heron’s Path is a story of transformation, of realizing you must let go of what one’s ego thinks it wants in order to find truth and unity. The novel has been labeled “young-adult” because there are young characters in it, but most of its readers have been adults. For both audiences, though, it is also a novel about the love between two girls who are sisters in spirit and the hope that we will all find “the mythical north,” to quote a friend, once our journey on Earth is done.
How much of the book is realistic?
On our trip to the Klamath River, we had stopped in Eureka, and in a used book store I found the memoir In the Land of the Grasshopper Song, Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country 1908-1909 by Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed. This book chronicles their stint as Indian matrons with the Karuk people, written with humility, respect, and insight. I read it as we camped along the river, on serious sensory overload from their story and the incredible power, mystery, and beauty that surrounded me. One of my characters, Sarah Price, was inspired by Miss Arnold and Miss Read. I researched the Karuk, but I created my own tribe, the Nanchuti, with its own culture, myths, and language.
What books have most influenced your life most?
In my late teens and twenties, almost everything Ursula LeGuin and Jane Yolen wrote were very important to me. I dreamt of someday writing with their skill, complexity, and intelligence. Connie Willis’ work, especially her story “Fire Watch,” made me yearn to create vivid and dangerous worlds with characters of great integrity. I can’t say that I’ve written that story, that book, yet, but I still hope to someday. The White Hotel by D.M. Thomas was another novel that opened me to the power of writing. Marge Piercy’s A Woman at the Edge of Time came to me when I was stepping out on my own from a rigidly conservative upbringing and opened me to new ways to look at life and reality. I recently thought I should reread it to see how it might stand up thirty plus years later. The Victorians: Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Elliot all have held special places for me.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I need to thank the two Bruces, as I call them: Bruce Coville and Bruce McAllister. Both of them have offered tons of advice, encouragement, critiques, and have opened doors for me. Bruce Coville’s work has especially influenced my writing for children, and Bruce McAllister’s my stories for adults. I would highly recommend his novel The Village Sang to the Sea: a Memoir of Magic to see how personal history and magical realism can interweave to create a memorable reading experience.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished Call Me Jane, part of The Oshkosh Trilogy by Anthea Carson, a dark cautionary tale of a girl whose life has spun out of control. I am currently reading two non-fiction books. The first is called When the Body Says No, by Garbor Mate, M.D. This book discusses the relationship between repressed emotions, stress, and disease.
Places where her books can be found