Many thanks to Tristan for taking part in this interview and many many thanks to Tristan for his patience with me as time has been quite busy of late and I haven’t posted this interview as quickly as I would have liked.
Readers, please enjoy the following answers. Tristan is the author of Wolf’s Paw (which I shall be reviewing shortly) and the following gives an insight into the book and also Tristan as author and person. Enjoy 🙂
WOLF’S PAW QUESTIONS
The title “Wolf’s Paw” is a telling symbol throughout the book. I loved the idea of this symbol and how it was used. Please explain for the readers the significance of the title and how you came up with the idea to use this symbol throughout the novel.
I had originally conceived of this story as one, essentially, about the experience of alienation that an immigrant feels in first entering a high-tech society such as that which the Proctors find in Atlanta. I wanted this to be distinct from the more usual, dirt-poor, blue-collar, have-to-hustle-to-survive immigrant story, since that was never my experience to portray and I was writing, ultimately, to help process my own experiences. The original title was therefore “The Glass Wall”.
Having created Neill and Sharon, I needed a strong antagonist and Aaron Ryan was born. Of course, he had to have a fatal flaw and his was a life based on self-deception. There never was any medical malpractice, no abuse of his stepmother Dot, but in Ryan’s world, everything must be rationalized. Perhaps he believed that his animal paw lucky charm really was that of a wolf, but perhaps it was just one more self-deception, which finally caught up with him. On another level, as a simple literary device, it provided a graphic symbol and allowed me to tie the loose ends of the plot together, bring the past in Angola up to speed with the current events in Atlanta and link, at least psychologically, Ryan’s back story with his later avocation.
The back stories for both Aaron Ryan and Neill Proctor are intriguing and quite an important avenue to understanding those characters and how they present in their later lives. Which back story did you enjoy creating the most and why?
As you’ll be aware, I was born in Canada, but moved to South Africa when I was about six and lived there until my thirties. I lived and travelled pretty much all over SA and got to know the country well, so although Neill Proctor is most definitely not an autobiographical creation, I enjoyed creating him the most because I could incorporate so many of the experiences and stories of SA that I had come across, into his life. In the original version, Neill’s back story alone was close to a novella length in its own right and one of my early readers commented that he felt like he’d wandered into a Wilbur Smith novel by mistake.
Aaron Ryan’s life in Shiprock was drawn from the time I spent working on a Navajo reservation in the four corners area near Shiprock and trying to accurately or realistically produce his formative years was much harder. My least favourite part of the book, because I don’t think she rings true, at least in her shortened, amended format ( again, she used to be MUCH more detailed), is Ryan’s mother Linda, who takes him to Shiprock in the first place and then dies relatively young.
Are any of the characters and/or storylines based on real people and/or events?
I have certainly used characteristics of people I know to flesh out my main characters and family stories, suitably dressed up inform various characters and their experiences, but no, there are no exact copies of any real people. I suppose, because I’m a Plastic Surgeon and I’ve made Neill proctor one as well, there might be a supposition that I’m producing a poorly disguised Walter Mitty- esque facsimile of myself, but that isn’t the case. I’ve kept to the Plastic Surgery theme because it’s something I know well and I believe that there is a lot to tell of in the field and because it suited my plotline. Did you find the cases described believable? Interesting? OTT? Most of them were exact copies of real cases I’ve operated on.
You are a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Did you enjoy being able to include your profession in “Wolf’s Paw”?
Yes, definitely. See Above and Below.