Interview with Murielle Cyr, author of “Culloo”

While reading “Culloo”, my curiosity and interest were sparked with several questions, so I am really glad that Murielle Cyr was gracious enough to agree to an interview.  I love Native American (First People) lore, so I just had to have her on here as a guest.

Thanks for being here, Murielle.  My first question is one that I ask every author, because it is one many people would ask:  What influenced you to write your book?

This story goes way back when my mother used to tell us stories of her grandfather, a Mi’Kmaq metis from the Gaspé area. Those memories were precious to her and she described them with such pride that they became oral gifts wrapped in animal hides and greenery. When you remember your deceased, the happy moments surface: what made them laugh, what they loved to do and say. My mother’s journey wasn’t an easy one, so this book is an attempt to celebrate what brought a twinkle to her eyes. I dedicated the story to Marie and all the others that came before her because of the spirituality aspect and because of a now outdated Quebec custom that all female babies of the Catholic faith were baptized Marie. My actual name is Marie Murielle Madeleine Cyr. The notion of having a collective name, albeit unimaginative, bonded women together spiritually.

Oral gifts wrapped in animal hides and greenery”–this type of imagery sets you apart and raises you up, in my mind, as an exceptional storyteller.  To dig deeper, then:  Do you have a favorite character or theme?

Except for the poachers, I feel connected to all my characters. Nanny and Anjij don’t make a physical appearance, but they are still very present in a spiritual sense. Anjij’s tragic death has left deep wounds in those she left behind. Tom manages to numb his relentless grieving by immersing himself in the woods. This leaves his children, Tala and Dason, on their own a lot and become the concern of well-intentioned neighbours.

A few issues are interspersed in the story, the main one being the need to connect to your cultural background for strength and courage in time of need. Tala must learn to have faith in the wisdom of her ancestors in order to survive her ordeal. We have all come to the present stage in our journey because of the courage and determination of those who came before us.

I can see that.  Good points.  And good lessons for everyone–don’t ever forget your past, because that is what you have to build on, good or bad.  Glean what is good, reject the bad.

Do you have any other books in progress, or that you plan to write?

I’m presently working on a picture book, TURTLE WISH, which should be released soon. I wanted to do it all by myself, so I’ve had to learn all about graphics. It’s been quite a challenge but I was surprised at what I was actually able to accomplish with a little patience. The story is about a hatchling looking for his family. After a few disastrous encounters, he comes to the realization that not everybody has his best interest at heart. He learns early not to trust strangers, but his need to have a family is deep and he continues on his quest.

I’m also writing a science fiction novel for young adults. I’ve had to do a lot of research and am now in the beginning stage of the writing process. Hopefully it will out by September.

Best of luck in those endeavors.  I’ll be waiting!!

The mythical creatures in “Culloo” are from the legends of the Mi’kmaq people.  Are these the same as the First Ones known as the Michilimackinac?

As far as I know, Michilimackinac is the name of a region around the Strait of Mackinac (between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan) inhabited by the Ojibwa. The Mi’Kmaq people lived in the area of the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada and several proud reservations are still going strong there today.

Ah, okay.  I had to ask–there’s a possibility my ancestry was associated with the Michilimackinac Ojibwa/Ottawa tribes.  It rang a bell when I read that in the beginning of the book.

Do you yourself have this ancestry as part of your lineage?

Yes, both my parents had Mi’Kmaq ancestry, as well as French and Irish.

The details of the outdoor world are so vivid in your story.  Do you spend a lot of time in the woods or outdoors?

I am at my best surrounded with trees–they give me strength. I travel, not to visit sidewalks and old buildings, but to reconnect with all my green friends.

I prefer that sort of setting to streets and masonry as well.

What do you like to do outside of writing?

As a herbalist, I know how to make my own soaps, tinctures, salves and magical potions. My favourite time to practice Tai Chi is in my backyard; my movements follow the breeze as it sways the branches and flowers. I like to experiment with recipes I find on the Internet (they absolutely have to be fast and easy). I love to watch animal shows and to hang out with Tali (my faithful yellow Lab). I LOVE to read, especially if the story has magic and tears and great emotions.

Never a dull moment in the Cyr household, it sounds like!

I’m sure many of my readers would like to learn more about you.  Please share your websites/blogs/places to buy your books.

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