Loss and redemption in N.D.: Author’s novel “Past Darkness” took more than a decade to writeWriter Laurel Woiwode’s genre-bending first novel, “Past Darkness” — a tale of loss and redemption set in the wilds of rural North Dakota — has been 10 years in the making.
By: By Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Writer Laurel Woiwode’s genre-bending first novel, “Past Darkness” — a tale of loss and redemption set in the wilds of rural North Dakota — has been 10 years in the making.
“I got the idea, I started working on it when I was still in college,” Woiwode said of her book, set for release in April.
“Past Darkness” doesn’t fit neatly into any genre more specific than “realistic fiction,” Woiwode said. It is “a story about someone who has to learn to deal with tragedy and face the past, and deal with it and be reconciled to the past.”
The book is also about the importance and strength of family and the power of music and forgiveness, Woiwode said.
“Past Darkness” is the tale of Gabrielle Larson, a Chicago teenager whose life is changed forever by a family tragedy that prompts a move to a ranch in rural North Dakota
Romance and growing up feature heavily in the story as well, but the storm-swept North Dakota landscape is prominent enough to almost seem like a character in itself — from the ranch lands of the west to the city of Jamestown.
Though “Past Darkness” is Woiwode’s first novel, she has plenty of other writing projects, such as Reel Quickies, a movie review blog at reelquickie.areavoices.com, and a book of stories, a collaboration with Bruce Berg. Woiwode has just completed a draft of a second novel, too.
Woiwode, who was born near Mott, N.D., grew up on a farm. She is the daughter of author and North Dakota Poet Laureate Larry Woiwode, and lives in Jamestown.
She worked on “Past Darkness” while attending Jamestown College, finding more time for it during the summer.
She writes her first drafts in longhand, meaning that typing it on a computer serves as her first editing run-through —an opportunity to add sentences and scene or character information.
“I would try to do some work every day. Once it was getting toward the end, it was every week,” Woiwode said. “I try to do some writing or some editing every day. It doesn’t always work out, but that’s the goal.”
She’s not sure how many rewrites “Past Darkness” went through over the years, but there were many, bringing the book from a slim 60 pages to 174.
“Sometimes you have to go where you think the story is telling you to go, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time, and that can be difficult,” Woiwode said.
At least one climactic scene seemed to drop into her head from nowhere — fully-formed, video-quality, she said — when she was driving. But Woiwode still had to figure out where and how the scene fit into the novel.
“It’s a process you have to work with, and go with,” she said.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be
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