Jane Yolen is joining us today to talk about her novel, Arch of Bone. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Continuing the story from where Moby Dick left off, this compelling boyhood adventure, penned by beloved author Jane Yolen (Owl Moon), hearkens to timeless coming of age tales of yore. Lovingly illustrated by Ruth Sanderson, the journey of a boy and his dog comes to life on the page, renewing the joy of a classic tale.
When a rough sailor called Ishmael turns up on a family’s doorstep, even loyal dog Zeke knows that the news is ruinous.
Ishmael comes bearing the tragic tale of the Pequod: the whaling ship that fourteen-year-old Josiah’s father served on as first mate. Ishmael presents himself as the sole survivor of the deadly journey, fatally lead by the vengeful Captain Ahab and his obsession with the legendary white whale, Moby Dick. But Josiah is not so certain his father’s death was that simple. Especially when Ishmael looks so boldly at Josiah’s devout Quaker mother.
Josiah is almost of age in Nantucket, and he still cherishes his dream of following in his father’s footsteps. He is yet too young to sign on to a ship’s crew, but he yearns to be at sea.
Yet adventure has a way of finding a boy and his dog. The true vision of his father’s death—as well as the difficult tasks of surviving, growing up, and finding his strength—await Josiah, when he and Zeke discover the secrets of the Pequod at the mysterious Arch of Bone.
What’s Jane’s favorite bit?
My favorite bit of my new middle grade novel? Well, that I finished it, of course.
But how I got to finish it after 20 years of trying, is another story.
The book, ARCH OF BONE, had begun years ago. I had the first chapter in mind, most of that written Since the book takes place right after MOBY DICK and is about Starbuck’s family, it is set in 1864 on Nantucket. But I was stuck.
I didn’t get stuck because I’d no idea of know how the book should go. Or that I was afraid of writing novels. It certainly isn’t my first novel. More like my 65th.
The problem was that the book is mostly taken up with boats and sailing. I have been on a boat that went from NYC to Europe and back without having to know how to sail. I had a husband who knew damned near everything, but nothing to do with sailing as he had grown up in the mountains of West Virginia, and held degrees in physics, math, and computer science. But not sailing. And then he died.
Fifteen years of widowhood later, I remarried. He is a man I had first dated (for two months) in college. And not only had he been a sailor all of his life, he had also been Commodore of the Stonington Ct. Yacht Club and loved (and owned) old boats. (Plus he already had charts of the waters around Nantucket and had sailed around there many times.) So, with his hand guiding my research, and correcting my meager knowledge of winds and seas. I hauled (keyhauled?) that old manuscript and got Ruth Sanderson—a dear friend and neighbor–to do the scratch board illustrations.
So. In a sense, I really do love the fact that I finished this book., And not only is that my favorite bit about it, I think Arch of Bone is one of the best novels I have written in some time.
Beloved fantasy author Jane Yolen has been writing and publishing since the early sixties, when she sold her first book (about women pirates) on her twenty-second birthday. Her over 400 books and stories have won three World Fantasy Awards, two Nebulas, three Mythopoeic Awards, two Christopher Medals, three SCBWI awards, the Massachusetts Book Center award, two Golden Kite awards, and a Caldecott Medal. She was nominated in 2020 for the Astrid Lindgren Award, plus many others. Her award from the Boston Science Fiction Association set her good coat on fire which she takes as a lesson about the dangers of awards.