Bertram: What is your story?
Danielle: All I wanted was a home, a place where, and people with whom, I could breathe, free of the guilt of these dreams that dog my days, and free of the long arm of my Uncle Edgar. Ever since the July Revolution in France – I believe that was 1830 and I was just a child – I feel as though I’ve been on a long journey, both geographically and emotionally. It is amazing to me what moment can ensue from a slip of paper.
Lorina Stephens chronicled my story in her novel, Shadow Song. The novel is available through online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from Lorina Stephens.
Bertram: Who are you?
Danielle: My name is Danielle Michelle Fleming. I suppose if life had been different, if Papa and Maman had not died, I would have grown to be Lady Fleming, but my life was to take a different course. Instead I became a member of the Midewewin, the Ojibwa medicine society. Of course that was after I escaped from Uncle Edgar.
Bertram: Where do you live?
Danielle: On the land. Where else would I live? It’s been so long since I had servants and walls I think I would find that confining now. For shelter we use a bark wigwam. During the summers we join our clan at Manitowaning. The winters we travel north to hunting grounds.
Bertram: Are you the hero of your own story?
Danielle: I’m no hero, but, yes, the story called Shadow Song, is about me. It’s also about Shadow Song, the man to whom I owe my life and my love.
Bertram: Do you embrace conflict?
Danielle: Why ever would someone wish to embrace conflict when they could know days of contentment? No, conflict is my uncle’s domain. It is he who destroys everything in the name of his unholy revenge.
Bertram: Do you run from conflict?
Danielle: Yes I ran. For my very life I ran. But sometimes we are forced to stop running, to face our demons, to sacrifice everything in the name of peace.
Bertram: How do your friends see you?
Danielle: I’m sure people around me think me either impertinent or an outsider. As a child I learned early to observe, to learn, to survive. As a woman I learned if I wanted a place to call my own I would have to find it within myself. While Shadow Song’s clan accepted my presence, I was acutely aware I was an outsider.
Bertram: How do your enemies see you?
Danielle: I have only one enemy – Uncle Edgar. How does he see me? I think I am an obsession, an annoyance, a toy with which he plays.
Bertram: How does the author see you?
Danielle: She loves me I believe. I think she sees me as an indomitable spirit.
Bertram: Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
Danielle: How could she not? You could say we occupy the same inner landscape.
Bertram: Do you have a hero?
Danielle: Shadow Song would have to be my hero. From the moment he stepped out of the green forest I was mesmerized by his knowledge, his power, his kindness. He offered me a home when no other would.
Bertram: Do you have any skills?
Danielle: Aside from having studied for and being accepted into the Midewewin – which is no small achievement – I learned how to survive in the wilderness, how to read people, and how to interpret these dreams priests has always told me were evil.
Bertram: What do you regret?
Danielle: So many things. How do I even begin to list my regrets? But, then, that has been my life, a series of actions from others that created havoc in my life, things I could not control, nor would have been equipped had I even the experience.
Bertram: What is your biggest disappointment?
Danielle: Ah, that is something I cannot tell you. You’ll have to read my story to find the answer to that.
Bertram: Are you honorable?
Danielle: Probably to a fault. But then I had a mentor who lived his life by an exacting standard of honor. I could do little else, nor would I have wanted to.
Bertram: Do you like remembering your childhood?
Danielle: Parts of it, yes. I remember sunlight gleaming on the white marble floor of the foyer, like lace where it passed through the transom over the front door. There were lilies, white and frail, in a vase on the table against the paneling. The lilies’ fragrance was pungent, like a drug to calm the nerves.
I remember escaping from Uncle, paddling with Shadow Song out onto the massive freshwater sea. I watched it all with wide eyes, sure I would miss some wonder if I didn’t look everywhere at once. There were gulls pencilling long arcs on an endless blue sky, swooping down on the shoals they fished. Thousands of them there were. And ducks. And geese. I’d never seen so many waterfowl.
Bertram: What is your favorite scent? Why?
Danielle: Lavender. It is a perverse thing, because it reminds me of Paul Rogette, the guide who brought me through the wilderness and introduced me to Shadow Song. When we parted he gave me a tea tin, a small clay doll he’d made, and a bottle of lavender water. I kept all three, long after their usefulness had failed.
Bertram: What are the last three books you read?
Danielle: Books are a rarity in the backwoods of Upper Canada, but I read one over and over again, Paradise Lost, by Milton. You could say it was a book to which I related.
Bertram: How do you envision your future?
Danielle: I’m not sure, to be honest. I suppose you’ll have to read the end of my story to find out what my future might bring.
Shadow Song, by Lorina Stephens, is available from in print and eBook format from online booksellers worldwide, select bookstores in Canada, and directly from the author at http://www.5rivers.org