7 Minutes in Book Heaven with Dianna Hunter and Clouded Waters

Hello!

In our last episode of 7 Minutes in Book Heaven (for now) we meet Dianna Hunter and her new novel Clouded Waters which releases today, October 10!

What’s it about? When a local water scientist goes missing, newspaper owner Susan B. Ellingson follows a trail of evidence from a tiny, off-grid community into a global tangle of lies, corruption, whistleblowing, and danger. All the while her mother-in-law leads a group of Ojibwe and Métis grandmothers fighting to protect the water, and when after an intriguing new woman comes to town, Susan isn’t sure how to feel or act.

Dianna Hunter (she/her or they/them) is the author of Wild Mares: My Lesbian Back-to-the-Land Life and Breaking Hard Ground: Stories of the Minnesota Farm Advocates. Both were finalists for the Minnesota Book Award. Dianna was a farmer and farm advocate before beginning a career in writing and college teaching. She earned an MA in English (Creative Writing) from Iowa State University,

Buy Clouded Waters

Visit our Bookshop or buy directly right now: https://bookshop.org/a/82376/9781737405160

Also, we talked about the poem “Election Season” by Julie Gard. It’s in Julie’s collection I Think I Know You. Buy it here: https://bookshop.org/a/82376/9781952593338

Connect with Dianna Hunter

Website: diannahunter.com

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Quatrefoil has created a curated lending library made up of the books featured on our podcast! If you can’t buy these books, then borrow them! Link: https://libbyapp.com/library/quatrefoil/curated-1404336/page-1

Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith
Patreon Subscribers: Stephen D., Steven Flamm, Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.

Transcript

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J.P. Der Boghossian
Hey everyone. My name is J.P. Der Boghossian. I’m an essayist, Lambda Literary Fellow, founder of the Queer Armenian Library, and I want to let you know that we are pressing the pause button on our Minutes in Book Heaven podcast. We’re devoting a lot of focus on our new format for This Queer Book Saved My Life and so for right now we’re pausing production of new episodes of Minutes in Book Heaven. We recorded this last episode of Minutes a few months ago and we’re releasing it today as it coincides with our guest’s book release – which is today! So enjoy my conversation with Dianna Hunter. I’m going to drop you right into that conversation I had with her. And just so you know, a new episode of This Queer Book arrives next Tuesday.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Hello Diana.

Dianna Hunter
Hello JP, thank you so much for having me here

J.P. Der Boghossian
Absolutely, I’m really looking forward to this conversation. So how does our podcast works? I have seven questions for Diana and we’re going to spend approximately the next seven minutes in this virtual studio talking about clouded waters while also getting to know more about the amazing writer who is Diana Hunter. So Diana, are you ready?

Dianna Hunter
I am as ready as I’m ever gonna be. Which means yes.

J.P. Der Boghossian
[laughs] Alright, the timer is set and here we go. Question number one, please describe clouded waters as if you’re sharing it with your celebrity crush and telling us who that special person is, of course.

Dianna Hunter
My first impulse is to say that I gave up the idea of having celebrity crushes maybe fifty years ago, but then I think, right, show yourself to be some sardonic old curmudgeon. So Selin Siyama, let’s sit down for coffee, watch the ships come in on Lake Superior, and talk about clouded waters. It’s a novel. It’s a mashup of whodunit, sapphic romance, dispatches from the Anthropocene.

And gumshoe investigative reporting, set in a fictional town on what we now call the Massabi Iron Range in what we now call Minnesota. The main character, S.B. Ellingson, publishes a struggling fourth-generation newspaper with help from her eccentrically dressing best friend and researcher. S.B. is the widow of a wife. And I say that because even my lesbian friends, when reading this description of her as a widow, pictured someone who’d been married to a man.

She’s the mother of two children who have grown and left home. She’s dealing with loneliness, grief, and family stress. And just as she meets a new woman in town, she finds herself in the middle of a clash between supporters of a proposed new copper nickel mine and people who want to protect the water.

Her mother-in-law leads a group of Anishinaabe Ojibwe water protector grandmothers, and SB commits to finding and reporting the truth. When she learns that a local water scientist has gone missing, she investigates and unearths a corrupt conspiracy tied to an international plutocrat.

J.P. Der Boghossian
You know, this… You know, you’re saying that this is fiction, but it sounds like, you know, true crime. Like, this is something that is actually happening right now.

Dianna Hunter
It’s something like things that are actually happening right now because there actually are three mining companies trying to begin to mine for copper and nickel in Minnesota, in northern Minnesota. In some ways the truth of watching, following the things that they propose and the objections that are raised and the struggle that goes on among the various stakeholders in this struggle of theirs to get copper and nickel to the surface, and on the other side the struggle to protect the water because the problem is that these minerals are in sulfide rock and the sulfide rock when exposed to water, and this is a very wet and cold climate, but it has a tendency to then chemically interact and release toxic metals. So it’s been going on about years and has been quite intense in the last or so. And I’ve found as a reader trying to follow the issues that I really got lost at just a few paragraphs into an article every time I tried to sit down and understand it. Three different mining companies, three different methods, three different places. There’s just a lot to keep up with.

So then when the pandemic came along, during the shutdown, began to write this book. First, I started reading and tried to learn to understand much more about the copper nickel situation so that I could have an informed opinion. And then that’s what actually led me to the book. You know, the shutdown for a lot of us who are introverts and writers, I think, was a very, could be potentially, and was for me, a very productive time.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Well this, as someone who also lives in Minnesota, is a very necessary book, so congratulations on publishing it.

Dianna Hunter
Thank you very much. I hope people read it and that it sparks a lot of conversation.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Absolutely. I hope so too. I really do. Okay, well question number two. What is a sentence from a novel, essay, poem, or other book that every time you read it, it gives you all the feels?

Dianna Hunter
Well, I think I might have some sort of idiosyncratic understanding of what it is to “get the feels,” but for me a lot of times it’s sparked by public events. So currently I’m loving a line from a long prose poem in a collection by a Duluth writer, Julie Gard. The book is I Think I Know You, and the poem is called The Election Season.

And what you need to know is the poet has been chronicling deftly, seriously, comically, the events that she experienced leading up to the election. So here’s the line. Who would I be in a world without panic? In a world not constantly ending?

J.P. Der Boghossian
Wow.

Dianna Hunter
I don’t know who I’d be, do you JP?

J.P. Der Boghossian
No, I mean, wow, that’s really got me thinking about how we define ourselves.

Dianna Hunter
Mm-hmm. Yeah, and how we visualize possibilities. I mean, I think that’s always the impulse behind idealism is that I wish to live in a world without panic, without fear, without suffering. You know, that’s really where hope lies. But there’s so much confusion between here and there. And all these reasons we’re suffering, you know, our own actions, the Anthropocene extinction.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Wow. Thank you.

Dianna Hunter
The accountability, those of us who descend from the settler colonizers feel, and what we owe to the indigenous people, and the list goes on and on. Then there’s our personal extinction potential, future, certain.

J.P. Der Boghossian
You’ve really got me thinking and we’re definitely gonna link to it on our website. Thank you for sharing it.

Okay, question number three. What do you feel is the best sentence you’ve ever written?

Dianna Hunter
Well, as a prose writer, I’m not much for figurative language. I’m prosaic. I try to layer one active, useful sentence after another. And I don’t know, I just guess I feel some discomfort over picking my, I will do this, of course, but my favorite sentence. Because I have such a mixed mind about picking such things. In some ways, there are children and you kind of have to be fair and not pick favorites. And in another way, whenever I consciously think I’m writing a great sentence, then that’s usually time to take a hard look at it because maybe it’s a little too precious or reaching a little too far.

But anyway, here’s the sentence I’m gonna pick. My main character, SB, this isn’t it, it’s coming. My main character, SB, gets morose at times. She’s years old, grieving the death of her wife five years earlier. Sometimes she keeps herself as flat as possible to slide below the onslaught of daily stress. There’s a new woman in town who might be able to break through her defenses, but SB’s busyness and avoidance have protected her so far and she’s sticking with the strategy.

The sentence comes when she’s talking to herself in bed alone at night, and she thinks, “in a universe where stars eat other stars and whole solar systems slide into black holes, what chance did love have?

J.P. Der Boghossian
Oh. Oh, and you got me there. I love cosmic metaphors.

Dianna Hunter
Well, you know, astrophysics, you just can’t help but have your mind blown when you start thinking about it and how we fit within the picture, the big picture of the universe.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Right? That’s what I love about it is that it centers me, which is why I so love those analogies and metaphors.

Dianna Hunter
Mmm, me too. It puts, yeah, it puts things in perspective. I was just gonna say it puts things in perspective, but I think that’s in a centering way as well. Important to have that knowledge.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Right? Exactly. Okay. Well, question number four. What’s the best romantic scene you’ve ever read?

Dianna Hunter
Okay, well, this was a tough choice. I actually went screwing back to a bunch of my various lesbian novels and poetry collections. And I really considered going with the final scene between Therese and Carol in The Price of Salt, which was, you know, many of our listeners probably know Patricia Highsmith’s novel that had originally been published as The Price of Salt.

And it’s that the last scene is coming back together scene. And I think it speaks even more eloquently of love than the preceding earlier in the book sex scene. But the scene was so memorable on film, and it’s I think it’s going to take a long time before anybody can really read the original version and anything like a fresh light. Though.

It’s beautifully written in prose that essentially gives the stage directions for the film version that we saw in Carol. But I’m going with Audre Lorde from her poem Woman. I dream of a place between your breasts to build my house like a haven where I plant crops in your body, an endless harvest, where the commonest rock is moonstone and ebony opal giving milk to all of my hungers. And your night comes down upon me like a nurturing rain.

J.P. Der Boghossian
I mean how can you go wrong with Audre Lorde? I mean it’s just phenomenal what she’s able to do.

Dianna Hunter
Right? Yeah, she was an amazing person.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Thank you for sharing that. And a question now, number five, which I’m gonna be really interested to hear your answer to. What are your favorite smells to write about?

Dianna Hunter
I seem to return to barns all the time, having been a farmer at one time in my life, so one of my favorite smells is a barn smelling like summer grass processed through a horse or a cow and dark coffee just before I slash it across my tongue and let it slide slowly down my throat.

J.P. Der Boghossian .
Oh that’s so evocative. That is so evocative. Some folks won’t believe that my dad’s family is actually, they are farmers and I grew up partially on a farm and so I know exactly what both of those smells are and they are, they are really good. Okay, well, question number six. What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever got?

Dianna Hunter
Okay, it came in a rejection letter from a feminist periodical, “I think this might be too long for an essay?” Which when I shared with Carol Bly, who was one of my writing mentors at the time, she said, so much for Montaigne. And it put me at ease quite a bit with that comment.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Oh. Wow. Man. The stuff that we get from authors about the worst wrong unit advice. It’s wild. It is wild the things that we’re told. Okay. Well, question number seven and our last question. Promote yourself! How do we follow you on social or your website and order your book?

Dianna Hunter
Okay, well, I don’t do social, but people can email me through the contact link on my website, and they can also see my upcoming readings, book signings, and appearances there as soon as I get them on. And they can order my book through links from there, or they could do, they can order, pre-order Clouded Waters anytime on Amazon or at a number of the independent book sellers in Minnesota, their websites. And it’s fairly easy. Also, of course, other online booksellers.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Wonderful! Thank you so much Diana!

Dianna Hunter
Okay, thank you, JP.

J.P. Der Boghossian
Thanks everyone for listening today. You can purchase Dianna’s book in our bookstore. It is on sale. Visit bookshop.org/shop/thisqueerbook. Links in the show notes and on our website.

A new episode of This Queer Book Saved My Life drops next week.

Our podcast is Executive Produced by Jim Pounds. Our Associate Producers are Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Jonathan Fried, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Ollila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shea, and Sean Smith. Our Patreon subscribers are Stephen D., Steven Flamm, Thomas Michna, and Gary Nygaard.

We’re on Facebook and find us on Instagram, we’re @thisqueerbook. As always you can connect with us through our website thisqueerbook.com And if you want to be on the show, fill out the form on the home page!

And until next week, see you queers and allies in the bookstores!

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