By Barb Brouwer, Observer contributor
A young girl is running for her life.
The 11-year-old is being hunted down by the vicious man who murdered her parents and is forcing people to flee from their villages deep in the South American jungle.
Young Adelita Alvarez’s skill and confidence grow with each new peril she encounters in the dense jungle and mean streets of a nearby city, empowering her to face her fears.
To find out how Adelita prevails, read Salmon Arm author Raedene Melin’s debut novel Las Hermanas.
Melin calls her novel a story of perseverance, loyalty, and struggle, one that took her five years to write.
“It has been a lifetime dream of mine to publish,” says Melin, whose knowledge of jungle life comes from personal experience.
When she was nine, her father took the family on a two-year stint to Venezuela, where he was in charge of building a school for an American mission group.
“We lived in a very remote area,” the Salmon Arm native says. “There was an Indigenous village, a couple of houses and an airport, and everything we couldn’t grow was flown in.”
“I always had a fascination with stories and I daydreamed a lot,” Melin says, noting her stay in Venezuela provided a valuable education and many adventures. “The Indigenous people were friendly but there were definitely a lot of cultural differences.”
The Yanomami, who live in southernmost Venezuela and northernmost Brazil, live in huts called “shabonos,” and sleep in hammocks around the outer rim of the shelter.
While she learned a few Yanomami words, Melin was flown to a boarding school for six or seven weeks at a time and learned to speak Spanish.
Having since earned a BA in history and an MA in integrated studies, Melin says the best part of her university studies was writing papers.
“I was more afraid to start, it’s a big impossible dream to accomplish,” she says of writing her novel. “I’m a procrastinator to the end. I will put something off until it’s due and then I’ll just hammer it through.”
Busy with the completing her MA, Melin had to ignore the idea for Las Hermanas as it continued to pop into her head.
No longer able to ignore it completely, she quickly jotted down notes the story idea down. And when she had completed the requirements for her master’s degree, she could no longer refuse the story of her nine-year-old heroine.
“I said, ‘OK it’s been pestering me, now I have to write,'” laughs Melin, who writes wherever she is comfortable and can focus. “When too much time goes by without writing I get antsy. All of a sudden the ideas are in my head and I feel an urgency to get them out.”
Melin says she writes in spurts when she the motivation overtakes her.
“I get into such a good rhythm the words just flow,” she says. “I have pulled all-nighters because I haven’t wanted to stop and I continue like that until I need a break or get too tired.”
Far from the Venezuelan jungle, Melin is now writing historical fiction based in the time of William Wallace, a Scottish knight who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the late 1200s.
Melin says she made several attempts to begin the story but was unable to find the right hook – until she came across Christina Bruce in her research.
One of the most famous warriors of the time, her brother, Robert the Bruce eventually led Scotland during the First War of Independence against England.
Melin says very little is known of Christina and her part in the fight for and in defence of the Scottish independence.
“She lived well into her 80s and was a prominent player in Scottish history,” says Melin, noting she successfully defended the family’s Kildrummy Castle when her brother was absent and and was held captive by the English for eight years in a nunnery. “There are so many resilient women in history but their voices aren’t heard and their stories are untold.”
Fascinated by history and old buildings, Melin takes issue with the fact that throughout history, the actions of men are recorded, often in great detail, while little is known about women.
“Where are the women, what are they doing? They’re not just sitting around having children. They’re always active.”
In the meantime, Las Hermanas is being published by Victoria’s Friesen Press, a firm that partners with Ingram, one of the largest book distributors in the world. The partnership will make Melin’s adult action adventure fiction available to 39,000 book sellers.
To be among the first to buy a copy of Las Hermanas, go to www.rjmbooks.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book drops on Feb. 16 and Melin is hoping to get copies of her book into local bookstores as quickly as possible.
When she is not immersed in writing, the 28-year-old entrepreneur operates her own small home decor business, Random Acts of Wood.
Her product is available at www.randomactsofwood.ca, at On Alex on Alexander Avenue and in the summer at De Mille’s artisan market.
“It’s a different stress having to work for yourself to pay all the bills, but I find it challenging and rewarding.”