Genre: MG Historical Fantasy
Can an unearthed talisman found on the shores of Lake Michigan save 12-year-old Violet’s fractured family? Exploring themes of Native American culture, ecology, and conservation, this historical fiction novel comes brilliantly to life.
The year is 1906, and twelve-year-old Violet Blake unearths an ancient talisman—a copper hand—beside the stream where her mother used to harvest medicine. Violet’s touch warms the copper hand and it begins to reveal glimpses of another time. Violet is certain that the copper hand is magic—and if anyone is in need of its powers, it’s Violet. Her mother and adored baby brother are gone, perhaps never to return. Her heartbroken father can’t seem to sustain the failing farm on the outskirts of Pigeon Harbor, on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Surely the magic of the copper hand can make things right for Violet and restore her fractured family. Violet makes a wish. But her ignorant carelessness unleashes formidable powers—and her attempts to control them jeopardizes not only herself, but the entire town of Pigeon Harbor.
In Copper Magic, land and waters are alive with memories, intentions, and impulses. Magic alters Violet and brings her gifts—but not always the kind she thinks she needs. First-time author Julia Mary Gibson brings Violet and her community to life in this impressive and assured debut.
Researching This Book
Research for Copper Magic was extensive and consuming. I read all I could find on the history of the midwest, of Michigan, of the town I used as a model for Pigeon Harbor, Native American history, Anishinaabe tradition and culture, Hopewell art, copper, the logging industry, archaeology, astroarchaeology, plant medicine, quillwork, Edwardian fashion, and many other topics.
I went to every small-town museum and historical society in northern Michigan that I could find. I went to Ohio and Illinois and visited Cahokia and the Hopewell sacred sites. I watched movies set in the early 1900s, read the literature of that time. I interviewed people. I wrote letters. I kept reams of notes in file folders. I tacked images on my office wall: a dilapidated farmhouse, cherry trees in bloom, copper repousse plaqueous, Anishinaabe quillworkers selling their birch boxes by a tourist hotel, a map made by the French explorers, a modern map of Michigan, a map of the forced relocation of Natives, birch trees, Lake Michigan ice floes.
I never didn’t want to find out more. I felt I had a responsibility to be as authentic to the time period and to the characters as I possibly could. What would a 12-year-old small-town girl read? What animals would she see in the wild? How would her mind work? How would she allow herself to feel?
A downside to research is that sometimes you want to use stuff that’s really cool that doesn’t serve the story. In my writing group we call this phenomenon The Pickle Factory. One of us was writing a book about a certain time and place, and in that actual time and place there was a pickle factory. She found out all about how the pickles were made and what the factory smelled like and what kind of women worked there, and she really wanted one of her characters to work there too. She wrote a wonderful scene in the pickle factory, but it didn’t quite go with the rest of the book. She resisted dumping it, but eventually she did.
I contended with some Pickle Factories in Copper Magic. Pickle Factories have to be put aside. They drag the story down. But they can be saved in one of those nice file folders. Maybe that’s why I’m working on a story set in 1918, not so far from the 1906 of Copper Magic. Those Pickle Factory files might come in handy.
For a significant chunk of my life I worked with sprocketed celluloid, as a garage animator and in various capacities in the visual effects industry. My colleagues were geniuses and magicians and sorceresses. The work was a blast (sometimes literally – catch me as Frances McDormand’s double in an awesome old-school beamsplitter shot in Sam Raimi’s DARKMAN), but a time came when my own work cried out to be fostered again.
I live in Hollywood, California, surrounded by my four-generation extended family of poets, thespians, dancers, filmworkers, and urban farmers.