It’s a novel about a skinny Canadian kid raised by a single mom in a small BC town who may – or may not – be the Son of God, says author Alan Daniels. Kirk’s problem is he can walk on water.
Retired Vancouver Sun business reporter Alan Daniels has written a novel about Jesus and walking on water. It’s not what you might expect.
The plot of River Boy revolves around a young Canadian boy who discovers he can walk on water, leading to an epic journey on the Fraser River, including in which he befriends a sturgeon. Even though it’s a fantasy novel, it has an air of gritty B.C. realism.
It’s the second novel by Daniels, 77, who also worked as a daily newspaper reporter and editor for the Daily Mail in London, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and the Sunday Australian in Sydney. Many British Columbians might remember him as The Sun’s shipping reporter, back when that was a lively journalistic beat.
Here’s a Q and A with Alan Daniels:
Q. What is the book about?
A. It’s about a skinny Canadian kid raised by a single mom in a small BC town who may – or may not – be the Son of God. Kirk’s problem is he can walk on water. The story is about how he deals with that, and how humanity today might react to him.
Q. Is it what some may call a “religious” book?
A On the contrary. Christianity is the villain of the piece, because the last thing Christianity wants is a competitor for brand Jesus, which has brought the church untold wealth over the centuries. The International Synod of Christian Religions meeting in Rome hires a hit man to eliminate Kirk before he can become a threat to their bottom line.
Q. You were a business reporter on the Vancouver Sun for many years. Is it possible you believe that Christianity is little more than a business?
A. Not at all, but I do believe organized religions have lost the plot and spend more time fighting with each other and covering up their own crimes than in doing good. Look at the Catholic Church and its reaction to worldwide pedophilia allegations.
Q. That’s a big statement, but I guess most religious people are used to such broadsides. Does your hero, River Boy, think he can change that sort of thing?
A. Kirk doesn’t know, but being a typical teenager, he’s not afraid to try. When he imagines God is actually listening to him, he tells God to fix the mess he has created.
As an aside, he says: “If he is my dad, somebody’s got to tell him.”
Kirk delivers a bit of a rant during his river walk and tells God how to fix things, starting with the clergy. “Get ‘em all together, the pope, the cardinals, the priests, the rabbis, the mullahs, the ayatollahs, the bishops, the imams, the whole fuckin’ lot of them together in one place. Bang some heads. Tell them if they can’t get along on earth, they’ll rot in hell.”
Q. And does the God of your imagination hear him?
A. I can’t tell you that because it would give away the ending. Let’s just say the heavens rumble and lighting strikes.
Q. Your first novel was an erotic comedy, Spank – The Improbable Adventures of George Aloysius Brown. River Boy is aimed at teens and young adults. That’s a switch.
A. I started off to write a coming of age story, about growing up and being different and coping with it. Dealing with bullies is part of it. So is the innocence and sweetness of teenage romance. Family bonding also plays an important role in the ultimate triumph of decency and community values over sinister international interests. I believe the story of River Boy will resonate with parents everywhere – especially single mothers – who must often feel they have little or no support.
A. At one point Kirk’s mother Lois, who realizes she could have done more when he was a baby to protect her child, fantasizes about swapping parenting tips with the Virgin Mary. “Was your Jesus surly and uncommunicative as a teenager? Could he walk on water, for Christ’s sake?” On the whole, however, she is fairly grounded, and even discusses the etiquette of future family dinners and getting God to pass the gravy.
Q. Do you consider yourself a religious/spiritual person?
A. No, but I’m with Kirk on this one. I like to think there must be a higher being, I just can’t imagine who or what it might be. I describe myself as agnostic, which is a bit of a cop out. Truth is, I’m not sure what to believe. When Kirk embarks on his epic walk on the Fraser River to save his girlfriend’s life, he is befriended by a 120-year-old sturgeon, who reminds him that sturgeon witnessed the birth of the dinosaurs and have been around long enough to know a thing or two. Sturgeon gives Kirk an entirely new perspective on life as he begins to confront his own demons.
Q. You worked on daily newspapers for more than 40 years, but you didn’t write your first novel until you were almost 70. That’s impressive.
A. I wasn’t sure I could do it. The longest article I wrote during my newspaper career was 5,000 words. Novel length is more like 90,000 words And, anyway, all the time my kids were growing up I had a good well-paid newspaper job and I was totally fulfilled creatively. It was only when I had more time on my hands that I decided to try to give it a try. And then there is the time it takes, the research and the endless re-writes. Each of my novels took me four years.
Q. What’s next after River Boy?
A. I’m not sure. I’m currently working on a stage play, and I write poetry which I post on line, and on the River Boy website, riverboythenovel.com. But there won’t be another novel. It’s too much of an emotional commitment and the whole business of trying to find an agent and a publisher is crushing. Plus, my wife says she’ll divorce me if I do. – and we’ve been married for 48 years. However, I won’t stop writing. I can’t stop. It’s what I am. It’s what I claim to be, anyway.”