I am happy to welcome Canadian researcher and biographer Joanna Kafarowski to my blog today! She is so passionate about the Artic and explorer Louise Arner Boyd that even a beach bum like me has become interested in learning more about the North.
I hope you enjoy learning about Joanna, her books, and love of anything polar.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, your books and your career.
I’m a first-generation Canadian with a restless spirit and have spent time living in Mexico, England and Costa Rica. Although I started writing at a young age, I didn’t assumed the mantle of ‘author’ until fairly recently. I’ve just published my first book entitled, ‘The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd’ (Dundurn Press, 2017) which is the first comprehensive biography of American polar explorer Louise Arner Boyd. I also edited ‘Gender, Culture and Northern Fisheries’ (Canadian Circumpolar Press, 2009).
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life and have travelled to some pretty amazing places including Russia, the Galapagos Islands, Laos, El Salvador and Japan. Of course, the Arctic is my favourite region and the place where I feel most at home. I’ve been looking forward to travelling to Greenland for a long time because it’s still considered quite remote and because of its close association with my biographical subject, explorer Louise Arner Boyd. Most of her expeditions focused on Greenland and she returned there again and again hoping to learn more of its secrets. I’m so excited to be travelling there this summer as a Guest Lecturer with the polar cruise company Poseidon Expeditions.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? Why?
My usual writing routine takes place in silence in my upstairs study. When I’m trying to figure out a problem or am revising, I need to be completely inside my head so any noise at all is a distraction. The sole exception to this would be provided by my two tortoiseshell feline sisters Tilly and Sirri who prowl around the whole day and provide happy meows. I also pace a fair bit and talk out loud to myself so any other noise would not be welcome.
Where do you do your best writing?
Definitely in my study early in the day. I need silence, a calm household, an untroubled mind and the presence of my cats. For the stars to align, my room and desk have to be uncluttered and the computer has to be behaving. By 3:00, my creativity begins to wane and things only go downhill from there.
Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I feel most comfortable writing non-fiction. I’m able to choose topics that are near and dear to my heart and spend as long as I like researching them and bringing forth these amazing stories to share with the world. I particularly like working with stories that other people don’t know much about but should- in my estimation anyway! I am particularly committed to telling women’s stories and there are thousands and thousands of powerful women whose lives have been marginalized or forgotten. Louise Arner Boyd was one of these.
What motivates you to write?
It’s something deep within me. Not logical or reasonable. It just is. What does affect it, however, is modern life which is not conducive to allowing one person the time and the space to sit quietly and work for hours at a time. I know I have to write. I know I should write but too often I let other tasks interfere with this work.
Why do you write in your chosen genre?
Biography fascinates me. At a very basic level, it means digging into people’s lives, rooting around and finding out things that no one else knows. Handling fascinating original artifacts, knowing that you are standing in the exact same spot as your subject and feeling that frisson of delight go up your spine when you do so. At its very best- and this is what does it for me- it’s playing a role in highlighting someone’s life and bringing a remarkable person like Louise Arner Boyd to the attention of more people. She should never have been forgotten and my book will help her to reach more people. It’s intoxicating stuff!
Tell me something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing.
I’m a keen family historian. Ever since I was nine years old and my grandmother in England sent me an envelope filled with photographs of my mother as a child, I’ve been hooked. This also leads neatly into being a biographer since many of the same skills are required- being tenacious, using solid detective skills, thinking outside the box. I also love birds and have always had a significant bird encounter at a critical junction in my life. Birds calm me and delight me and lead the way forward.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?
I was born to be a writer. It is my passion, my greatest joy and my deepest despair. It enables me to follow my natural ilk which is to be reclusive, ignoring the telephone and other people and at my happiest and best when I am scrabbling around in dusty archives. It forces me to move entirely outside my comfort zone and confront my greatest fears when I adopt the role of book promoter/circus performer talking endlessly about myself. From the very beginning, my goal in writing ‘The Polar Adventures of a Rich American Dame A Life of Louise Arner Boyd’ was to ensure that people learned about Louise Arner Boyd and I feel this deep within my bones. She is a truly extraordinary individual and I feel privileged to be the one to bring her story to the world.
Joanna is also a member of Travel By Book, a Facebook group dedicated to travel fiction and non-fiction. If you love to read or write books strong in setting, consider joining us!