Author Nina Revoyr gets readers in touch with nature through her books
A nod to nature
Katie Mills Giorgio
Author Nina Revoyr is all about keeping her readers turning the pages of her adventure novels.
“I want to write books that are fun for people to read, that you really care about what happens next in the story,” she says. “And I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I love the natural world and being outside and I’ve long been a huge fan of adventure survival novels, like Jack London stories.”
Her latest novel, “Lost Canyon,” at first glance seems to fit the mold. Except that Revoyr, a Japanese American, set out to write about adventure while simultaneously breaking that mold.
“I was really interested in writing an adventure novel that was reflective of the world as I know it and the people I know,” she says. “I live in a place that is very, very diverse. My own life is very diverse in terms of who I work with and live among. So I wanted to create an adventure story that is more representative of current day and my own life.”
And so “Lost Canyon” became a fascinating blend of adventure story that deals with social issues as well. The novel — Revoyr’s fifth — is a suspenseful adventure tale that follows four urbanites from Los Angeles as they trek into the Sierra Nevada and find more than they bargained for on their backpacking adventure.
“My books tend to take on pretty intense topics in terms of race,” Revoyr says, noting that the book is narrated by three of the four main characters, one a white Midwesterner, one a Latino real estate agent and one an African American youth counselor. “In this book I take on drug production and a white supremacy, but I try to take on these topics in a fun way and create an enjoyable experience for the read.”
“I wanted to show how different characters based on their own backgrounds and experiences perceive things and are perceived by others,” she adds. “There are situations in the book that the four characters will encounter and they will read it in completely different ways based on their own backgrounds. None of these perspectives are wrong; they are just shaped by their life experiences.”
The book has been compared to “Deliverance,” which Revoyr says was a definite influence. “My book is dealing with big themes. And the assumptions and beliefs (of the main characters) begin to break down when they are confronted by real danger.”
Being called her best novel to date, Revoyr says “Lost Canyon” is both similar and distinct from her previous work, which has garnered her an Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award and notice by O, The Oprah Magazine.
“There are similarities in all my books in terms of community and what constitutes community; who is included and who is left out,” she says. “My characters are trying to figure out how they are different and what they have in common.”
Four of her five books are set in Los Angeles, although her last book, “Wingshooters,” was set in Wisconsin. “That was my first book where I started to write about the natural world and what it’s like to be in a world that is so much bigger than you and the beauty and grandeur of nature,” she says. “This new book is a hybrid. There’s the city but then they go to the mountains and it becomes about wilderness and how people relate to wilderness. It’s a humbling thing to be a tiny person in the context of a space that’s so much bigger than you. This book is in part an exploration of how people are going to deal with that. Even though the mountains of California are very different from the woods and plains of the Midwest, I think there is that common love of the natural world and a really close attention to not just the big ticket items (mountains and plains) but the beauty of a flock of birds or the bark on a tree.”
Revoyr lived in Wisconsin for a number of years as a child and says that through her book tours to the Midwest — in which Iowa is a frequent and much loved spot — she’s realized the influence those years had on who she is today.
“I realized through connecting with Midwesterners, how much I was shaped by my time in the Midwest. Things like work ethic, always trying to be humble, and that certain relationship to the outdoors and your own body. I am grateful for those influences on my personhood.”
She is excited about returning for another visit.
“Writing is such a solitary thing,” Revoyr says. “It is so incredibly fulfilling and humbling to go out and interact with people who have read your work or are interested in reading your work and for whom that work might have spurred some thoughts. It is incredible when they want to share with you what your book meant to them.”
What: Nina Revoyr will reach from “Lost Canyon”
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
Also reading: Joe Meno will read from his book “Marvel and a Wonder”