by Rachel Clark
GENRE: Young Adult/Nature
Best friends Terra and Tiluk live alongside the wild orcas of Washington State. On the other side of the continent, Miles wallows in anger and self-pity fueled by his parents’ divorce. In a moment of harrowing fate, their lives converge when Miles witnesses a captive orca brutally kill his trainer at a marine amusement park.
When Miles contacts Terra and her family of whale biologists to better understand the “killer” whale, the three teens soon realize they are more linked to each other – and the whales – than they ever imagined. Driven by a primal urge to connect with the highly-evolved consciousness of the orca, the teens take extraordinary risks to challenge big business and renew lost traditions.
Their journey is set to restore an ancient mystical bond between humans and whales that ultimately reveals The Blackfish Prophecy…a revelation about Terra – and those like her – that’s about to change everything.
But this evening Claire was no peacemaker. She’d rung the bell. The bell was only for extreme emergencies. Yet when she’d gotten the call from a colleague in Florida about what had happened at OceanLand this morning, ringing the bell was her first response. With that phone call, all the years of hurt and frustration burst, and something broke inside her. She’d known even as she rang the bell that obviously this wasn’t a true emergency, but a part of her needed the tolling just the same. Something had to change. He’d killed again. Her heart cringed, thinking of him. She wiped her eyes, again.
Claire shivered inside her parka and glanced back at Terra and Tiluk, hand in hand as they descended the long set of stairs behind her and the other adults. She saw that Terra gingerly held the carved and blood‐soaked whale that she’d brought home, her fingers bandaged from the cut she’d given herself. Claire hadn’t been surprised to see Terra’s carving of the new calf. She knew her daughter felt a special kinship with Wendy’s new baby. She took a deep breath of the salted air she loved so much, reminding herself why she and her family were here. But her stomach remained tight with grief and empathy. Now, instead of having the chance to meet the new calf her daughter had dreamt about with a free and easy heart, the news of the killing shadowed everything. And even though she was a scientist, a world‐class researcher of the highest order, Claire had asked Terra to broadcast the Adagio on the two‐way. Just this once. With this latest killing, she felt an overwhelming need to ritualize her sorrow with the whales.
She looked at her husband Bill, taking in his salt‐and‐pepper windswept tousle of hair and etched face. His grim glance told her he felt as sick with the news and what it meant as she did. Looking back at Joseph and Maggie, she knew they felt it, too. Joseph reached out and clasped her shoulder for a moment, his eyes holding hers.
“Careful Claire,” Maggie said, eyeing the narrow, steep stairway. “Mercy, we don’t need any more injuries today,” she murmured. Claire stopped short, turned all the way around, and leaned into Maggie, hugging her briefly from the stair below.
“I know, honey.” Maggie hugged her hard. “I know.”
Terra met Tiluk’s eyes, puzzled. What is really going on here? The adults said they’d explain about the Shantu news later, at dinner. Why was her mom so upset? Terra didn’t even know how to feel about what they’d told her. She was too dazed. The calf has a brother. The calf has a brother. Her mind, overwhelmed by this news—and the killing—had shut down. The words kept rolling around and around her head: The calf has a brother. But her brother killed a human. Her brother killed someone. It was all she could think of, as if the news itself blocked her from considering its implications. Tiluk had grown even more solemn and quiet than usual. Neither Terra nor Tiluk were ready to know more.
Rachel is a writer and biologist. As a kid she got hooked on all things animal, vegetable, and mineral. To complicate matters, she was hatching up stories before she could hold a crayon. Once she discovered biology it was all over. Ever since her first class in 7th grade when she refused to dissect a frog, a little voice in her head said: You gotta share this amazing stuff about how nature works, and ask if we really need to harm it. The little voice only got fiercer once she went to college and worked with captive dolphins and Beluga whales, then got to see wild killer whales only a few weeks later. From then on it was an all-out quest to convey the wonders of nature, while pointing out the serious problems of our very bad habit of dominating others and the Earth. She’s been a card-carrying science writer for twenty years. The Blackfish Prophecy is Rachel’s first book.
These days when Rachel is not writing, reading, dreaming, or speaking, you can find her sculpting an unruly assortment of moose-pruned orchard trees & berry bushes, gathering veggies & eggs in her micro-farmyard, foraging for mushrooms, and feasting on local food with friends.
She is a lifelong yogini, devoted pack mate to her free-spirited Canid, and mama bear who’s sustained by treks deep into the Pacific Northwest with her increasingly feral family. Rachel drives a 100% electric zero-emission car, and her family’s home is powered by renewable energy. Their little house is nestled on an urban lot they tend for kids’ play, territory Animalia, sequestering carbon, and a food forest to augment the bounty of local growers.
Her work is fiercely aligned with the science of Life, harmony & justice for all: the enduring dream of Earth.
- Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in New England, and grew up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was a childhood spent in the fields and woods of one of our country’s bloodiest civil war battles, but that was not on my mind. Rather, the ponies and chickens and flowers of the old civil war era farm kept me busy when I was very young. We left the farm too early, but I had the joy of allying with horses as a teenager thanks to my dedicated mother. The “civil war” that I faced, was at home, with my parents’ difficult divorce and traumatic fallout of that. Books, the outdoors, and the animals, in important ways, saved me. I understood unconditional love with the animals and nature, human resilience and triumph over hardship from my books, and the joy of discovery from both. So the interconnection between the web of life and literature began for me at a very young age.
- How do you create your characters?
They present themselves, and develop as we go. Sometimes I have a very clear picture of who someone is – that was true for Terra and Tiluk, in The Blackfish Prophecy. But Miles. He’s another matter. He showed up and as I wrote him, he continued to surprise me. He did things I wasn’t expecting, which sounds odd, since I was allegedly creating his character, but it didn’t feel like that. It was more like he revealed himself, and I just sat there and honored his emergence.
- Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?) When I’m writing, it is very often that dark mystical time of day before dawn. The story almost always wakes me early – between 4:00 and 4:30am – and I heed it. If I commit to being at the desk when the story speaks, I will often write for 2-5 hours at a stretch, depending on how it’s coming to me. As a writer, I know I have to put myself into the chair, and write. Or it won’t happen.
Tea is my drink. PG Tips. Very hot, with goat’s milk, and nothing sweet. Sometimes there is quiet indigenous music or drumming in the background. Once, as I wrote the scene early in The Blackfish Prophecy where Terra and Tiluk did a duet of Simple Gifts, that very same song came on the radio in those exact moments. The force for Harmony was right there as I wrote.
- What do you like to read? Oh my! I absolutely adore a beautifully written, transformative love story where the characters overcome their own inner hurts and hurdles. We have to love ourselves first, before romance can flame into true love. If we don’t we are at risk of waking up in abusive hurtful relationships that can take us away from our own inner light and life’s work. Too often we don’t see that, and don’t realize we are living in shame, self-doubt, and denial. So those great love stories are important! My favorite recently is, The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce.
I also love the books that spotlight our emerging understanding of the science coming to grips with mystical experience. Anything by Robert Moss, whom I discovered after writing The Blackfish Prophecy and who teaches ancient indigenous dream work practices that I’d already found by “coincidence.” Mind to Matter by Dr. Dawson Church and One Mind by Dr. Larry Dossey, are among my favorites.
Also, Dr. Riane Eisler, founder of The Center for Partnership Studies is among my narrative heroes for shifting our culture towards harmony. She wrote the landmark book The Chalice and The Blade, and her Sacred Pleasure transformed my grasp of what’s possible between people and planet.
We do need to get very busy on shifting our narrative so we can rise to the epic, unprecedented challenge of climate change and related issues. Including specific extinction, poverty, domination culture, consumption, and our unsustainable and toxic industrial systems.
You can help by telling your friends, family, and government representatives how climate change makes you feel, how it affects you, and what you want to do about it.
- What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing? READ! Educate yourself about the world we live in, read actual books, take extended breaks (!) from social media to let your brain grow and process the world. Too much social media fractures our minds in ways that make it very hard to focus and create (or value the importance of) strong narratives. There is just no substitute for deep reading. It affects your capacity to write. When I’m reading someone who rarely reads, the writing is spotty and shallow at best. But oh, the joy of reading a book-loving writer? That’s heaven.
Rachel Clark will be awarding 1 signed paperback of the Blackfish Prophecy
1 bookmark for The Blackfish Prophecy, 1 Orca-themed or book-themed mug to one randomly drawn US winner via rafflecopter during the tour.