Author hosts book signing, presentation on campus

Indigenous Nancy Drew meets 21 Jump Street is how award-winning author Angeline Boulley described her main character Daunis Fontaine in “Firekeeper’s Daughter.”

Boulley came to MCCC March 19 through the One Book, One Community program to share about her book, talk about her writing process and discuss how she created the plot for her book.

She was introduced by Barbara Mauter, faculty specialist and tutor, who spoke a few words in Boulley’s Native American language Anishinaabe.

A small group of MCCC faculty, Writing Fellows and Agora staff had the opportunity to sit down with Boulley and listen to the journey she went through publishing her first novel.

Angeline Boulley, author of “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” explains her writing process during a book signing and presentation with Writing Fellows and Agora staff. (Photos by Reese Bowling.)

“When the manuscript went out for submission we had a list of twenty two editors from different publishing companies,” Boulley said. “Twelve were interested, so I had phone calls with each one.”

Boulley said she was 18 years old when she first thought of the premise of her book and started writing down ideas for it.

It wasn’t until she was 44 years old that she decided she needed to write a draft of the book and see if anyone thought it was good enough to be published.

“It took 10 years to finish a draft I felt comfortable enough to get published,” Boulley said.

Boulley explained how she used her own experience of growing up with a Native American father and a non-Native mother to draw out her character’s feelings of conflict about where she belonged.

She said she had an earlier draft that detailed tribal rituals she knew about and it took time for her to be wise enough to question whether she should be adding such details. 

“I thought to myself, ‘should I be sharing all this about ceremony?’” she said. “Then I realizing just because I know it, doesn’t mean I have to prove it.”

Out of respect for her tribe Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Boulley created a fictitious tribe, Bear Clan, for her character Daunis. It allowed her to insert rituals and beliefs that she had been taught, but also allowed her the freedom to add in elements that were not part of her tribe’s belief system.

During the presentation, Boulley pointed out that her masters degree was in public administration. She said she had always wanted to write this story because she had a passion for writing, but it wasn’t until later in life when she really focused on it.

“In hindsight I’m glad that I didn’t because the career I did have ended up shaping the story and served me better than a creative writing degree would have,” Boulley said.

Boulley encouraged writers to continue to pursue their craft and never give up on their passions. She left time for audience questions and to speak with her individually after the presentation.

She signed the books of all those in attendance who brought them. Some of those in attendance had the opportunity to express what they loved about her book or her writing style, including writing fellows Brooklyn Kayson, Autumn West, Mia Sotelo and Gabby Forrester.

Angeline Boulley, author of “Firekeeper’s Daughter,” signs a copy of her book at a book signing and presentation with Writing Fellows and Agora staff.

“Themes about Michigan added to the culture and history, making it a better than your average book,” Kayson said.

Though she was required to be there for her advanced writing class, Sotelo said she was glad she came to the presentation, and she particularly enjoyed the book’s focus on Native American culture.

“She is doing an amazing job of showcasing Native culture,” Sotelo said.

West said she enjoyed Daunis’ close relationship with her Aunt and how she gave her advice about love.

Forrester said Boulley’s book had messages that helped her in times of grief.

Boulley has a second book out that is not a continuation of Daunis Fontaine’s story, but takes the reader into the world of another character introduced in her first book. This book is titled “Warrior Girl” and Boulley describes it as an Indigenous girl meets Laura Croft.