I wrote Black Water because my adopted son was afraid I would die before he grew up, and I wanted to show him that even if such an awful thing happened, he could survive.
At least I thought that was my reason for writing it; because as time went on, I came to realise that I was actually writing it for, and about, myself.
I was trying to make sense of what happened to me, when as a young person, many of my closest relatives and my best friend died. I went to a funeral on average about once every two or three months over a period of two years, and in those days there wasn’t counselling readily available for young people. We simply went back to school and got on with it.
The consequence of this was that I lugged my grief around for many years, coming to accept the pain as part of ‘me’, until in the middle of my life, I managed to find my way into therapy and work it out.
Afterwards, I went on to adopt a child and in so doing, I recognised that many of the struggles my son had, were profoundly related to the process of grieving and loss. By this time, my life was completely different to the way it had once been. I was happily married, doing things that I loved and I wanted to show my son and other young people, how it is possible to transform the difficult feelings associated with loss and to find happiness in new relationships, by living in the present instead of the past.
I didn’t really plan Black Water though, it just evolved over time. And while I was writing it, the myths of North America’s First People found me – or rather, they found Ben Pilgrim, as he struggled to understand why bad things had happened to him and what these losses meant. They spoke to him in a deep way about the order of the universe and what we can learn from every single moment of every day, when no matter how we try to control things, ‘stuff happens’. They showed him that Coyote is always looking over our shoulder, teaching us something and the only thing we can do about that, is pay attention and learn from it what matters to us.