Alumna Karen Paquin combines her passions for Norse mythology and a desire to empower others to reach their potential in her recent first novel The Son of Nine Sisters (self-published, 360 pages), written under the nom de plume, Karen P. Foster.
Paquin started writing the book four years ago, while she was working on her master’s degree as a mature student at Concordia. Knee-deep in academic articles, computer simulation models and analysis for her thesis, on the topic of climate change, she sought an escape and began writing.
Part of what initiated her writing about Norse mythology was an environmental modelling course with Damon Matthews, associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, and her graduate studies advisor.
“I was studying carbon release through deforestation in Iceland at the time of the Viking settlement and my research included readings from Landnámabók, the Book of Settlements. It’s a medieval Icelandic book about the region’s first settlers, which tied in perfectly with my fascination with the Norse culture,” she says.
“I wanted the novel to be about Norse mythology, but it’s really about the main character, Stacy, unconsciously following a path that suits her better than the corporate one she’s trying to fit into in New York City,” says Paquin. Stacy works as an administrative assistant and feels powerless under a boss who won’t promote her. She starts having visions of Norse gods and, in her dreams, literally becomes the almighty Haimdall. The book jumps between the world of the gods and her real life, where her research into Norse myth leads her to break away from the nine-to-five lifestyle and discover her true purpose in life.
That self-discovery theme runs through other aspects of Paquin’s life. Since graduating in 2011, Paquin began coaching and leading retreats to help people find balance and empower themselves to follow through with their dreams. She also writes a weekly blog that explores questions through the guidance of the runes, letters in the Norse alphabet which are also symbols that can be interpreted to offer guidance.
Paquin recommends her book to readers who like books that move and who want to learn more about the myths without reading the original text. “I try to revitatlise the myths for a new generation,” she says.
Paquin is working on a sequel to her novel and is co-writing a book for young readers. The co-author is her imaginative eight-year old daughter, who came up with the idea of a girl who travels back in time through a magic mirror. “She will write a paragraph and hand it over to me to flesh out. She’s the boss, so I give it back to her to approve,” says Paquin.
In 2011, Paquin earned the top prize in the poetry contest at Islendingadargurinn, the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba. Last November, she successfully completed the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) Challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. Her short story “What's in a Name?” was published in a Summit Studios anthology in October.
Despite immersing herself in fiction writing, Paquin keeps a hand in the world of science, having recently taught a course on climate change at McGill University.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, she completed her undergraduate studies in geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. She and her husband Raymond Paquin moved to Montreal when he joined Concordia’s John Molson School of Business as a professor of management in 2008.
• The Son of Nine Sisters
• Paquin’s blog: The Wonder of Runes
• Concordia Department of Geography, Planning and Environment