Ask The Author

Candy Gourlay

Bone Talk

When Samkad's father is sleepwalking, what is he dreaming about? – Indhu, 15

Good question. There was a scene I cut from the sleepwalking story that somehow didn't manage to get back in for various reasons. Father dreams that he meets Samkad in the Land of the Dead and it shakes him to the core. In indigenous cultures, dreams are often taken as part of reality, and to Father, the dream would have had the same impact as if it had really happened.

How did you decide on each of the characters' names? Do they mean anything to you? – Alex, 13

I am terrible at names but I did work hard on the names of these characters. I tried asking an online forum for typical indigenous names, but someone replied, "My name is Ian. Why don't you use that?" and I realised that nobody understood what I was looking for. So I searched the diaries of anthropologists to find good names for my characters. Not just for their meanings but for my Western readers to get their tongues around the pronunciation. I made up the name Little Luki. And Chuka is the name of my own late, beloved childhood dog.

When Little Luki grows up does she become a warrior or follows her path by being a women/girl? – Claire, 11

I am writing a sequel to Bone Talk. You will have to wait to find out!

How much of your story really happened? For example, is the tree based on an actual one that existed/still exists today? – Leo, 11

In the old cultural region of Bontok, every village had a grove of sacred trees, where religious rituals were performed. The mountain villages today are largely modernised, the strange mossy forests are no longer there, but some villages still have their sacred groves, called Patayan. Most of the culture I describe is true – the House for Men, the ancients, the rituals, the way children cared for the babies, the belief in a parallel world of spirits, the belief that those who died by another's hand were sent to a sky world where they had to live out another lifetime before being admitted to the spirit world. There is also some true history. There really was a battle that ended in massacre, called the Battle of Tirad Pass; and the Americans really did make the tribesmen bury the bodies. I saw a photo of tribesmen carefully carrying a huge American across a river and wondered, what did it feel like, if you were a great warrior, to be ordered to carry your invader across the water?