Master of Alaska
By Roger Seiler
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
The detail and research that author Roger Seiler used – from biographies to actual letters and reports by the Governor Baranov himself - creates a riveting story.
Master of Alaska - a compelling Historical Fiction about the first governor of Alaska sent to the colony by Russia in 1790 – George Washington was President at the time. Master of Alaska starts in October 1790 when Aleksandr Baranov left his family in Russia and sails across the North Pacific to Kodiak to become the chief manager for Tsarina Catherine the Great’s colony in the far Northwest of North America. Baranov is shipwrecked, saved and adopted by the Aleut natives. Later he is forced to marry Anooka the daughter of the tribal chief, despite still having a wife back in Russia to save his men from starvation. Only slated to serve five years, Baranov spends the next 28 years in Alaska, surviving natural disasters, a massacre of his people at Sitka, meddling competing Russian authorities, a British attempt to undermine his colony and an assassination attempt. Interestingly, Baranov’s native wife and teenage daughter play an intricate role and contribute much to his success and survival in Alaska. Baranov built an empire and sought peace with the warring Tlingit, and thanks largely to his efforts Alaska is part of the U.S. today.
Excerpt: Nanuq (p. 38)
INTRO: After being rescued from their shipwreck on Unalaska Island by the Aleuts, Aleksandr Baranov and his Russian crew of 53 men had faced a food supply problem. Baranov solved the problem by learning the Aleut's methods of seal hunting and then killed enough seals to provide food through the arriving winter.
As he and his men prepared to leave for Kodiak up the Alaska Peninsula in large Aleut rowboats,Toyon Putuguq invited Baranov into his big barabara next to a ceremonial fire, along with Kuponek and some other Aleut men. The room was quiet as the men entered and took their places around the central fireplace. Baranov saw this was going to be an important ceremony and payed close attention.
After another long and silent moment, Toyon Putuguq spoke to Baranov in the Aleut language, which Baranov by then knew well: "Baranov has learned Native ways. Baranov is the only Russian who learned to hunt well with Native ways and speak our language well. And Baranov worked for the village, not just himself. "Now Baranov is part Aleut," he continued. "So now, as toyon, I give Baranov an Aleut name: Nanuq, blessed by the sacred fire spirit. Nanuq is the polar bear, the great white hunter.
"With your Native name, I give this skin of Nanuq. I got it from an Eskimo up north. It has great powers."
Baranov Meets Anooka (p. 82)
INTRO: After Aleksandr Baranov had reached the Russian settlement at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, he took command of the colony. The Aleut village chief, named Grigor by the Russians, had learned to speak Russian and invited Baranov into his longhouse to confer. As they sat in front of the central fire, Baranov took from his pocket a bright copper plate engraved with Tsarina Catherine's coat of arms and gave it to Chief Grigor as a gift.
Chief Grigor's eyes widened in amazement as he examined the copper plate closely. "This is important," he said.
It was exactly the reaction Baranov wanted. He continued, "I look for a long future of friendship between us. We can help each other in many ways. I must explore Montague Island, over here, and need some of your men as guides."
"Great Nanuq, do you have a woman?"
Baranov was taken aback. "I have a wife in Russia."
"In Russia? What good is that? Take my daughter for wife. Then I be your father, and we work together as one. This way we make powerful alliance."
Before Baranov could react, Chief Grigor turned and called out to his daughter in his Native tongue, "Anooka, come here!"
From a dim recess of the lodge, a slender seventeen-year-old in deerskins approached with unusual youthful dignity. She had glistening long, black hair flowing over her shoulders, and set in an oval face were the high cheek bones common to many Natives. Her big, warm, brown eyes looked out from under lovely arched eyebrows. Clear, tan skin, a straight, pretty nose, and a mouth with soft lips completed her. To Baranov, Anooka was strikingly beautiful. Though reserved, the self-confidence of her rank allowed her to glance at the strange Russian in front of her, and then she faced her father.
In the Kenaitze dialect of the Alutiiq language, the chief told her, "Turn around and face the great Russian Nanuq." She did so. With no hint of shyness, she looked Baranov right in his eyes. Her intelligent dark eyes held his stare as an equal for a long moment, until she yielded a slight smile, revealing perfect white teeth, and looked down.
Nanuq quickly collected himself and, wanting to get back to the negotiations for guides, replied, "Chief Grigor, your offer is most generous. But as I said, I already have a wife in Russia."
Grigor insisted, "But not here. How long has it been, great Nanuq, since you've had a wife at your side?"
Baranov stared at him in silence. He didn't want to offend the man, but the proposal was absurd.
The chief tried once more. Certainly an alliance with this Russian Nanuq would greatly benefit his own stature in the eyes of his people—and especially their southern enemies, the hated Tlingit.
"I see. Well, you need a wife here! And we need a strong alliance."
"A Russian can only have one wife."
"Poor man! Poor man!" said Grigor in mild disappointment. He knew that making such alliances, especially with one as strong as Nanuq, could take time and much negotiation. But just how strong was Nanuq, anyway? Maybe he should be tested. There was more than one way to impress the Tlingit with Kenaitze power. Grigor motioned to Anooka to return to her work.
"Well, then, the least I can do for you is give you the guides you need."
Anooka sat on a blanket in the back of the longhouse, where she had been making a bear claw necklace for her father. Why did Father want to give her to this man? Though short, he looked strong and intelligent, but strange. Could she ever want him? She knew what she wanted would count for nothing. Her father would decide, and she had to trust him to choose well for her. She would ask one thing: that her father wait until he really knew a man before he made his choice. As his daughter, she deserved at least that, and the chief had only just met this Nanuq.
Baranov looked into the shadows for Anooka, straining for another glimpse of her youthful beauty. Grigor noticed.
Interview with Author
Tell us about your genre. How did you come to choose it? Why does it appeal to you?
Historical novels are my game because I like to bring to life the stories of real people who made a difference in their times. I'm intrigued by looking at history and delving into the lives of people whose struggles, loves, failures and triumphs are appealing today. It's a thrill to create characters based on true history that just jump off the page and make readers want to identify with them. And when we can learn lessons from them that have meaning in our own lives, that's the payoff for me.
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?
With all the emphasis on "show the story, don't tell it," I've found that the reader can find too much "showing" tedious. So I learned how to alternate between the two styles as story demands. "Showing" is used for the crucial scenes where there is the most character development. "Telling" is used for all the in-between connective tissue that carries the story to the next crisis or high point, in order to keep the story moving at an appropriate pace and hold interest.
When and where do you do your writing?
Mostly at home in my grown son's former bedroom, still decorated with pictures from his outdoor adventures that keep me inspired. Then when my grown daughter comes in for a visit, puts her arms around me with a big smile, that's all I need to keep me going.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
Promoting a book is hard work, but it can be interesting and fun once you learn what works best for a particular book.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
As a writer, nothing makes me happier and proud than having a reader tell me how much they enjoyed the characters and how engaged they felt by the story.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
If we could bring him back, I'd love to have dinner with Jack London. I would want to hear about all the adventures he had that he never got around to writing about. After that, I'd like to learn how he learned to think like a dog in "Call of the Wild" and make it feel real.
About the Author
Award-winning filmmaker and author Roger Seiler grew up in Alaska from age three. His love of adventure comes from both his parents. His father Edwin was a civil engineer eventually becoming an Alaskan bush pilot. His mother Josefina was born in Puerto Rico and was a writer and Alaskan sport-fishing lodge manager with the hobby of Flamenco dancing. In his late teens, Roger was a king salmon sport fishing guide on Alaska’s Naknek River, and also a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay.
He attended Deep Springs College and graduated With Honors from UCLA with a BA in Theater Arts - Film. His first film work was for UCLA’s Automotive Collision Research project, including a film for TV, “Safety on the Road,” which he wrote, produced and directed. While attending UCLA, Roger also worked with actor Karl Malden and famed director Francis Ford Coppola.
Roger worked for IBM for several years as an in-house filmmaker involved largely in producing and directing motivational films for employee conventions. He has made over 30 documentary films. His IBM film, "The Inner Eye of Alexander Rutsch" had a special screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art and won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, as did three of his other films, "Frontiers," "Challenge Over the Atlantic," and "Strategy of the Achiever."
Roger currently lives in South Nyack, NY with his wife Sally. Roger is a devoted reader and supporter of libraries. In 1977 he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Nyack Library (Carnegie funded in 1879) and has continued to serve for 40 years, 16 as Board President. Master of Alaska, a Historical Novel, is his second book and whose publisher North Face Publishing is subsidiary of Motivational Press Publishing.
Roger reading from his book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBgh3nraTrY&feature=youtu.be
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/MasterAlaska
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2qrLNQQ
Award winning Filmmaker and Author Roger Seiler is giving away EACH DAY one SIGNED hard-copy of his Historical Novel MASTER OF ALASKA during the virtual book tour June 12 through June 30. Register at Roger’s website: https://www.masterofalaska.com/contact – Good Luck!