Wednesday, March 13, 2013

An Interview with Nancy Marguerite Anderson

Nancy Marguerite Anderson

SSJ: Welcome! Tell us about yourself.
NMA: My name is Nancy Marguerite Anderson (some people ask me how I am Anderson when my mother was A.C.Anderson’s grand-daughter. I legally changed my name to Anderson many years before I even started this project.)

Born and brought up on Cortes Island, BC, and lived in Victoria off and on for many years. I have been off-shore sailor, foodservice business owner, and salesperson for a natural health company. Now I am a writer concentrating on the fur trade of the territory West of the Rocky Mountains – generally before 1858.

SSJ: I loved your book, The Pathfinder. Give us a bit of background on it.
NMA: Alexander Caulfield Anderson is famous amongst BC historians as the fur trader who, in the mid-1840s, threaded his way through mountain passes and down rapid-filled rivers in search of a horse-friendly trail through the rugged country that separated Kamloops from Fort Langley.
But he is also my great-grandfather, and I wanted to know who he was. I found a man with quirks and flaws and character and kindness and a poetic courtesy – an extraordinary human being. 

The Pathfinder
I just finished reading it, and thought it was terrific. How did you get starting writing the book?
I always knew I was related to this man; at a period in my life when I needed a diversion I escaped into the archives to copy out all his journals and writings, with a view to writing about him, perhaps. I began the real process of researching about ten years ago.

What did you learn during the writing process? Can you give us any tips?
Everything, from beginning to end, was a learning experience, and I am still learning. All I can tell anyone who is beginning to be a writer is to do good research, if your book requires that, and to continue writing. Set a schedule for writing. Learn how to write an argument or theme; be ready to make mistakes and correct them; find good readers who are interested in your story; and use an editor when you think you are finished. Be ready to continue learning, because it doesn’t stop at publishing.

What is it that you like about British Columbia history?
I think many do not realize how connected British Columbia history is to that of other parts of the world, especially Oregon Territory. History does not happen in isolation, but many British Columbians have no idea what happened in our territory after Simon Fraser left in the early 1800’s, and before the gold rush in 1858 – that’s fifty years no one knows anything about. I think those fifty years will keep me busy for a while!

What books are you reading right now?
I went to Munro’s Bookstore to pick up Shoot! and had to order it, so purchased Barry Gough’s new book Juan de Fuca’s Strait and am now reading that.

Tell us about your next project.
I think I just did, in a way. I am mostly just researching right now, mostly because I have little time to write – but I will write the story of what happened to the fur trade at Fort Vancouver after the Waillatpu Massacre in November 1847. The book will also cover Anderson’s four explorations, of course, with more detail than I had in the present book. Basically the book is about the creation of the brigade trails over the Coquihalla, but I have to tell a big story to get to that small one.

Sounds fascinating. I look forward to reading it. Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
I do travel to give talks – my next talk will take place at Anderson Island (offTacoma, WA) in front of the 100-strong Anderson Island Historical Society. The island itself was named for Alexander Caulfield Anderson by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the United States Exploring Expedition, in 1841 – an important piece of American history recorded in Nathaniel Philbrick’s book “Sea of Glory.” ACA is the “red-coat” in this book.
Any historical society can approach me for a PowerPoint talk on Anderson and his history in their part of the world, as long as I can sell books and perhaps, earn enough in honorarium (if they can afford it) to help pay for the journey. I need a fair bit of warning, though.

How can people buy your book (give links to websites, publishers, favourite bookstores, etc)?
Yes, indeed. They can even order a signed copy from me if they wish (through my blog, Fur Trade Family History at but that will cost them extra in shipping.
Beautiful Munro’s Bookstores on Government Street, Victoria, always has a stack of books on their shelves.
They can also order the book through the publisher: Heritage House Publishers in Victoria, BC.

How can people find you on-line? 

By Googling “Nancy Marguerite Anderson” they will quickly find me; the same applies if they Google “Alexander Caulfield Anderson.”

My blog is called Fur Trade Family History and is at
I willingly receive questions through the blog, and quite often these questions from fur trade descendants or others lead to new blog postings. I might not know everything about fur traders (I don’t), but I have some very good resources on hand.

My Facebook page is here and on that page I post, in full, the bits of journal that I have put on Twitter, sometimes with extra comments.

My Twitter handle, which connects everything together, is @Marguerite_HBC. Twitter has been an amazing experience for me and has made everything else make sense.

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