My blog this week is about another author I’ve met through the upcoming Brains to Books Cyber Convention. This entry about Timothy Bateson is particularly timely because on February 17th, Timothy will be made a U.S. citizen when he takes the Oath of Naturalization. It warms my heart to welcome Timothy as a fellow American, but it is also a poignant moment, because as he was sitting for his exam to become a citizen of the land of the free, President Trump was signing executive orders banning Muslims from entering our country and suspending our refugee programs. Timothy is neither a Muslim nor a refugee (his father is English and his mother is Welsh), but I couldn’t help but feel that he was becoming a citizen of a country that is now somewhat less than it once was.
When I asked Timothy to describe a defining moment in his life, he didn’t hesitate in telling me that moving to Alaska to marry Sandi back in 2005 changed him profoundly. Timothy and Sandi had met on-line in 2002 through a mutual friend named Cat. It was not one of those well planned introductions. Cat had to pee, so she told Sandi, who she’d been chatting with on-line, to talk with Timothy, who she also was chatting with, as she ran to the bathroom. Cat was in Wales, Sandi in Alaska, Timothy was in London. As Cat left the conversation, she assured Sandi that she would like Timothy. Cat was right; Sandi and Timothy liked each other immediately. They maintained a long distance correspondence for a year before deciding to make it an official relationship. Then in 2004, Timothy went on a ten day vacation to Alaska to meet Sandi and her family for the first time. As soon as he saw her, he knew they were meant to be. He went back to England and spent six months closing down his life there. In the meantime, Sandi planned their wedding, sharing the details with him on-line. They were married ten days after he arrived back in Alaska in October of 2005.
Timothy really had no idea what he was getting into. When he had visited Alaska the first time, it was during the warmer months, and Alaska had been incredibly beautiful, bathed in long, warm days of sunshine. But October in Alaska is already early winter, and the days begin to shorten dramatically. In the cold approach of winter, Timothy came to grips with the new facts of his life. Rural Alaska was about as far from life in London as a person could get. In fact, rather than go to the store to buy their food, many people relied on what they hunted and caught to keep themselves fed. The cars they drove, on snowy, pot holed roads, were all in some state of disrepair and being held together with duct tape. These were people who lived on the edge, with no barriers between them and starvation, or between them and the wilderness.
For Timothy, who was used to the hustle and bustle of London, it was disconcerting that the buffer between him and the harsh wilderness of Alaska was such a thin one. Even so, he found that Alaska grew on him and changed him. The small community around him was a close knit one, because everyone understood that they needed to rely on each other. Timothy quickly learned that hiking, hunting, and fishing were all considered combat sports in rural Alaska. That’s because of the grizzlies. Bears will be drawn to what you hunt or catch, and it’s not unknown to have them turn a speculative eye towards humans either. You need your gun by your side if you intend to get home alive with your catch.
There is nothing about Timothy’s small, rural town that discourages wildlife from wandering down the streets. People, who don’t know much about the nature of moose, might wonder that Timothy speaks of moose with the same concern as he would a 2,000 pound grizzly. That’s because moose are not only massive, they are unpredictable. One of Timothy’s most heart stopping moments was driving down to his mailbox, getting out of the car to collect the mail, and seeing a baby moose on the far side of box. If there is a baby, he reasoned, the mother was sure to be near-by. It was widely known that it was not good to get between a mother and her calf. Turning slowly, he confirmed what he already suspected; the mother was just on the other side of him. Quickly, he got in the car and shut the door. That wouldn’t be enough to stop a moose that was really determined. They have been known to charge cars. But fortunately, in this instance, the mother just wanted to gather up her calf and head out of town.
Over the years, the wilderness and the wildlife have all conspired to awaken something within Timothy that he’d never known was there; a sense of his own wild side. He talks animatedly about his sightings of caribou, moose, deer and bears. His eyes light up when he describes the opportunities he’s had to hold owls and hand-feed eagles (he has always had a particular affection for raptors). The moment he remembers most fondly, however, is one he had with a very friendly wolf named Angel. Angel lives in a wildlife enclosure and is considered the tamest in her pack. Timothy has a picture of himself holding a dog cookie in his mouth, leaning in just close enough so that Angel can take it from him. After seeing that picture, his friends in London laughingly gave him the name “Snogs With Wolves” (snogs is a British term for kissing).
Timothy’s writing has been deeply influenced by his Alaskan awakening, but it has also been heavily influenced by his wife, who is a singer/songwriter and is also an author. From the beginning, both he and Sandi have had a very synergistic writing style. In his short story, “Under the Hunter’s Moon,” the character, Art, is actually a character his wife developed in the book she is working on. Art is an Alpha werewolf who leads the pack of werewolves of which, Richard, Timothy’s main character, is a member. Richard was very much inspired by Timothy’s own experiences; a street smart city boy who fully embraces his inner werewolf. Timothy says Richard does his best thinking in the wild, and one can’t help but notice that this has been true for Timothy as well.
“Under the Hunter’s Moon” was first published by Laurel Highlands Publishing, in a 2014 Halloween anthology called “Moon Shadows.” “Under the Hunter’s Moon” is the first of a set of short stories Timothy is planning, all drawing their inspiration from an urban fantasy trilogy that he is co-creating with his wife. For this series, Timothy is writing book one, which is entitled “Of Wolves and Men.” Book two is being written by Sandi, entitled “A Rose By Any Other Name.” The third book will be written by both of them. Timothy admits that this anticipated experience of co-writing the same book with his wife leaves him with a certain degree of trepidation. I’m less worried than Timothy about their ability to work that closely together. They have an easy energy as they talk about this co-created world where they have already developed so many shared characters and settings between them.
Timothy has an easy going, yet animated, synergistic energy that he brings to his collaboration with his wife. I’ve seen him bring that same kind of energy to the community of authors gathered around Brains to Books. He also talked during our interview of ways he uses that unflappable energy to benefit his small town. He made the choice to become an American because he wanted to have a voice in what happens to the people of his close-knit, rural community. Alaska has a lot of unique issues, the outcome of which can be a matter of survival to him, Sandi, and the people of their town. They all already live so close to the edge financially and in such an unforgiving environment. Timothy is looking forward to exercising his rights as an American citizen to help make sure their voices and needs are heard.
I really enjoyed my snowy February afternoon in Alaska with Timothy and Sandi (via google chat from the relative warmth of Northern Arizona). It was such a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I’m going to end this blog here with a song Sandi composed after 9/11. The song is called, “Freedom’s Heart.” It expresses her love for this country as beautifully now as it did back then. I think that’s really what makes America great; the freedom for all of us to tell our stories, share what moves us, and to have no limits on how we love and care about each other.
For more information on Timothy or Sandi Bateson you can visit their websites: