Another in a series of author interviews with our featured authors by journalist Megan Shapka.
“Sometimes we read books simply to get lost in a story. Other times we crack a spine to learn something about the world around us. A truly great reading experience can offer us both.
Murray Pura is that type of author who effectively blends fiction with truth and the acquisition of knowledge. In his last three novels, “The White Birds of Morning,” “The Face of Heaven” and “The Wings of Morning,” he addresses themes of war and peace and pacifism and war atrocities. Not light subjects by any stretch, but topics he feels are important to discuss.
“War is ongoing in the world. How people choose to act and react during times of conflict reveals both the best and the worst in the human race – best when we see stories of sacrifice for others, going into harm’s way to defend or save others, the courage required to be a physician or medic or nurse under fire; worst when we see barbarism and torture and massacre and genocide coming to full ugly flower during conflict.”
Through his historical fiction, Pura encourages his readers to think about their roles in conflict. “War is never romantic and should never be glamorized,” he says. “You may feel you have no choice but to fight when your life and the lives of those you love and care for are threatened but war should never be gold-plated.”
He acknowledges that the questions are complicated and may incite moral ambivalence. “I want people to consider that it takes as much courage to fight for your country by being a pacifist as it does to go into battle with a gun. Ultimately, I would hope my readers see through my characters lives that the issues are not one-dimensional; that it might not always be right to avoid conflict if the end result of not resisting is more tyranny, slavery and unlimited atrocities against thousands or millions of people.”
While his last three novels share common themes, they address different time periods and conflicts. “The White Birds of Morning” is based on the lives of two of Pura’s aunts. It is the second book in a projected four book series and is set in the 1930s and 1940s in Ukraine and Russia.
“The Face of Heaven” is about the American Civil War. Pura says it speaks to issues of slavery and children raised to embrace a Christian path of non-violence over choosing to bear arms.
“I have wanted to write a book on the American Civil War for many, many years and when I was offered the contract I jumped in because of my interest to understand why the war started and how it felt to a soldier or a nurse or a civilian when the battles were going on. I also wanted to explore pacifism, for example what the Amish did in response to such a war since they are committed to non-violence.”
In “The Wings of Morning” Pura discusses the persecution of Quakers, Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites in the United States during World War I. “I had known for years that some Mennonites and Hutterites had been tortured and even killed for refusing to enlist and fight Germany in 1917 and 1918,” he says. “I decided it was time to tell their story, as this is an aspect of war that has tended to be under the radar and also very relevant to us here in southern Alberta.”
Pura says readers respond favourably to his historical fiction in which we see the best of human nature, not just the worst. Publishers Weekly has released enthusiastic reviews for “The Wings of Morning” and “The Face of Heaven” and most recently “The White Birds of Morning” won a prize for top historical novel at a literary event in Toronto in June.
Murray Pura has published a dozen fiction and non-fiction books. He will be sharing his work at The Word On The Street in Lethbridge on September 23, 2012, focusing on “The White Birds of Morning,” “The Face of Heaven” and “The Wings of Morning,” as well as talking about the struggle and wonder of the writing life.
Megan Shapka is a freelance writer and editor with a background in journalism and post-secondary education support. Megan provides professional and efficient writing and editing services, meeting the needs of customers in diverse industries, genres and styles. Many of her contracts are with Lethbridge College, where she writes and edits online curriculum and writes for Wider Horizons magazine. Megan has edited books for self-published authors and is writing two books. Contact her at http://www.meganshapka.com/