Today we're talking with John Evans, author of Canaan's Land
FQ: Tell us about the significance of the title you chose for this book, Canaan’s Land?
Canaan was the promised land for the Israelites in the Bible, and Joshua's father sees West Texas as his "promised land" as well. Just as the Israelites faced hardships and difficulties in conquering Canaan, even so Joshua's family faces its share of trials.
While the book is not overtly religious, I did intend for it to echo certain spiritual themes and references. For example, "Hannah," Joshua's mom, takes her name from Samuel's patient mother in the Bible. Joshua was the leader of Israel into the promised land after Moses died, just as our protagonist is trying to help his family make its way to West Texas. "Truman," the daddy, is not religious at all. He sees himself as a "true man," though he depends too much on himself and is too headstrong for his own good sometimes.
So, while Canaan's Land deals primarily with such themes as love, survival, and forbearance, it does echo certain biblical themes in its title and characters.
FQ: Your book takes place in the late-1800s Old West. What drew you to this era and place?
In my younger days, I hiked the rugged mountains and draws of West Texas quite a bit and grew to love its rough beauty. The post-Civil War era was the perfect time for a survival story because Texas was in turmoil following years of conflict. Many families were just getting back on their feet; mothers and fathers had to figure out what to do just to survive. It was a time of hardship and struggle, and such times bring out both the best and worst in people.
FQ: What are you hoping that your readers, particularly young boys, take away from your book?
Well, first Canaan's Land is meant to entertain. I want my readers to enjoy the book as a good frontier novel and survival story. But I'd also like the boys to see that what makes us strong can also ruin us. In the story Papa shows great determination and courage, but his stubborn streak almost gets the family killed.
Life is filled with challenges, and a big part of maturity is facing those challenges in the right way. For example, Joshua endures a horrible loss in the story, but that loss makes him stronger as a person.
I'd also like my readers to understand that love motivates us to look past the weaknesses in people to see their good. Mama, Papa, and Joshua have their strengths and shortcomings, just like all of us, but together they make a strong family. Being a man means accepting the good and bad in life and learning the lessons from each.
FQ: To me, this book seems like a successful adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series except for the boys. Is this just a happy coincidence or did her work inspire you?
While I'm a great admirer of Wilder's work, I didn't particularly have the Little House books in mind as I wrote. I do think that there are common elements to frontier stories which inspire all of us. Making do with what you have, learning to depend on providence and each other, struggling to make a day-to-day existence . . . I think these are eternal themes that are common to many books for young people.
FQ: I found myself wanting to know what happens next in Joshua Lee’s life. Have you considered making Canaan’s Land a series?
Well, I have . . . and I might . . . but this first novel took so long to write that I'm a little afraid of the task! I do appreciate readers' encouragement, however.
FQ: What can readers look forward to next from you?
Most of my writing is nonfiction, and I have a homeschooling book that will be published as an eBook in a few weeks. The Home School Advantage: A Public Schoolteacher's Case for Homeschooling describes how I became a supporter of homeschooling after teaching in the public schools of Texas for 12 years. An earlier edition of the book has done well, so I'm releasing an updated edition with more research and interviews to support the points.