Place as Person – Brenda Cooper

Today we hear from Brenda Cooper, author of ‘Mayan December’ and many other tales. Oh, and she’s a futurist! She actually predicts how the world will develop in years to come, and what technologies and ideas will drive that development, hopefully for the better. I find that unutterably cool.

Without further ado, here’s Brenda.



Thanks for asking about place. I’m one of the authors in the ‘River’ anthology, which is one of the best recent explorations about place I’ve read. I love being part of this powerful work, and I’m grateful to Alma for editing it and for asking me to have a story in it.

Rivers are often archetypical (the river Styx), and thus play a major role in the creation and destruction myths of whole societies. Physical rivers are often critical to entire civilizations (the Nile, the Yangtze, the Amazon, or the river I used to race J-boats in, the Columbia). In the case of my story in the anthology, the river serves as a symbol for the beautiful, wild ecosystems we are demolishing so quickly that they fade in the time of a single, short human life. The story is also meant as a tribute to conservationist Michael Fay.

I’ve also been fascinated by a place where the rivers rununderground. My first trip to the Yucatan Peninsula was in the 1980’s, and I’ve been back twice. I want to go again. There is something about that place – the low and fascinating jungle, the Mayan ruins, the stunning beaches, the way it feels (damp and warm and mysterious) and smells (fecund and wild and a bit sweet)that draws me. It’s a place I feel at home. My most recent book, ‘Mayan December‘, is set there. I used both the current time and the powerful history of the peninsula to craft the core story in ‘Mayan December’, which is about a young girl who can see two timelines, and what that means for her world and the larger world around her.

For me, it was interesting to write a book set in a real place. I usually write science fiction and fantasy, and my stories are set either in the future here, or in places that only live in my imagination. It made me more careful, and also more tuned to the real and specific details of place. If I have any regret about ‘Mayan December’ it’s that I didn’t get to go back to the Yucatan after I wrote the book and be right there for an editing pass.


Brenda Cooper lives in Washington State with her partner Toni and three dogs, all of whom are periodically subjected to listening to Brenda wander about the house reading stories out loud to look for awkward sentences. They are usually patient with the process, for which Brenda is grateful. Brenda’s has five novels out, and a multitude of short stories, including ‘Phoenix Dogs’ in Tales for Canterbury, a benefit anthology for the Christchurch quake victims, and ‘Cracking the Sky,’ in the anthology ‘No Man’s Land’ from Dark Quest Books.  

Find out more about Brenda on


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4 Responses to Place as Person – Brenda Cooper

  1. Helen Lowe says:

    I loved your “Phoenix Dogs” story in ‘Tales for Canterbury’, Brenda–and totally agree that some places cast a definite spell–one of my favourites is Central Otago in NZ, which also featured as the Westfold of Rohan in the early sequences of second The Lord of the Rings movie, ‘The Two Towers.’

    • Thanks, Helen. I’m glad you enjoyed Phoenix Dogs. I really liked writing that story.
      I hope to get to NZ soon – I did get to Australia in 2012, so maybe sometime in the next few years.

  2. Kim Falconer says:

    Hi Brenda. I love your comment that rivers have an identity which is archetypal – they occur in all places, all people and all times as a god or Source of life. Excellent! I am also drawn to certain places on Earth and can imagine how potent it would be to write/edit while visiting! Looking forward to your story, and to Mayan December as well!

  3. Thanks, Kim.
    There are other favorite places I have for writing. Now I just need to turn home into one of those!

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