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Dan Foley Goes Native Talking about the Oniare

Dan Foley attributes his dark sense of humor to growing up in New Jersey and serving on nuclear submarines. Having only begun his writing career in his 60s, he has published four novels, two novellas, a story collection, and numerous other short stories. Foley’s novel, Reunion, features a Native American monster called the Oniare. He wanted to talk about this creature, which might be unfamiliar to many readers.

One of the things that Foley said drew him to using the Oniare in his novel Reunion is because the possible routes the narrative could take “intrigued” him. Foley says that he likes to “keep things fresh” when writing stories and that the Oniare “jumped out” at him. Quoting from a website on Native American folklore, he says, “Oniare is a dragon-like horned water serpent of Iroquois legend, lurking in the Great Lakes to capsize canoes and eat people.” With the addition
of possibly having poisonous breath, the Oniare sounds like a terrifying creature.

Foley states that he took some liberties when writing about the Native American sea monster. “I placed it in a river that empties into Lake Champlain,” he says, adding that in Reunion, “The Oniare leaves Lake Champlain when it is ready to give birth. It carries up to three fetuses within it. The growing fetuses must be transferred to a ‘host’ where it will feed on the host until it is large enough to survive in the river on its own.” As if a horned lake monster wasn’t frightening
enough, making its young parasitic to thrive takes it to a whole new level.

Reunion, which takes “liberties” with the myth of the Oniare, is set in “multiple time periods” of 1899, 1939, 1955, and 2015. Foley gives this synopsis of the story: Reunion tells the story of the men, and children, who combat the Oniare. The main characters appear in multiple time frames. It centers on Ryan and Bran, friends who first encounter the Oniare in 1955. Bran dies following their last encounter with the creature. Ryan leaves Poquonock [his hometown] as soon as he graduates high school and vows never to return, but Bran’s death haunts Ryan throughout his life. When he receives an invitation to his 50th high school reunion, he decides to return to the place of his nightmares and confront his fears . . . and his old adversary, who is once again spawning in the river. In the Iroquois legend, sometimes the Oniare will not kill people if they offer it a gift or if they call upon its mortal enemy, the thunder god. Foley says of the novel, “No other elements of native American folklore made their way into this tale.”

Besides using the legend of the Oniare to keep the narrative “fresh,” Foley believes that using obscure monsters is essential to horror fiction. “I think introducing the reader to new creatures, with different challenges and characteristics challenges the writer as well as the reader,” he says. Furthermore, he believes that using unique monsters “adds” new life and “fresh air” to the genre.

His novel Death’s Companion also uses “another unique monster,” although it is not a Native American legend.

Foley’s next novel Witches will be published this year. He states, “I’m too caught up in the Covid-19 pandemic to be very creative right now.” If you are in the same boat as Foley and need to stay distracted during this time of plague, you might want to check out Reunion or one of his other books. Also, keep a lookout for Witches, which is coming soon.

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