Guest Author Alison DeLory

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome author Alison DeLory to my blog. Alison has written a special post to commemorate Canada Day 2019 and talk about her newly published book, Making it Home.  So without further ado, here’s Alison.

 

Like many of you, I’ve been uplifted by stories in the news in the past week about Syrian-Canadians graduating from high school—like Batoul Hadhad, the daughter of Peace by Chocolate owners in Antigonish, N.S., and the three Hendawi brothers in Shelburne, N.S. They all came to Canada as teenagers who knew no English and who had missed years of schooling in Syria because of the war there. Once arriving in Canada, they worked hard to recover their lost education and create future opportunities for themselves.

Certainly as we acknowledge Canada Day, many of us proudly think about how our great country makes space for refugees and other immigrants. Yes, Canada should be celebrated for this, but let’s not forget to also acknowledge all that Canada gains, too, from welcoming newcomers. The benefit is two-way. Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who have come to Canada in the most recent wave have already contributed to the Canada economically and culturally, plus in less measurable but equally (or more) important ways, like expanding our capacity for empathy.

My new novel Making it Home (Nimbus 2019) tells this particular migration story from both angles. While it’s been documented through news stories, I wrote it through a fictional lens. I drew heavily on actual events that took place between 2014 and 2016 as loss of industry was forcing young people off Cape Breton Island, as Alberta’s economic boom began to bust, and as people spilled out of Middle Eastern refugee camps into variously tragic and hopeful circumstances. But fiction allowed me to delve deeper into the lives of imagined people most directly involved in these events.

I wrote the opening scene, involving a mass beaching of pilot whales in Cape Breton, as an assignment for a writing class I was taking in 2015. Once drafted, I thought about the symbolism of the whales, and how they could be a metaphor for being thrown out of one’s natural environment and feeling displaced. Pushing them back into the ocean was a community (epitomized by one family) struggling with an economic imperative to leave Cape Breton, and a desire for things to stay as they were. I saw the potential in the story and kept writing.

A second story line transports readers to Syria where they meet a family forced to flee Aleppo as bombs drop around them. The two families’ situations are on the surface quite different: one is a white, Christian family living in a sleepy rural Nova Scotian village, the other is an Arabic-speaking Syrian Muslim family whose lives are at risk. But at their core the two families are more alike than they seem. Like families the world-over, both share common desires for security, comfort, work and belonging. I wrote this book to discover how these particular characters could affect and possibly help one another heal.

These two parallel migration stories highlight how similar people’s plights are despite their cultural differences. And connecting the stories is the common thread of searching for home. I hope this novel gives readers an opportunity to consider our shared need for home—not only the physical place, but where we feel most secure, valued and ourselves—and to what lengths and distances the desire for home will take people. This journey toward ‘home’ can be physical or emotional, and helping others find their ‘home’ may allow our best selves to emerge.

 Thank you Alison for sharing this with us. I really enjoyed reading about what inspired you to write you book. I’m looking forward to reading it . All the best as you go forward.

 Alison DeLory is a writer, editor, and teacher living in Halifax, currently working at the University of King’s College. She has been writing stories for newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms for 20 years. She’s also written two children’s chapter books and contributed to several anthologies. Making it Home is her first novel.

Making it Home is available now on Amazon, Chapters and bookstores near you.

Ten Years in Blogland

My, how time flies—seems we only say those words once we’ve reached a certain age of maturity.

I’ll soon be coming up to my tenth year of blogging. Yay me! I may not be posting often these days but

I’m still here in blogland. A lot of the bloggers I met over time have abandoned their blogs and I’ve lost touch. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to come up with content, especially content that others might want to read. It also takes persistence to set aside time to write posts. There was a time when I put more time into my posts than I did actually writing—or at least it felt that way—and that didn’t make sense. So these days, I blog less and write more.  And while I’d like to be blogging a bit more than I am now, at the moment I’m okay with it. Perhaps when the time is right I’ll get back into it a little more.

My daughter set up this blog in the beginning because I hadn’t a clue about any of it. It all seemed so foreign to me. Slowly but surely I started to figure it all out.

In ten years I’ve written 614 blog posts, counting this one. I wonder how many words that would be? enough for a few novel no doubt. 614 feels like a lot, although I know there are many more bloggers out there that would put this number to shame.

This photo was the original header for my blog back in 2009. It was taken at Lake Torment in East Dalhousie.

I believe when many of us start out blogging we think that people will sit at their computers in anticipation of our next published post, that they long to devour our words, our wisdom because what we have to say is just THAT profound. But then reality sets in and we begin to realize that there are a few kind souls out there who regularly read –some out of interest and others perhaps out of pity. I think many of my readers might fall into the pity category—family who feel obligated to read Mum’s blog posts for fear that they may be quizzed at a later date as to what’s new on lauraabest.wordpress.com/. But hey, I’ll take those “pity hits” and say thank you because I know that it’s not always easy to find time to read and I’m always very appreciative of anyone who does.

So, here’s to the first ten years (Well, not quite yet, but hey, I wanted something to blog about.)

Thank you to all those faithful readers who stop by from time to time and especially to those who take the time to leave a comment. I’m really grateful for your support. 

The End of Hibernation

Oh wow! I fear I have been neglecting my blog this past winter and the three people who faithfully read my blog posts. (Well, hopefully, there are more than three of you, although sometimes I do wonder!)

Winter seemed to fly by, not that I spent the time hibernating. I was busy writing most every day and avoiding housework, I mean, the icy world outside. The only way a story gets written is by faithfully returning to your computer and writing. Alone. Keep your butt in the chair, as some writers will tell you. Well, I can attest to the fact that my chair was well-used these past months.

Writing is such a solitary venture for authors. Some days I wish it wasn’t so. Some days I want to sneak out into the world and see/talk to other people.

But I can’t always do that because the story won’t get written if I do. By the time I get well into a story it keeps me awake at night. It’s my first thought when I wake in the morning. I hear dialogue in my head and wonder: will I remember these bits of conversations between my characters when it comes time to write? I experienced all these things this winter. I call it falling in love with the story all over again.

But…

I’m not writing this post to lament being a writer. It’s who I am. I can’t change that. Take it or leave it, things aren’t going to change in that respect. I love writing.

Now, for some news:

I recently received word that Penelope Jackson will be working with me on the edits for my adult fiction novel, due out in spring 2020. I can’t tell you how that news makes my little heart sing. I worked with her on my last two novels and she’s absolutely wonderful. Although, I’m not sure what to expect with this being my first novel for grown-ups, I’m looking forward to the edits. It will be a busy summer. My publisher wants the ARCs (advance reading copies) ready for early 2020. I’m sure we’ll get there on time. I’ll share the cover when the time is right.

Let’s not forget there’s another book coming in the fall of 2020 as well.

Of course all that doesn’t mean I don’t have other stories I’m working on. In fact, I’ve several that are in various stages of completion. Right now, I need to decide which one is crying out for the most attention. Since story ideas can come at the drop of a hat, I have bits of stories sprinkled through my computer files. Hopefully, they will transform into full-fledged stories in time. There also comes the realization that a writer can only write so fast, produce so much. We’re all individuals in that respect. And there is life beyond writing…There I said it.

So, this post is really just to let you know that I’m around and kicking. I didn’t freeze up during the winter, but I am crawling out into civilization a bit more now that the weather is warming up. Hibernation for this author is officially over.

What have all of you been up to this past winter?

 

Confessions of a Word Hoarder.

Look at me, finally writing a blog post on this holiday Monday—Heritage Day. I haven’t been hiding, well maybe a little. But I’ve been hiding out at my computer, working on my next book. Knowing that the edits for my spring release in 2020 is coming up I really wanted to get the story I’m working on ready for submission. That takes a lot of writing and revising and deleting. It also takes discipline which isn’t always an easy thing. Working at home there are so many distractions.

Being a writer I’m a self-professed lover of words. Nothing makes me happier than rearranging sentences and paragraphs during the writing process, sometimes it’s a matter of finding the right place for a particular word. I know, I can be a little anal that way.

What I am finding with my current WIP is that the story I originally began with has taken some unexpected turns, making some of what I’d previously written not relevant to the plot.
So what to do? Well, if it doesn’t move the plot along it has to go. Simple to say, not always simple to do.

After some deliberation I determined that a lot of these scenes/chapters needed to go. There was no way around it. It was the right decision to make.

Here’s what I wrote in a recent Facebook post about it.

I deleted two whole chapters today. It’s like going on a diet. I suddenly feel so much lighter. Whee!!

And here’s what a friend’s comment was:

Now, if that were me, I would have to save it in another file “just in case.”

Her comment made me laugh. We were more alike than she knew. Being a word hoarder–you heard me right, word hoarder–I knew right where my friend was coming from.

I can’t throw away my words. As my friend said, “Just in case.” My computer files are full of folders with such titles as: The cut Parts from: Cammie Takes Flight or Flying with a Broken Wing and this new untitled one. I also have files with different versions of the same story. You know, you start out telling the story one way but then suddenly have a change of heart and start all over.( Maybe you’re beginning isn’t the beginning that needed.) I save all those different versions as well. I mean, what if I decide I want to go back to an earlier version, maybe experiment a little more with it?

Parts I cut from the edits of Flying with a Broken Wing found a place in Cammie Takes Flight. Glad I didn’t delete those for good. I have to admit sometimes those deleted words have come in mighty handy. No, I agree with my friend, deleting something forever is not an easy thing to do and as I write that, I feel as though all hoarders have similar excuses.

Of course there are drawbacks from being a word hoarder. Since I tend to have several stories on the go at one time ( Yup that’s right, I have at least half a dozen stories I’ve started over the years and plan to one day get back to) it can be difficult to find the version you’re looking for.

What the heck did I name that file? I know it’s here somewhere. Not in my documents on the computer, how about one of the dozens of thumb drives I have?

You get the picture?

So this is my confession on this holiday Monday. I know there are far worse things to hoard than words. At least it’s something I can hide from the prying eyes of others. There’s nothing messy about a thumb drive in a drawer.

I hope you are enjoying Heritage Day here in Nova Scotia. I spent much of the day at my computer. And you guessed it; I saved this blog post in another file.

Happy Heritage Day or whatever day your province celebrates!

The Blind Mechanic

For anyone who has any preconceived ideas of what blind people are capable of accomplishing they should read  The Blind Mechanic.

Long before this book came out I heard about this remarkable man from my step-father. Like my mum and step-father, Eric went to the Halifax School for the Blind. Eric was blinded in the Halifax Explosion when he was two and went on to live a long fulfilling life. Eric dreamed of being a mechanic and despite the obstacles he encountered he did just that. He was a man admired by many for his accomplishments, especially those within the blind community.

I just finished reading this book and would highly recommend it. The book was written by Eric’s daughter, Marilyn Davison Elliott. Having grown up with a mother who was born visually impaired I felt an immediate connection to Marilyn and her book. Children who have a parent or parents who are blind or visually impaired recognized the strength and determination their parent possess. We also realize that being blind or visually impaired doesn’t have to stop anyone from achieving their goals. It was why I created the character of Cammie. Having grown up seeing  how blind and visually impaired people were often underestimated, it was important for me to write about a feisty, 10-year-old determined to make a better life for herself.

Even if you don’t know someone with vision problems The Blind Mechanic is a truly inspiring story. Lots of interesting information about the aftermath of the explosion as well.

The Book:

Eric Davidson lost both eyes in the Halifax Explosion when he was two years old. Against all odds, he taught himself to become an auto mechanic and had a successful decades long career as “one of the boys.”

Eric Davidson was a beautiful, fair-haired toddler when the Halifax Explosion struck, killing almost 2,000 people and seriously injuring thousands of others. Eric lost both eyes, a tragedy that his mother never fully recovered from. Eric, however, was positive and energetic. He also developed a fascination with cars and how they worked, and he later decided, against all likelihood, to become a mechanic. Assisted by his brothers who read to him from manuals, he worked hard, passed examinations, and carved out a decades-long career. Once the subject of a National Film Board documentary, Eric Davidson was, until his death, a much-admired figure in Halifax.

This book does not gloss over the challenges faced by Eric and by his parents. Written by his daughter Marilyn, it gives new insights into the story of the 1917 Halifax Explosion and contains never-before-seen documents and photographs. While Eric Davidson has been mentioned in previous Explosion accounts, his story has never been told in such fascinating detail. Davidson overcame such odds that his life story might not seem believable if it had not happened.

The Blind Mechanic is in bookstores and can also be purchased through amazon.ca HERE.

Things for 2019

I’ve made a list for 2019—me, the person who is not by nature a list- maker.

Will wonders never cease?

What’s on the list, you might ask?

Well, things.

What kind of things?

Things I want to accomplish during the year, things I’d like to see happen. Things like hopes and wishes and dreams. You know –all that important stuff deemed not so important by some, but extremely important to this writer. I’m a dreamer, a hoper, a wisher–what can I say?

Not all of these things are of a writing nature, mind you. Even though I often feel that my life is lopsided and I’m too immersed in this world of words and sentences and pages for my own good. But then I remind myself that I do things other than write.

Family–always number one, even before writing. Family are the people who support you though the good and bad. They accept you, not only at your best, but our worst. They are the people you laugh with and cry with and share with. They are your safety net when life gets tough.

I knit. Sometimes, but not often. There just doesn’t seem to be the time.

I garden—in the summer months—but not as regularly as I should. Much of that falls onto Hubby’s capable shoulders.

I grandparent—not as often as I’d like, distance being the primary reason. Is that a hobby? I don’t think so. That’s just life. Little people rock!

I’m not going to claim to be a cook. I gave that up when the kids all moved out. Cooking now feels like an inconvenience at the best of times. I now have a daughter-in-law who can cook circles around me, and I just love that!

Okay, I do housework…sometimes. While matters of sweeping and laundry and dishes don’t invite me to use my imagination to the fullest they are sometimes a necessary part of living. Dust bunnies do not rock!

I have a job—for about eight months of the year I get up early in the morning and spend maybe ten or eleven hours away from any kind of technology. If I must write, I “head write” then wait for a break, or lunch time, to jot down all those clever thoughts. Did I say clever?

I have friends. Having friends means putting effort into that friendship, taking the time to have coffee or just phone to say hello. Sorry, a like or a comment on a Facebook status just doesn’t cut it so far as I’m concerned. I need real contact of some kind. I know it’s time consuming, but isn’t friendship worth it?

Maybe 2019 will be the year I try something new, or even a plethora of new things. Why stop at one?

I’ll be working on the edits for my two books due out in 2020. I’m a so excited about this. I love working on edits. It’s where the magic happens.

If all goes according to plan, my list of things for 2019 will continue to grow. It’s not simply a January list but one that will evolve over the weeks and months ahead.

Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2019 has something truly remarkable in store for you.

Are you a list-maker? All the time, some of the time, never or just occasionally?

Season’s Greetings

As  I watched the snow from inside my house today, it seemed like a good day to write a short blog post–my last one for 2018.  It also seemed like an even better day for decorating the Christmas tree and wrapping prezzies. Christmas is only a week away and yet I find myself, once again, scrambling to get everything done. Big surprise!

And all the while I’m preparing and thinking Christmas, there’s this nagging urge within me to start writing. Some days are like that, it seems that new ideas are prodding me, begging me to pay attention. Not to mention some stories that have been lurking in the shadows for some years now, following me around like the ghost of Jacob Marley. Oh… but then that would make me Scrooge, wouldn’t it? No, no, no. I’m not feeling like Scrooge today. Perhaps I’m more of a juggler, with several stories still up in the air. I like the thought of being a juggler of new ideas, new stories not yet told.

I always welcome New Year’s, knowing that I’ll able to spend more time writing, and hopefully finishing up some projects I began during the year. Winter is my official time to create. There is just something so new and special about a new year. I find it difficult to describe, and it’s not that I’m even a big fan of winter. Perhaps it’s the sense that, with a brand new year comes brand new hopes and dreams.

Earlier, I found a few very old–like 100 years old–postcards I wanted to share since Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner.

I love the images on the old postcards, so nostalgic. (Not that I was around back then, but still…..)

 

Wouldn’t you just love to climb inside this image?

Wishing all my readers a wondrous and magically New Year. I hope to see you all in 2019, and hopefully I’ll continue to find new things to blog about!

 

 

Recap – 2018

I don’t usually do a recap of the previous year in my writing life, but this year was an exception. So many great things happened; most of it had to do with the Silver Birch Nomination for my middle grade novel Cammie Takes Flight.

I really can’t begin to express what this nomination meant to me AND to Cammie. Knowing that so many kids would be reading your book is a dream come true for any author.

When word of the nomination came in October of the previous year I knew I was in for an interesting year. I’d heard stories about the Festival of Trees held in Toronto each year at Harbourfront Centre, and while I never dreamed I’d ever be so fortunate to get such a nomination, I knew one way or another I’d be going to that festival.

I was SO grateful to my publisher, Nimbus, for making the arrangements for me to go.

As many of you already know I’m not the travelling kind. This was going to be my first time flying, add to that, the fact that I come from a tiny place of about 200 full-time people. Well…I’m sure you get the picture.

But I had plenty of help getting me there. Truth be told, I couldn’t have done it without them. As soon as the nomination was announced I had offers of help from other authors who had previously gone through the experience. (It’s always helpful to have some idea of what to expect ahead of time.) Then there was Hubby, who swore he’d never fly, but he got on that plane with me and off we went.

We stayed much of our time with one of my oldest friends and her husband, and she was certainly a God send. Were it not for her we might be roaming the streets of TO (See how I’ve picked up the lingo?) to this day. I was about as pampered as any one author could be! She picked us up at the airport, took us out sight-seeing, drove us into Toronto for the reception and festival, then out to Oshawa for another event. Can’t imagine having done all that without her, plus it was really great catching up on old times. I’m so glad that I was able to share the experience with her. Thanks again, Darlene!
So, a few other things happened this year as well.

First this… (I already mentioned it in an earlier post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then this….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m most excited about the second contract as it’s for my first adult novel and is due to be published in spring 2020! The second book, for children, is due in the fall of 2020. It should be a busy year. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the progress of these as it comes along–such as covers, blurbs, etc.

As for the rest of 2018, I’ll be trying to squeeze in some writing time before Christmas. It’s not always an easy thing to do. I’ve a few stories I’m working on and I’m hopeful that I’ll make good progress this winter. And who knows, 2018 isn’t over yet. Perhaps there will be more news before it’s over.

I can always hope…..

Guest Author–Kayla Hounsell


Photo: Alex MacAulay

It is my pleasure to welcome Kayla Hounsell to my blog today to talk about her book,  First Degree: From Medical School to Murder. Kayla is an award- winning journalist who covered the murder trial of Will Sandeson. She is now the CBC’s National Reporter for the Maritimes. Based in Halifax, she has worked in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ottawa, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Liberia. This is her first book.

Book Blurb:

A murder, a missing body, and a sensational trial that shocked the community. Will Sandeson seemed like a model son. A member of the Dalhousie University track and field team, he was about to start classes at Dalhousie’s medical school. He had attended a medical school in the Caribbean; he worked at a group home for adults with disabilities. “There’s times for whatever reason that things don’t go quite as planned,” a Halifax police officer told Sandeson shortly after he was arrested for the first-degree murder of Taylor Samson, who also, on the surface, seemed like a model son.

Samson lived in a fraternity house near Dalhousie, and when the six-foot-five physics student disappeared without a trace, the focus eventually turned to Sandeson. Sandeson’s trial, blown open by a private investigator accused of switching sides, exposed a world of drugs, ambition, and misplaced loyalties. Through interviews with friends and relatives, as well as transcripts of the trial and Sandeson’s police interrogation, award-winning journalist Kayla Hounsell paints a complex portrait of both the victim and killer, two young men who seemed destined for bright futures. First Degree includes previously unpublished photos and details never made public until now.

First Degree: The Story Behind my First Book

It was May 2017 when I was asked to write First Degree, although it didn’t have a title then. My first thought was, “Of course I want to write this book. This book has to be written!” But my immediate second thought was, “But what will Taylor’s mother think?” It was a question that would follow me through every step of the process, every line I wrote, every social media post I made, and every public appearance since. (I even asked her to read this blog before it was published. She told me it was not necessary and that she wouldn’t want to edit my feelings.)

First Degree: From Med School to Murder: The Story Behind the Shocking Will Sandeson Trial is ultimately about two promising young men whose families were destroyed after one plotted to kill the other. Taylor Samson, a Dalhousie University physics student, is now dead. Will Sandeson, a Dal medical student, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Samson’s body has never been found.

So it was that I was live-tweeting from the murder trial in my role as a reporter, when I received an email from Elaine McCluskey at Nimbus Publishing asking if I’d consider writing a book about the case. It quickly became clear that my employer was not willing to work with me, so I quit my job. It was shocking to everyone in my life. After all, it was a great job that I had held for many years, the people I worked with had become family, and now I had what? A book deal, great. But then what? I had no idea and it was terrifying.

But there was no way I could not write this book. So that was that.

Next, I had to tell Taylor’s mother and humbly ask for her participation. By that point I had been covering the case for nearly three years and felt I had developed a positive relationship with Linda Boutilier, but I was well aware committing to an interview for a TV story that would last less than two minutes was far different than agreeing to participate in a project of this scale. I had no idea what she would say. I invited Linda and Taylor’s childhood friend for lunch. On a break from the trial at Nova Scotia Supreme Court, I went around the corner to Stayner’s Wharf Pub & Grill, my heart pounding.

To my absolute astonishment, Linda gave me her full support. I went so far as to point out that there would be parts of the book she might not like to read. I knew even then that parts of it would be graphic, and I would have to point out that her son was a drug dealer. I had no intention of shying away from the truth of the matter and I certainly did not want that to be a surprise to her.

“That’s okay,” she said in that downtown Halifax restaurant, “I know if you write it, it will be fair.”

Again, astonishment.

For a journalist, there is no greater compliment. That level of trust cannot be matched when you build everything you do on trust, balance and fairness. It also came with an incredible amount of pressure and it played on me over and over as I wrote lines, deleted them, and rewrote them.
Since then there have been multiple conversations, endless text messages, and even words of encouragement from Linda for me.Imagine.

You may think you know a little about Linda Boutilier by now, perhaps you’ve seen her on TV. You might think that she seems tough, you might even judge her because she knew her son was selling marijuana. But you do not know what I have come to know over the last three years. Linda Boutilier is fierce. She is fearless in the face of unimaginable adversity. She is her son’s defiant defender. She is also rational and compassionate and she has my utmost respect.

As she says in First Degree, “I am who I am. If you judge me because I’m honest, well then you’re going to judge me because I’m honest.”

Linda Boutilier has welcomed me into her home, shared her family photos, allowed me to look through her private text messages and shared her grief.

She has done all of this so that you might come to know her son as more than a drug dealer, so that you will have a full picture of what happened to him, what Will Sandeson did to him, and so that you might have a rare glimpse into the Canadian justice system unlike any you have seen before.
It’s because of her that this is the first page of First Degree:

Dedicated in memory of Taylor Samson. May we not forget that wrapped up in the pages of this crime thriller, a mother and father lost a son, a brother lost his protector, and a young man lost his life.

And as for her words, “I know if you write it, it will be fair,”they played in my mind like a mantra as I wrote, and I did my very best to be fair.

My great thanks to Laura Best for the opportunity to share a little of my writing process.

First Degree is available at Amazon.ca. and Chapters.ca as well as independent book stores.

Thank you Kayla for sharing the story behind your first book. I’m looking forward to reading it. Best of luck to you and your book. 

Interview with Author Syr Ruus

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Syr Ruus to my blog to tell us about her brand-spanking new book, Krambambuli , A Memoir published by Inanna.  I met Syr at the launching of A Maritime Christmas back in 2008 and we’ve shared many cups of coffee over the years while talking about writing and the business of publishing.

Syr Ruus was born in Estonia and grew up in the United States, where she earned her MA degree in English, her MS in Education, and taught briefly at Illinois State University. She moved to Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia in 1969, where she taught Grade 3 in the local elementary school while raising her three children before turning her full attention to writing. Her short fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. She has won two first prize awards from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and has published four books of fiction.  A memoir of her childhood years as a refugee and an immigrant has just been released by Inanna Publications. A novella “Walls of the Cave,” will be published by Quattro Books in 2019.

Here’s a bit about the book:

Krambambuli is a memoir of the author’s childhood experiences during and subsequent to World War II. She documents three stages of displacement due to war: escaping destruction in Estonia, living as a refugee in Germany and Austria, and beginning a new life as an immigrant first in the United States, and later in Canada. Krambambuli is not meant to be a historical account. Rather, it offers a child’s perspective of the situations and people making up her early existence: her handsome and charming father, Isa, who sweeps into her life at intervals but provides no financial support; her disciplinarian mother, Ema, an optimist and extremely competent survivor who uses her creativity to make even a small rudimentary space attractive and homey; the hated Onu Gusti; and the many others who pass through this transitory time dominated by war. The book is a moving account of child’s experience in a camp for displaced persons and of growing up as a displaced child and daughter of a single mother in America. Totsu, the child, is terrorized by the war and the disruption and fears losing her mother’s love to a male lover and the possibility of being displaced by a half-sibling. She endures multiple new school and language situations and the added angst that being a displaced person can add to the life of a teenager. With such different personalities, she and her mother live their lives in both conflict, and in the knowledge that they are all each other has.

 

  1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself, when you first started writing, and what you have published?

I am what might be considered a late bloomer, spending the first half of my life reading rather than writing.  Perhaps this was because English is not my native language and it took that long to become confident enough to even consider that I too could enter that hallowed fellowship of writers. There were the inevitable rejections of course, but also a couple of first prizes for unpublished manuscripts from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, a few short stories accepted and some positive comments from editors which provided sufficient incentive over the years to keep me going.  My first published book was “Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart” (Breakwater, 2009). Subsequently I self-published three regionally- based works of fiction: “Devil’s Hump” (1913), “The Story of Gar” (2014), and “In Pleasantry” (2016).

  1. Your upcoming book is a memoir. Why was it important to tell your story?

People have asked me why I make up stories rather than telling my own.  There are a few reasons for this. First, I still believe that fiction reveals the greater truth (except for genre fiction, which generally follows an established formula), for it gives expression to a writer’s unique vision. Thus I believe all fiction is, in a sense, autobiographical. Memoir writing, on the other hand, reveals selected factual material about the writer’s life, yet we all know that each individual perceives reality differently and there can be bitter arguments about what really occurred, or sometimes if it actually happened  at all.  Another reason I found it difficult to write meaningfully about my past was because World War II has been written about so extensively by so many others.  Millions lost their lives and suffered unbelievable atrocities. Within this context, my experience seemed trivial. Finally, however, I began to approach it in a different way:  not relating my life as a part of history but examining how historical eventsaffected me as an individual growing up—as a refugee and as an immigrant. Unbelievably, there are still wars, refugees, and immigrants.  This book is dedicated to every person who has been displaced by war.

  1. Krambambuli is an unusual title. What is the significance of the title and exactly what does it mean?

Krambambuli is an alcoholic beverage that was popular in Germany in the 18th century.  It was also a drinking song among university students.  My native country, Estonia, was occupied by various foreign powers for hundreds of years. In fact its independence lasted for only 20 years before it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1941, to be liberated again fifty years later. Before World War I, it  was under Russian rule, but controlled by Germans who owned most of the land and businesses.  The song was translated from the German and sung by Estonians. Although I never tasted the brew, I enjoyed singing about it as a child.

  1. I love the cover of the book. Explain a bit about the images on the cover?

The cover was designed by Val Fullard.  The photograph depicted is of the author (me) at eight years old, wearing an Estonian national costume that my mother created from whatever she could find in the refugee camp in Augsburg, Germany, where we lived for four years.  It was taken to be sent to America hoping we could find sponsors in order to emigrate. The belt is representative of Estonian design.

  1. Your previous publications were fiction. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing this memoir and how long did it take to write?

The major difficulty with writing a memoir is that you involve the lives of others who undoubtedly have different opinions and views and memories.  I did change the names, which of course doesn’t hide the identity of close family members. I have very few relatives and I did send the first draft of the manuscript to my half-sister to make sure there was nothing there to offend her. Much of the book deals withmy relationship with my parents as affected by the war.  My father died some years ago.  My mother, however, lived to be 102. Although she always read everything I wrote, I did not want to share the memoir with her for it would inevitably provoke some distress and argument.  Thus, although I began writing it about fifteen years ago, I did not send it out for publication until 2016. By that time it was revised numerous times.

  1. What is new on the horizon for author Syr Ruus?

Back to fiction!  A novella “Walls of the Cave,” has been accepted by Quattro Books and will be published in the spring of 2019.  During the long wait between sending out a query to a publisher and when the final product is to be released, I completed another short novel “Sucking Stones,” and am revising (yet again) a novel I’ve worked on for many years entitled “The Grand View.”

  1. Is there anything else we should know about the book?

“Krambambuli” will be launched at the LaHave River Bookstore on Sunday, October 28, at 4 p.m.  This bookstore has been such a wonderful addition to our community.  It is not only a beautiful place to browse among new books, used books, and even a shelf of freebies—it also offers a welcoming place to share thoughts about literature and to meet other people who love to read.  I try to visit as often as possible to refresh my spirit.  Although closed during the weekdays in winter, it will be open every weekend.

Thank you so much, Laura, yet again, for this opportunity to talk about my writing.  There are very few things—perhaps none–that an author finds more gratifying.

Thank you, Syr. I’m looking forward to attending the launch on Sunday. Krambambuli , A Memoir is available at LaHave River Books and Coles in Bridgewater. Also check out Syr’s other books while you’re there. It can also be ordered from Chapters. Ca HERE and Amazon.ca..HERE  

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