A Positive Approach to Winter

In an If-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em approach to the snow this winter, I’m trying my hardest not to complain about the white stuff. Besides the fact that complaining doesn’t do one iota of good, I’ve also been trying to busy myself with other things—writing being first and foremost. Truthfully, not complaining helps keep the cranky away. I’ve come to realize the more you complain, the more you enjoy it until it almost becomes an Olympic sport. Not only that, you find others to join your team in your quest for gold. We’re usually good at finding teammates.

SO enough of the grumbling about the snow. Spring will come sooner or later. I say this with conviction as we’ve never yet had a winter that lasted 365 days—not to my memory at least. So here are a few things I’ve been doing to keep that four letter word from making me gripe.

1. Write, write, write: Okay, no surprises here. I’ve been making great headway on a project I started several years back. I’ve come back to the place where I’m enjoying the story again. Here’s where I’ll let you all in on a secret, we writers sometimes come to despise the story we’re working on. It’s true! We lose all objectivity about our own work. We can’t seem to put a sentence together with eloquence, our plot line stinks to high heaven. Sometimes we pull our hair and gnash our teeth. Sitting at the computer and opening that file can be pure hell. But even at that it still beats four feet of snow!

2. Knit, knit, knit: I’m a knitter, have been since I was a kid trying to knit a scarf with two nails and a ball of cheap yarn I found lying around the house. Not an easy thing to do, knitting with two nails that is, but even so I wasn’t complaining about the s***. You’ll be happy to know that I graduated to knitting needles many moons ago. I’ve made socks and mittens, sweaters and even afghans over the years. This winter I’ve picked up where I left off three years ago. My rippling wave afghan didn’t go anywhere during that time. Maybe this winter I’ll complete it.

3. Housework: Okay, that’s just a little joke to throw you off.

4. Reading, reading, reading: I’ve read some great books this winter, one for book club coming up next week and several simply for enjoyment. Actually, all the books I read are for enjoyment. Here’s where I want to mention that I love reading books from local authors and Canadian authors in general. We have a lot of talent in this country. I’ve some great local books coming up on my reading list. Hugh R. MacDonald and his novel Us and Them the sequel to his book Trapper Boy. Meghan Marentette’s The Stowaways , Shatterproof by Jocelyn Shipley and Keeper of the Light by Janet Barkhouse. Maybe you’ll have time to check out some of these great reads.

5. Treadmill: Yup. I’ve been faithfully working out this winter. Okay, so we all know that treadmills are like THE most BORING thing on the face of the earth after the first two minutes, but I’ve got a little secret. I read while I’m walking the miles. Yes, I do. Many people say they just can’t do it. These same people can’t read while riding in a vehicle. I can do both. Lucky me. No complaints here.

6. Snowshoeing: I’ve been making an effort to get out there when the weather’s good which hasn’t been all that often this past week. (Nope, that’s not a complaint…just stating facts.) The good news is next week’s forecast is looking up.

7. Gourmet Cooking: Haha! Not really. That one was actually for my kids if they happen to be reading. I figure they could do with the belly laugh after the snowy week we just had.

8. Snow racing: Admit it, this one sounds impressive. Snowracing—whizzing down the slopes, wind on my face, sun in my eye, the taste of freedom on my lips. Here’s the real scoop: when our grandson came for a visit a few weeks back, Guppy and I each took some turns on the Snowracer. (Sorry no photos as proof.) First time ever for me; not sure about Guppy. Oh, the things we do for grandkids.

9. Join the circus: Surprised ? Me too. This winter watching the news has been like having a front row seat at the circus. I’m not looking to get into any political debates here, but daggum it’s been interesting to say the least. All the juggling of news and fake news, people walking a very tight rope, a pretty sad bunch of clowns making us laugh and cry. Yes, indeed, there has been a lot of interesting acts taking place under the big top this winter. Every night there seems to be a new attraction added to the show. I wait in anticipation. All that’s required is for me to bring my own popcorn and drinks…lots of drinks.

So there you have it, my positive approach to this snowy Nova Scotia weather. While I may not love the mounds of snow we’ve been getting I’m doing what I can to keep from complaining about the things I can’t change.

What have you been doing this winter instead of complaining about the weather?

The Sealed Book

I’m not sure if any of you are old enough to remember the old radio program called, “The Sealed Book.” I discovered it during a conversation with my mother while writing Cammie Takes Flight. I could still hear the excitement in her voice when told me how when the gong sounded it meant the Keeper of the Book had unlocked the vault where the great sealed book was kept. It was in that very book that all the secrets and mysteries of mankind has been recorded through the ages. Just imagine how mysterious that must have sounded to my mum and her friends as they crowded around the radio on Saturday nights. At the end of each episode, listeners were told to tune in next week when “the sound of the great gong heralds another strange and exciting tale from… the sealed book.” According to my mum the show also had sound effects that made it all seem quite real.

While doing a little checking online the info I found said the program originally ran between March 18 and September 9, 1945, and was broadcast on Sundays from 10:30pm to 11:00pm. My guess is that the program aired on reruns for years after its original broadcasting which makes me think that it’s good to actually talk to someone who has knowledge of a time period rather than just relying on the information that’s available online. Obviously that’s not always possible and so a writer must do the best job she can to bring that authenticity to the story.

I worked in some bit and pieces about The Sealed Book to my novel during my first round of edits as it seemed to fit in nicely with a scene I was working on at the time. I found it quite exciting and hadn’t remembered my mother ever mentioning it over the years. And who knows perhaps there was something in our conversation that day that jarred the memory loose for her. It’s strange the way memories can suddenly come to us when we hadn’t thought about a particular thing in many years. (For anyone who doesn’t know, Cammie Takes Flight is , for the most part, set at the Halifax School for the Blind.)

Part of a writer’s job when writing historical fiction is to research the time period we’re writing about. All those details add authenticity to the story and help the reader to become a part of that time and place the author is writing about. What many people told me after they’d read my first novel Bitter, Sweet was that they remembered that time so well since they were kids themselves back then. Many of them found it easy to relate to the Burbidges plight because of it.

With both my mother and step-father having gone to the Halifax School for the Blind they were able to provide little bits of information I would not have otherwise discovered through research—The Sealed Book being one of those things. There were other little things as well, the note tossing between the boys and the girls during classes when the teacher they had was blind, and the way the boys would sneak out of the school and call the payphone in the lobby asking to speak to a particular girl they had a crush on. There were other stories as well that I was able to weave into the novel and hopefully when kids (and adults) read it they’ll come to understand that the children who went to the School for the Blind weren’t much different they are.

My ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) for Cammie Takes Flight arrived the other day in the mail. I finally got to see and read the story in book form for the first time. It’s such a wonderful sense of accomplishment to know that others will get to read my words and hopefully find something of value in the story. I’ll read through the ARC a few more times to pick out anything that needs changing before it goes for the final printing. Release day is three months away!

So, without giving you age away, do any of you remember The Sealed Book or are there any other old time radio programs you might have listened to back in the day? 

Spinning Wheels and Book News

“There’s an old spinning wheel in the parlor.” Never dsc08174thought I’d be singing that old tune, let alone actually being the owner of a spinning wheel. I understand that most people wouldn’t be excited over something like this, but as a writer of historical fiction it makes my little heart go pitter-pat. Coincidentally, I’d been given a set of wool cards a number of years back. Perhaps the universe has ideas for me!

(Again)coincidentally, I have a friend who knows how to spin wool and the plan at the moment is for me to get a little instruction on this. I’m looking forward to it! Who knows I may discover a hidden talent. Stranger things have been known to happen. Or maybe when I sit down to spin I’ll have a flashback to a past lifetime and it’ll all come rushing back to me. My grandmothers both spun wool, as I’m sure many others did. It was a way of life back then. I’ve always said that history is made up of ordinary people simply living their lives the best way they could, doing the things that were before them to do, and yet when we look back we’re totally amazed at some of the feats they preformed.

While we speak about the past as simpler times there was certainly nothing simple or easy about the work our ancestors did. I marvel at how industrious people were one hundred or even fifty years ago and how we take so much in our lives for granted these days. We run to the store for most all our needs or else order it online from the comforts of our homes. What could be simpler? I’ve always felt a connection to the past from the time I was quite young. I suppose that plays a role in my writing life. When I sit down to write a story it almost always seems to end up being set in the past. It’s as if I can’t stop myself. I remember when it dawned on me that Bitter, Sweet was considered historical fiction—actually not until I saw it in the historical section in a book store. For some silly reason 1949 didn’t seem that long ago to me.

As for book news, the edits for the new anthology being put together by Vernon Oickle is moving along. There wasn’t a whole lot to do, actually. The piece I’ve submitted was previously published in The Antigonish Review quite near the beginning of my writing career. I’m looking forward to the book’s release. The works of a lot of talented writers is included in the anthology. And now for the really exciting news, the Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) have arrived at the publishers! I’m hopeful that a copy will arrive for me in the mail one day soon. While it’s not the final version (I’ll have the chance to make some subtle changes to the text) it’s still pretty cool. I haven’t done a cover reveal on my blog yet as there could still be some changes there as well. So I’ll wait until I receive the “official” cover—front and back. Should be soon since the release date is April 30th. That’s coming up quickly. When I look at the calendar I can scarcely believe that we’re so far into January. We’re half-way through winter on February 2nd—or Candlemas Day for anyone with a mind for these things. Before you know it April 30th will be hear and Cammie Takes Flight will finally be released into the world. What could be more exciting?

What has your winter been like so far? Are there any new happenings on the horizon for you?

Helloooo 2017

I always enter the New Year with a sense of excitement. It’s not so much that I’m anxious to see the end of the previous year, but it’s more the thoughts of what lies ahead in the months to come. I’m like a child in that sense. Who are we, if at times, we cannot see the world through the eyes of a child, but old and stale and far too grumpy for our own good.

I’ve often heard people express their thoughts on how horrible the old year has been and how they’re looking forward seeing it come to an end. While I can understand where they’re coming from, I’ve never had that feeling for some reason. It’s not that every year has been stellar because it hasn’t. Like everyone else I’ve seen my share of sorrow and sadness, but I’ve also seen plenty of joy and laughter. Hopefully, these things eventually balance out. There is so much for us to take delight in in our lives, but I sometimes think we dig too deep into the gory parts of life, ignore all those special moments we’ve experience through-out the year, simply because they aren’t grand enough or don’t sparkle brightly enough to warrant our attention when sometimes those tiny moments are what keeps us going.

With all that is going on in our world at the present moment, I’m sure some people are dreading what the year ahead will mean for us both personally and globally. Believe me, I’ve had those feelings myself. Much of what is to come is out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do to change world events. What we can do is to try and change our reaction to those events as best we can. We won’t always be able to stay positive. Sometimes we might become quite angry and depressed. But hopefully, that positive outlook will win out in the end as we remember to cherish those small magical moments that are peppered through our day.

Already this year seems special. This year Canada celebrates 150 years of confederation. And have I mentioned that 2017 marks East Dalhousie’s 200th Anniversary? Now that’s something that only happens every 200 years! Most of us won’t live to see it again. 😉 I’ve decided this year will be the year for adventure. I’ve a few things coming up that I’ll share as they unfold, but really, the true adventure will be all those things that are not yet in the planning stage. You know, the things that happen right out of the blue when you least expect it. Maybe some small things, maybe some big. Kind of like winning the lottery, only there doesn’t have to be any money involved. While lots of money is nice, welcomed even, it isn’t a requirement for living a happy life.

Last evening I sat down to write my list of intentions for the upcoming year and to look back on last year’s list. It’s just something I’ve been doing for awhile now. Of course not everything I intended to have happen happened, but I was pleased by what I saw. It’s just a different way to reflect upon life. I’ve never been one to make resolutions. There’s just something about it that seems too restricting, or maybe too forced. Whatever the case, I plan to focus on as many delightful moments through-out the year as possible. And I am hopeful they will outshine any of the not so wonderful moments that are bound to come along.

Wishing all my readers a happy 2017. May it be filled with many special moments along the way.

A Christmas Post

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

april-2012-026These past few weeks have been a very busy time. In keeping with the tradition I started many years ago, I’m scrambling to get all the Christmas preparations taken care of before the big day. Each year I vow that I’ll get my act together well before December and each year I stick with tradition. I am constant if nothing else.

But Christmas will come regardless. The important part is having the family near. I’ll be back blogging in the New Year and sharing all the news about my new book coming out in April 2017! Exciting times.

I hope your Christmas is filled with precious moments and that you are able to become a child again even for a few moments. Merry Christmas!

Do you have a  favourite Christmas traditions?

Tea for Two

Recently, I had tea with a friend for no other reason than to spend time in each other’s company. It had been many months since we got together to share a cup and have a talk. We both lead busy lives but don’t we all? I mean, how many times can we use that excuse?

We collectively gripe about the way we never seem to have time to spend with our friends and family but then do nothing to remedy the situation because we’re JUST TOO BUSY. Friendships requires something from us. You can’t declare yourself someone’s friend if you never communicate anymore that a “like” on their Facebook status. Messaging back and forth on Facebook, or even email, is quick and convenient but these exchanges can’t replace that one on one time you experience with a real live person sitting across from you. While technology is a wonderful thing it can’t show us facial expression or the tone in someone’s voice, even body language–all the other ways we have of communicating without the use of words. Don’t get me wrong, no one loves words more than I do. I’m just not sure that everything can be conveyed by words alone….especially the words that come over email and social media. I’m a people person even though my life often requires me to seek solitude and a quiet place to write. Sometimes I just need to talk and listen.

I love listening to the way people speak, how they communicate in their own unique way. Some people have such a distinctive way of expressing themselves that I find intriguing. Of course that’s the writer in me speaking. It’s hard to shut that part of myself off.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some of my friends in the new year that I haven’t seen for SO long, to find out what’s going on in their lives and let them know what’s new in mine. I’m looking forward to seeing their smiling faces and hearing their voices, sharing some laughs, maybe being silly. ….I’m good at being silly. What better thing is there than to laugh and be silly from time to time?

Before I go I want to let you know about a giveaway on Lynn Davidson’s blog. It’s for an Amazon gift card. This link HERE will take you directly to the post. Just leave a comment. It’s pretty simple.

Draw date is December 20th so don’t delay!

The Journey

I’ve been thinking a lot about the “journey” these past few days, that path we’re all on, and how different that journey is for each of us. Life isn’t just about the end result, but the journey; all those twists and turns along the way. It’s about the deeds we do (the good AND the bad), the mistakes we make, the people in our lives, the love we give and receive. It’s not about things or money. It’s not about perfection. Because truthfully, “perfection” is really a matter of personal taste. What is perfect, but a notion, an ideal that varies with individual taste. It’s like the reader who hates a book you loved and loves a book you hated. Who’s right?

I don’t think there is a right.

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends if they allowed their kids to help decorate the Christmas tree. It was a subject that got brought up at work that day and I was curious. I was surprised by how many said they didn’t– apparently because they felt the kids wouldn’t (I wanted to say “couldn’t” here but if you never let them try how would you know? ) do a good enough job at decorating.

Good enough..wow!

Good enough for what?

For who?

I’m curious.

As a child I always helped decorate our Christmas tree. It was a highlight of Christmas. I even remember some of my favourite ornaments. When my kids were old enough I couldn’t imagine them not helping because seriously, it wasn’t about the tree or how “perfect” it needed to be. It was about doing something together, having fun, sharing some laughs, building memories.

I’m not saying that all those Facebook friends are wrong. If having a “perfect” tree is that important to you than by all means you should keep the kids as far away from the tree as humanly possible. 😉
I don’t believe in the right or wrong way to do things. We all live life differently. We all have different values, different beliefs. We all do things differently. Thank goodness for that!

I’m not going to ask here if you let your kids decorate your Christmas tree. I just want to leave you with the thought that sometimes the end result isn’t as important as we believe it to be. Sometimes the important part is the experiences and people we encounter along the way.

Lately, my own journey has kept me away from blogging but I’m hoping with the new year coming , and my busy season now at an end, that will change. I try not to dwell on the fact that I’ve been absent here for quite some time because it really wouldn’t help change anything. I can tell you I’ve been working on a new book with no plans on when it will be finished. I don’t often impose unrealistic deadlines on my time. I’m just hopeful it won’t take me a few years to come to the end.

Here’s hoping you enjoy your journey this week.

Guest Blog–Hugh R. MacDonald

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Hugh R. MacDonald to my blog. I’ve invited Hugh to talk about where the inspiration for his book Trapper Boy came from. The sequel to Trapper Boy, Us and Them was released this past October.

 

Thank you to Laura for the invitation to be a guest on her blog.

While in university, I took an Atlantic history course from Don MacGillivary, and one of the readings dealt with boys in the coal mines, working as trapper boys. It was an eye-opening moment for me, reading about how boys as young as nine or ten, some even younger, spent their lives in the mines. They would spend their days in darkness, opening and closing the trap doors that controlled the ventilation to the mine,rats scurrying around their feet in search of crumbs from their food.

MacDonald-Us-Them-poster.inddIt struck me at a deeper level than most other courses. The other history courses were ones I needed to complete my history degree, but this one was like a novel set in my back yard. Except it wasn’t fiction. Over the years I’ve written a number of songs, and I felt I needed to write something about what I’d learned from that short reading that had been assigned for the class. I wrote a song entitled Trapper Boy, and I played it at some of the gigs I was playing at the time. A few of the Men of the Deeps heard it and suggested I submit it to Jack O’Donnell, the Musical Director of the Men. It was given to one of the members of the group, who said he would get it to Jack. Much time passed and I never gave it any more thought.

Although the song told the story quite well of how I saw the life of the young miner, highlighting the loneliness and solitude of the trapper boy job, the fear of the rats and the absolute darkness, it wasn’t enough, so I decided to try a few chapters of a story, and then got it to Mike Hunter, Editor-in-Chief at CBU Press. To my surprise and relief, he said he was interested in seeing more, and over a few years the story came to be, and more importantly, Mike agreed to publish it.

It was then that I got to put my history degree to work and did some research. I read and reread articles about coal mining and miners. I wanted to get a more visceral feeling for the job of a miner, so I decided to speak to some of the retired miners, whose fathers and grandfathers had been trapper boys. The best place for me to go was to the Cape Breton Miners Museum located in Glace Bay. There are many artifacts located there, from the early days of mining, and they have several former miners, willing to share their stories. The miners act as tour guides, bringing small groups of women, men and children underground in a mine that was built to give the general public a little taste of what it was like to be in the bowels of the earth. I went on the underground tour several times and used what I felt and heard to help write the story.

In October 2012, “Trapper Boy,” the novel, telling the story of thirteen year old JW Donaldson, which included incredible sketches by my brother, Michael G. MacDonald, came to life, and it has been a dream come true to see it being enjoyed by many who’ve read it, providing wonderful comments. The book was included in the Best Books for Kids and Teens, 2013 Spring Edition. And I got invited to read at Word on the Street in Halifax in September 2013, which is where I got to meet the very talented Laura Best, and even got to share the stage with her. Also, a teacher resource for “Trapper Boy” was developed(as a free download for teachers) by CBU Professor Dr. Patrick Howard, and his B.Ed.students, and ”Trapper Boy” has been used in some classrooms in Cape Breton. I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to go into some of the classrooms to do presentations to the students. In April of this year, the Men of the Deeps recorded my song, Trapper Boy, and included it on their 50th Anniversary CD.

But just as the song was not enough to tell the full story, neither was “Trapper Boy” enough to tell the full story of JW Donaldson. A number of people who’d read the book asked me what happened next, so I decided to sit down and figure out what was going on in JW’s life and that of his friends.On October 20th of this year the sequel to “Trapper Boy,” “Us and Them” was launched.

I believe the story of JW and his friends comes to a nice conclusion, but . . . I have written a chapter or two of what might happen in the future, just in case there is an interest, so book three or four could happen. Thanks for reading. Take care.

 

getcontent7b0pbhvlHugh R. MacDonald is an author and singer/songwriter. His YA novel, “Trapper Boy” was included in The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Best Books for Kids and Teens. The sequel, “Us and Them” was released in October 2016. Hugh is a graduate of Cape Breton University, and works in the human service field. His song, Trapper Boy, which he wrote prior to the novel, was included on the world famous Men of the Deeps Coal Miners’ Chorus’ 50th Anniversary Compilation CD. Hugh is a member of the Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. He lives in Cape Breton, NS with his wife, Joanne.

To hear the song that inspired the book  follow the link here.

Follow Hugh on Facebook  Twitter

 

Trapper Boy is available from Amazon.ca, Chapters.ca, Nimbus PublishingUs and Them is available from  Amazon.ca  Nimbus Publishing  Chapters.ca 

 

Cammie Takes Flight: One Step Closer

“You’ve signed a contract months ago so what’s taking SOOO long?”

As a writer with a new- to- be published book I get asked that a lot, which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. Means there’s interest, right?

A published book comes about in baby steps. This is once the book has been written (not to mention all those hours of thinking and plotting, writing and revising, a writer does before it’s even sent it off to a publisher.)

While each of these steps might be little over time they begin to add up.

Here’s where the books is now:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the aim for “Cammie Takes Flight” (Yes, that’s the name we’re sticking with!) is to have the Advanced Reading Copies or ARCs  ready to be sent out in early winter. These go to reviewers etc. before the book is actually released. At this point I’ve already made revisions to the manuscript plus a few rounds of edits, smoothing out the wrinkles and straightening out any problems with the plot, etc.

Late this week, I received the design ARC galleys. This shows me what the interior of the book will look like, such as what fonts have been used and the little birds at the start of each chapter that I absolutely love! So with the file now created, the words, fonts and birds all in place you might think we’re all set to go, right?

But wait.

I still have some tweaking to do.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Not really. I’ve got a bit more work to do to the galleys, plus a decision to make, before the ARCs are ready to go to print.

Okay, so there’s no cover yet. Sorry. But trust me on this, there will be a cover before it goes to print. I mean, whoever heard of a book with no covers, right?

So once the ARCs are printed that’s it, right?

Wrong.

Believe it or not I’ll have the opportunity to make slight changes before it goes to the final print which should be late February, ready for the book’s release in April. Yay, it will finally be a book!

Whew!

So, the important thing is the book is getting closer to publication. Baby steps, but it’ll get there. I promise. And one of these days, very soon, I’ll have a cover reveal on my blog.

It’s all very exciting each time a writer brings a new book into the world. It’s our way of sharing what we’ve created with the rest of the world. Well, at least with our readers. 😉

That’s it for now. I hope you’re having an enjoyable fall and that you’re making steps towards  completing your own project whatever that might be.

Interview With Christy Ann Conlin

downloadToday, it is my pleasure to welcome Christy Ann Conlin to my blog to talk a bit about her latest book The Memento. Since its release in April, The Memento has received a lot of publicity, and you know me, I love supporting authors–especially local authors! Christy Ann Conlin’s acclaimed first novel, Heave (2002), was a Globe and Mail “Top 100” book, a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2003 and was shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award. Heave was also longlisted for the 2011 CBC Canada Reads Novels of the Decade. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including Best Canadian Stories. Conlin also hosted the popular 2012 CBC summer radio series Fear Itself. The Memento is her first novel in fourteen years. Conlin teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies online Creative Writing program. She lives in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Before we talk about the book, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what the writing process is like for you? Do you spend much time in the planning stage or do you jump right in when an idea comes to you and figure things out as you go along? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantster?

A bit about me: I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia, both in the Annapolis Valley and over on the on-the-road-to-kingsportBay of Fundy. When I finished high school, I left, like many of us Nova Scotians do, ha ha. I traveled and worked all over the world. I did a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto, and then headed to Northern Ireland, and from there made my way back to Nova Scotia where I’ve been ever since. It took all that wandering and exploring to discover there was no place more exotic than home. I think many writers have this experience, and some are smart enough to know this without having to leave!

My process: I tend to work on stories in my subconscious, while I’m actually writing another one. For example, I’m working on a novel right now, but at the same time, I have a notebook on the go for another novel. Usually it all starts with a character who appears, and if I follow them, they show me the story. When I do sit down to write, it feels like jumping in but there actually has been a huge amount of mental work done in my head. As a result, I go into a story with a very strong sense of character and plot. In the early days of writing I used to skip this mental process so I’d have really fascinating characters and great dialogue and a distinct sense of place but nothing happened. Oh, those stories which lead to…nowhere. But it was how I cut my teeth, so to speak, and learned.

When the book opens we learn about the significance of the mirrors placed outside the front door of houses which I found quite intriguing. I’d never heard of it. Was this something your writer’s mind invented for the book or was it taken from actual mountain folklore? 

It’s a combination of actual folklore and my writer’s mind! My grandmother always had both a chest of drawers and a mirror in her porch. If people came by to drop something off for my grandmother, a present or something they had borrowed, or a letter) they would leave things in the drawers, if they were valuable or private. As a child I would peek and one just never knew what would be in there! And the mirror was something my grandmother told me she would check her hair in, and then she’d laugh in that dry way she had and say that it was good to see if there were any ghosts behind you.

The Memento introduces readers to some memorable characters that you certainly brought to life on the page. Were any of the characters inspired by people in real life?

All of the characters in all of my work are inspired by real people, sometimes nominally and sometimes to a very large degree. That said, it’s often not a specific person, but a specific kind of person.  When you travel and live in different places you begin to see that every town has similar kinds of people. It’s one of the most amazing parts of writing, creating my own fictional characters whose origins come from observing the world around me, the heartaches, the joys, the devastations, and the triumphs, the big ones and small ones.

The embroidery element plays a significant role in The Memento. Can you explain what inspired you to add this to the book? Do you perhaps embroidery yourself?

Yes, I do embroidery and different kinds of needlework. I grew up in 4-H and spent hours and hours by woodstoves and at dining room tables with some master craftswomen and artisans, learning what I call the “lady arts”. We also had a lot of antique embroidery on the walls at home. I was fascinated with the faces, how they looked so different up close, almost grotesque or unfinished, and when you stepped back, they seemed alive. It’s the same thing in impressionistic painting.  I collected framed embroideries and after years of having them surround me while writing, I began to think about how women who did needle work really channeled their experiences and spirits into these works, as any artist does. And so, then Fancy Mosher’s gift with embroidery took on a whole new meaning, of what she was able to depict in her pictorials, in these mementos.

Although Nova Scotia is not specifically mentioned, I found you totally captured the rural aspects of the book and I felt very much at home with the setting.  I actually Googled Lupin Cove Road because I was sure it was an actual place! Was there a reason why you chose not to mention specific name places in the book other than the Bay of Fundy?

Well, I wanted to create the exact experience you are describing for the reader, that the sense of place and setting would be so real and familiar they would be sure it existed. I had so many readers from England tell me my first novel, Heave, reminded them of the seaside villages they grew up in England. (Heave is also set in Lupin Cove).  It does, of course, exist in the story and in our minds, but it’s also one step removed, like a fairy tale. Faulkner did this, with a fictional county in Mississippi, and I really admired how this gave readers a bit of a distance, so they could see a reflection of the world, if you will. I love how the idea of a seaside village and a valley and a grand home and a path in the woods, how these locations resonate with people regardless of where they actually live. It is a way of using regionalism to create universalism.

The one setting which I really drew on specifically is the Tea House and Grampie’s art work. That was all inspired by Maude Lewis and her painted house and her artwork.

Of all the characters in The Memento who is your favourite and why?

I love Jenny, the anti-heroine. She’s so marginalized and outright dismissed, so powerless, and yet she is the only one brave enough to really acknowledge the full horror of what is happening, and to seek justice. Yes, I know, ha ha, her sense of justice is a bit warped, to put it mildly, but she wants more than anyone to restore a sense of moral order, and put the ghosts of the past to rest.  But she can’t do that on her own, and she needs Fancy, with her gift, to help her understand the true nature of what is haunting them.

The book is written in first person which is a very personal point of view that brings an author very close to the character she writes about.  I’m dying to know, are you hiding somewhere inside Fancy Mosher or is she somewhere hiding inside of you?

Honestly, Laura, I think I am hiding in Fancy Mosher, but I am seeing the world through her very unique eyes. It was a privilege to view the world from her unique perspective. I’m not so much like her, even though I would like to be. I always feel my characters are very brave, and I am not so brave. I’m more like Seraphina in Heave. That novel was much more autobiographical.  My grandmother always told me because I had an artistic disposition, a sensitive nature, the spirits would speak to me. My understanding of this is that characters come to me and I write out their stories.

The Memento has been described as a literary ghost story. Are you intrigued by ghosts and most importantly do you believe in them?

I think it’s more magic realism, to be honest, with ghostly elements. It’s very much a genre blending, or even genre defying novel, which merges the old world novels of Jane Austen and the Brontes, L.M. Montgomery, Allistar MacLeod and Ernest Buckler with a hint of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson.

What is your favourite part of the book?

The fire on the beach, and the island scenes.

Are you currently working on a new novel and, if so, you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, I am working on two new novels and a short fiction collection.  One of the novels is called The Flying Squirrel Sermon. It’s about a man who finds a bottle on the beach with a secret message in it, a clue to his sister’s disappearance many years earlier.  The other two books I can’t speak about or I’ll destroy the writing magic!

Is there anything in the book that you have not been asked about but would like readers to know?

The Memento is not at all a traditional ghost story or thriller. It’s a blend of pastoral writing and horror writing, humour and heartache, the historical and the contemporary. The story is really a look at what happens when we marginalize and oppress people based on gender, physical ability and economic circumstances. It’s an exploration of how young and vulnerable women are so easily exploited. In the case of Jenny, she’s physically disabled and pretty much rendered irrelevant because of it. Fancy is discriminated against because of the circumstances of her birth, and because she’s lower class. The ghostly element was my way of looking at the anger and fury which arises from this discrimination, how eventually, those who are mercilessly exploited will rise up.

Thanks so much, Christy Ann. I enjoyed learning more about the book and your writing life. I wish you every success with this book and look forward to your future publications.

The Memento is available at Amazon, Chapters Indigo and in your local independent bookstore or as an ebook.

 

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