Atlantic Books today
BOOK NEWS REVIEWS EXCERPTS
EXPLORING JOHN DEMONT’S WORLD
MAN ABOUT TOWN
ATLANTIC BOOK AWARDS THE LEGEND OF + LILLIAN SHEPHERD
THE DARTMOUTH BOOK AWARDS TURN 25
THE STORY BEHIND THE TRAGEDY
OF BATHURST’S “BOYS IN RED”
BEHIND THE SCENES AT BREAKWATER BOOKS
(see page 46)
TAKE A (LITERARY) HIKE!
WITH OUTDOOR GURU MICHAEL HAYNES
SPRING 2014 No. 75 Publications Mail Agreement 40038836
David Helwig’s 25th work of fiction, a master at the height of his craft, a novel of business, intrigue, deals, and secrets; a Canadian’s passage through the second half of the 20th century.
“A novel of sly humour, as if Ian McEwen meets Kingsley Amis.”
— Paul Kropp
“a wonderful piece of work,”
—David Lewis Stein, longtime columnist for The Toronto Star.
“David Helwig is one of Canada’s wisest and most versatile writers, a master of clarity, realism and character-development. He is at his best in Clyde, examining the turbulent business life and love life of a Southern Ontario man who grows up and succeeds by his wits in the last half of the Twentieth Century. It’s a vivid and disturbing portrait, the female characters are especially appealing, and Helwig even makes golf exciting. Bravo!”
—Dave Williamson, author of Dating: A Novel, shortlisted for the 2012 Manitoba Book of the Year Award.
“A weekend of solitary introspection by an aging businessman and political operative may not seem like the stuff of great fiction, but Helwig spins the story of Clyde’s years in small-town Ontario and “the big city,” Ottawa, into a profound exploration of success and failure in life and love, business and politics. Be it a real estate transaction or a lovers’ tryst, few writers can bring you into a scene as well as Helwig. Clyde treats universal themes of loyalty, love, death, and the search for meaning, while remaining wonderfully readable and entertaining.”
—Simon Lloyd, Special Collections, Robertson Library, UPEI
The novel Canada Has Been Waiting For
$18.95, available wherever books are sold ISBN 978-1-933480-36-7
Bunim & Bannigan, Ltd., New York and Charlottetown
Contents Spring 2014
ON THE COVER
28 Take a (literary) hike!
Atlantic Canada’s trails expert walks us through the awe-inspiring settings of some of the region’s newest books
22 Behind the scenes
Newfoundland’s Breakwater Books
24 Dartmouth Book Awards
Celebrating 25 years
14 Inside the author’s studio
Mystery author Hilary MacLeod finds inspiration in her two idyllic cottage studios
7 Editor’s message
Author John DeMont seeks big truths in the small stories
Awards, anniversaries and other news
10 Chad’s view
Books to satisfy your need for a great escape
Young readers’ editor Lisa Doucet reviews young adult fiction and illustrated books for children
Journalist and author Richard Foot on the search for the truth behind the Bathurst “Boys in Red” tragedy
20 Kids’ stuff
The woman behind the Lillian Shepherd Award
Joseph Muise Cover photo: courtesy Michael Haynes
13 Interview with an author
Dr. Richard Goldbloom answers the pressing questions in our Proust questionnaire
31 Book reviews
The latest in Atlantic Canadian fiction, poetry and non-fiction
Atlantic Books Today
Spring forward with new titles from Fitzhenry & Whiteside!
On the Labrador
by Arnold Zageris “This book combines heart-stopping adventure with what have to be the most stunning pictures ever taken in Labrador. ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)” - The Northerner
978-1-55455-244-3 12.3 x 10.75 • 248 pages, Trade Cloth • $60.00 Photography / Landscapes
Ringing Here & There
A Nature Calendar by Brian Bartlett
“Bartlett’s poems are so relaxed and light-footed, so alert in their wonder and agile in their leaps, that it’s easy not to notice their artfulness.... there’s a rich grain and high polish...” – The Toronto Star
978-1-55455-331-0 6 x 9 • 160 pages Paperback • $19.00 Poetry
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
37 Introduction 38 Review and recipe
Cook with Kindness: Vegan and Gluten-Free Recipes from my Family’s Kitchen; Red Lentil Dahl
10 Nights Without Sleep: Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival; The Mystery of the SS Southern Cross; Double Pregnant: Two Lesbians Make a Family
44 Regional reads
Adventure-inspiring seasonal reads
38 Review and recipe
Salt Cod Cuisine: The International Table; Salt Cod on Onions and Cucumber Slices
Literary events for book-lovers of every stripe
40 Review and recipe
Cooking with One Chef One Critic;Turkish Chicken Casserole
46 The Great Book Giveaway
Enter to win fabulous Atlantic Canadian books!
Book Club Bonanza!
Calling all book clubs!
is, NS—win iver Bourgeo R f o b lu C k a. o The 3-Rs Bo2013 Book Club Bonanz our Winter
Want to see your book club featured on our website and in our newsletter? Fill out this ballot for your chance! The winning book club will also receive these great gifts: • We’ll cater your book club get-together—we’ll bring the food and wine (location permitting) or send you a $100 Sobeys gift card! • AND we will come to your next meeting (either in person or via Skype) to tell you about the hottest new Atlantic Canadian books! • AND you’ll win a set of Atlantic Canadian books for the whole group! It’s easy—just tell us how to get in touch with you by e-mail and tick the box below.
The information below will not be used for any purpose other than to contact the winning entry. Name: The name of your book club: Street/mailing address: Your favourite book from an Atlantic Canadian author: How many members in your book club? E-mail: YES, please send the latest news on Atlantic Books and publishing to my inbox. How often do you meet? City/town, province, postal code: Phone (with area code):
Mail this form by June 27, 2014 to Atlantic Books Today Book Club Bonanza, 1484 Carlton Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3B7 or go to atlanticbookstoday.ca to enter!
Frye 2014 Atlantic Books Today 4.625x2.25 HR v3.pdf
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Atlantic Books today
Atlantic Books Today is published by the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association (www.atlanticpublishers.ca), which gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canada Book Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Opinions expressed in articles in Atlantic Books Today do not necessarily re flect the views and opinions of the Board of the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association.
Grist Linda Little
a novel by
An epic story by a gifted writer. — Donna Morrissey A novel not just to like but to love. I couldn’t put it down. — Carol Bruneau
PUBLISHER Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association firstname.lastname@example.org EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR and ADVERTISING SALES Carolyn Guy email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR Angela Mombourquette email@example.com DESIGN Joseph Muise firstname.lastname@example.org Printed in Canada. This is issue number 75 Spring 2014. Atlantic Books Today is published three times a year. All issues are numbered in sequence. Total Atlantic-wide circulation: 60,000. ISSN 1192-3652 One-year subscriptions to Atlantic Books Today are available for $15 ($17.25 including HST). Please make cheques payable to the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association and mail to address below or contact apma.admin@ atlanticpublishers.ca for subscription inquiries. Publications Mail Agreement No. 40038836 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association Atlantic Books Today 1484 Carlton Street, Halifax, NS B3H 3B7 Phone (902) 420.0711 Fax (902) 423.4302 www.atlanticpublishers.ca @abtmagazine facebook.com/AtlanticBooksToday
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Atlantic Books Today
“The Winter that Would
Never End” has finally drawn to a close and Atlantic Canadians are happily welcoming spring with open arms. Is there a better way to usher in the new season than to plan an outdoor adventure? In this issue of Atlantic Books Today, we feature books that will inspire you to get outside and get moving. On page 28, Michael Haynes—active transportation expert and author of numerous guides to hiking trails throughout Atlantic Canada—takes us directly to the settings of several new books, and guides us through walking trails where readers can experience those pages first-hand. Also on the “travel and adventure” front, regular contributors Chad Pelley (page 10) and Pam Estabrook (page 44) suggest some favourite books that will put you in an adventurous frame of mind.
Spring also brings awards season in the book world, and we’ve got the inside scoop on the Atlantic Book Awards, with a full list of nominees on page 27; we celebrate 25 years of the Dartmouth Book Awards (page 24); and we learn about the woman behind the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration (page 20). As ever, we give you exclusive access to the publishing industry: you’ll meet authors Richard Goldbloom (page 13) and John DeMont (page 16); you’ll get to peek behind the scenes at Newfoundland’s Breakwater Books; and you’ll hear Richard Foot’s account of the story behind the story of Bathurst’s “Boys in Red” tragedy. Plus, our experts review of dozens of new books. And that’s it for me! Heather Fegan will be back in this chair for the fall edition. Happy trails, and happy reading.
Mother ’ s Day Breakwater
KEEPER OF TIDES
THE NEW NOVEL FROM CAPE BRETON TREASURE
Ivadoile Spears is stubbornly set on living out her remaining years in the now-vacant Tides Inn on Cape Breton Island… But she wasn’t prepared for Ambrose Kane – a southerner who entered, bringing a cold wind in his dirty shirt. Award-winning author Beatrice MacNeil turns her attention to love and lust in this tragi-comedy of a life almost, but not quite, left behind.
WOW WOW AND HAW HAW
CAN WOW WOW THE FOX GET RID OF HIS FLEAS BEFORE HAW HAW THE CROW LAUGHS HERSELF SILLY?
Acclaimed poet GEORGE MURRAY and award-winning painter MICHAEL PITTMAN team up for their ﬁrst-ever childrens’ picture book. A beautiful hardcover adaptation of the Celtic legend, How The Fox Lost His Fleas. Murray’s playful rhyme and repetition, set against a backdrop of Pittman’s lush paintings, make Wow Wow and Haw Haw an instant classic and a favourite among small children and early readers alike.
THE RUNAWAY HIT FROM MOMMYBLOGGER
“I always knew I’d be the perfect mother. So far, I’ve perfected the fetal position.” That’s just the beginning of this collection of tell-it-like-it-is rants and musings from the creator of MotherBlogger.ca and mother of the ﬁery-spirited (and ﬁeryhaired) boy better known as Turbo Ginger.
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…and other news
Awards, awards, awards
PEI LITERARY AWARDS
The 26th annual Cox & Palmer Island Literary Awards were held in PEI in late October, 2013. The awards honour Island writers and those dedicated to the literary arts. Freelance writer and poet Yvette Doucette received the Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Literary Arts of PEI. The Joseph Sherman Award for Special Contribution to the Literary Arts on PEI went to Lori Cheverie of Bookmark. The complete list of winners is available at peiwritersguild.com.
ATLANTIC BOOK AWARDS
The nominations are in for this year’s crop of Atlantic Book Awards, which acknowledge excellence in Atlantic Canadian writing and book publishing. This year, Atlantic Book Festival celebrations will be held May 14–21 in all four Atlantic provinces, leading up to the big awards gala on May 21 at the Delta Prince Edward / PEI Convention Centre in Charlottetown. New this year: the PEI Book Awards join in the fun. Find out more at atlanticbookawards.ca, and turn to page 27 for the full list of nominees.
INSTANT HOOK LITERARY AWARD
Newfoundland author Paul Butler’s HB Creativity has announced the winner and the runners up for the Instant Hook Literary Award for 2013–14. The contest called for entries of the first 250 words of a novel draft or novel-in-progress; the winner was Nathan Downey for his novel-in-progress After Batavia. Runners-up were Michelle Lacroix for Set Adrift and Daniel S. Rubin for Floater.
RELIT AWARD WINNERS
The 2013 ReLit Awards, founded by Newfoundland filmmaker, journalist and author Kenneth J. Harvey, were announced in late December, 2013. The awards recognize poetry, short fiction and novels published by independent Canadian publishers. The winner in the short fiction category was Ian Rogers, for Every House is Haunted (CZP); for poetry, Steven Price for Omens in the Year of the Ox (Brick Books); the winning novel was Life is About Losing Everything (Anansi) by Lynn Crosbie.
DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
The longlist for the International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award was announced on November 11, 2013. The list, which features 152 titles, 11 of which are Canadian, includes several authors who have an Atlantic connection, including Ben Stephenson, originally from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and currently living in Montreal, who has been nominated for his first novel, A Matter of Life and Death or Something. Other Atlantic Canadians on the list include Gerard Collins for Finton Moon (Creative Book Publishing), Samuel Thomas Martin for A Blessed Snarl (Breakwater Books), DR MacDonald for Anna from Away (Harper Collins) and Pasha Malla for People Park (Anansi). The shortlist will be made public on April 9, and the winner will be announced on June 12.
The [mis]adventures continue in The Maze ~June 7~ #TheMaze
Atlantic Books Today
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NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
April 2014 marks the 16th anniversary of National Poetry Month, which was established in Canada by the League of Canadian Poets. National Poetry Month brings together schools, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations and poets from across the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in Canada’s culture. It also celebrates libraries and the work of mayors and municipalities to promote literacy and reading. Communities and businesses across the country participate through readings, festivals, book displays and other events, incorporating the theme of Poetry City. For information about what's happening in your city, go to poets.ca.
FLANKER PRESS CELEBRATES 20 YEARS
Flanker Press—which began as a self-publishing venture in 1994 in St. John’s, NL, with the release of Garry Cranford’s book, Newfoundland Schooner Norma & Gladys: Her Story of Industry, Mutiny & Triumph—is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Now located in Paradise, NL, the company has eight full-time employees and has published over 200 books, including many award winners and best-sellers. Congratulations to Flanker! Check out their redesigned website at flankerpress.com.
MARK MCCROWE With Sasha Okshevsky ISBN-13: 978-1-77103-0-281 10 x 9/paperback/ 100pp/colour photographs Cookbook • $22.95 This unique cookbook documents Newfoundland’s up and coming culinary style. Traditional indigenous ingredients and local artisan products are showcased in unique recipes that bring a new light to Newfoundland cuisine. Island Kitchen: An Ode to Newfoundland is a celebration of the amazing food, tradition and people that make Newfoundland such a special place.
Goose Lane Editions in Fredericton recently welcomed April Penney as its new Publicity Manager. With a commerce degree from Memorial University, Penney has experience in marketing and communications in both the community economic development and food industries. Although she is new to the publishing industry, Penney says she is excited to learn the ropes and immerse herself in Goose Lane’s rich literary culture. Go, April!
ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS
Atlantic Books Today’s Current Affairs columnist, author Chad Pelley, has earned a reputation as a respected book blogger through his Salty Ink website. Now, after five years online, Salty Ink has closed its (virtual) doors as Pelley turns his efforts to running an alternative newspaper and website in St. John’s, NL. The Overcast covers the book world, music, food, and arts and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador; print issues will be published monthly. And not to worry—Chad will continue to contribute his insightful book-related columns to Atlantic Books Today. We wish him great success in his new venture!
HILDA MORROW & STEVE BARTLETT ISBN-13:978-1-77103-034 5.5 x8.5/paperback/ B&W photographs/250pp Memoir • $19.95 Leonard Stick, a distinguished war veteran, lawman and federal politician who was the ‘first’ in many historically significant events throughout his lifetime. His is a story of sacrifice and service.
CREATIVE BOOK PUBLISHING 430 Topsail Rd. Village Shopping Centre St. John’s, NL A1E 4N1 Tel. 709-748-0813 Fax 709-579-6511 www.creativebookpublishing.ca
6 x 9/paperback/250pp Historical Fiction • $22.95 Companion CD included. Music by Jim Payne and Fergus O’Byrne. In this fictional tale, humour, passion, and songs breathe vitality into the tragedy of the SS Southern Cross. This rousing sea story honours the memory of the gallant crew and the lives they were forced to live.
GOODBYE, UNCLE MAX
Author, broadcaster, actor and magician Bruce Armstrong died in Halifax on January 22. Armstrong edited The Encyclopedia of Suspensions and Levitations, and wrote Sanctuary: Halifax’s Parks & Public Gardens 1996 and Touchstones: Encounters With the Spirit of Nova Scotia. He won the Evelyn Richardson Award in 1982 for Sable Island. He was widely known for his role in the late 1960s as Uncle Max on the CBC TV kids’ series Max Museum. ■
Atlantic Books Today
CURRENT AFFAIRS CHAD’S VIEW
Adventures in reading
Our Chad Pelley proposes three novels that will satisfy your need for a great escape
ne of the themes in this spring issue of Atlantic Books Today is “travel and adventure.” It’s a fitting theme for those of us who’ve endured the cold, snowy winter—but who are still months away from our summer getaways. To tide us over, here are some Atlantic-authored books that offer readers an opportunity to escape into a world of adventure. A SISTER’S QUEST We could, for example, join Aileen from Rebecca Silver Slayter’s In the Land of Birdfishes (HarperCollins) as she embarks on a cross-country quest to find her estranged sister. As the novel opens, we meet the two young sisters, Mara and Aileen, and their overwhelmed father, who has permanently blindfolded his two daughters to “shield them from the misery of the world.” When a neighbour discovers the girls, they are immediately separated for treatment. Decades later, Aileen, spurred on by the loneliness of a dissolved relationship, goes looking for her sister. Her journey begins with a trip to the Yukon, where Aileen finds—not Mara, but Mara’s angry son, Jason. From there, Aileen’s life begins to change. This engaging story of secrets, sisters and circumstance is heightened by Slayter’s elegant writing.
ADVENTURES IN POT SMUGGLING If you haven’t read it yet, Lisa Moore’s Caught (Anansi) has everything you could want in a novel: plot, pace, and well-wrought characters. The novel’s prison escape, high-sea adventures and corrupt military men make the story almost cinematic. In the opening scenes, David Slaney is barrelling through the woods with the cops on his tail. He’s just escaped prison, having been sentenced for spearheading one of the biggest pot-smuggling operations in Canadian history.
Did Janos rip off his best friend and shortchange Nevena ... or has something more sinister happened to the boy and the coins?
McIntyre), also offers a great escape— all the way to Yugoslavia. In the opening pages of this literary mystery, three young friends—Janos, Nevena and Dorjan—stumble upon a bag of buried Roman coins in a cornfield. Their discovery could buy them a dream life—or it could buy them trouble. Immediately after Janos is trusted by the others to hide the coins, he goes missing. The novel alternates points of view between Janos’s love interest, his best friend and his devastated mother, who is on a quest to find her
Slaney is a man with an amazing zeal for adventure. The secondary narrative is about a lawman whose career hinges on capturing Slaney. Adding to this criminal-on-the-run novel is Moore’s decision to frame both Slaney and Patterson (the detective) as legitimately great guys—leading readers to root for both characters. This novel has great pacing and raises questions of morality and humanity. JOURNEY TO YUGOSLAVIA Nicole Lundrigan’s fabulous fifth novel, The Widow Tree (Douglas &
son. Did Janos rip off his best friend and short-change Nevena, whom he vowed to marry, or has something more sinister happened to the boy and the coins? This is the mystery of The Widow Tree, expertly rendered by Lundrigan. Enjoy the trip. ■ Chad Pelley’s fiction has been recognized with more than 10 awards. He is the editor of The Overcast: Newfoundland's Arts & Culture Newspaper.
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Courtesy Isabelle Hains
The Hains family (clockwise from top left: Daniel, Clark,Allan and Isabelle) in a portrait taken 15 days before Daniel’s death.At left: Bathurst High School.
BATTLING BATHURST’S GRIEF
A journalist and author recounts how two “warrior-moms” drove the search for the truth behind the “Boys in Red” tragedy
f the news media had done its job and shouldered its responsibility in the wake of the 2008 Bathurst High School tragedy— in which seven members of New Brunswick’s Bathurst High School basketball team and their coach’s wife died when their school van collided with a tractor-trailer on a snowy highway— there would have been no book for me to write when I set out to tell the incredible story of Ana Acevedo and Isabelle Hains. That’s because those women would never have needed to transform themselves from ordinary, small-town mothers into two of Canada’s most outspoken political activists.
Their long campaign to find the truth about the crash that killed their sons Javier and Daniel and six other people is detailed in my 2013 book Driven: How the Bathurst Tragedy Ignited a Crusade for Change (Goose Lane Editions). [Editor’s note: You'll find a review of Richard Foot's Driven on page 33.] At the heart of the story is a disturbing question: why were two grieving parents, with no experience with or fondness for public activism, compelled to turn their lives upside down by asking questions, launching petitions, holding news conferences and lobbying governments following their sons’ deaths?
Atlantic Books Today
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CONVENTIONAL WISDOM I was among the journalists from across Atlantic Canada who descended on Bathurst, NB, to cover the tragedy and the mass funeral for the seven boys. We wrote our stories about sorrow and heartache, and then drifted away, assuming there was nothing more to say about what appeared to be a random, unavoidable highway collision. That was the conventional wisdom floating around town. It’s what the mayor and school officials—even many of the grief-stricken parents—were saying. But the conventional wisdom was wrong, and reporters like me were too quick to buy into it. Accident investigators later found that the school van was mechanically faulty and unsafe to drive, that it lacked winter tires, and that driver fatigue was a possible factor. Ana and Isabelle had by then also uncovered Education Act guidelines that said their boys should not have been driving home late at night in the midst of a snowstorm. For five years these warrior-moms, as I call them, fought a sometimes lonely campaign for accountability, and for changes to the way children are
"Warrior-moms" Ana Acevedo, Isabelle Hains and Marcella Kelly, whose sons died when their school van collided with a truck on a snowy highway.
who were supported by many New Brunswickers, but scorned by many others. The prevailing view after the tragedy, at least among school and town officials, was that people
We wrote our stories about sorrow and heartache, and then drifted away, assuming there was nothing more to say about what appeared to be a random, unavoidable highway collision
transported to extra-curricular events. They had many successes and have raised national awareness about this issue. COURAGE AND PERSEVERANCE Yet many in Bathurst still believe the crash was a freak accident, including some of the other parents who lost boys, whom I interviewed for the book. In fact, the hostility Ana and Isabelle encountered in their own community as they tried to uncover the truth of the tragedy remains today. I felt it as I researched the book—many people at the centre of the tragedy declined to talk to me, or expressed deep skepticism about what the two mothers had done. It was nerve-wracking, to say the least, cracking open this hornets’ nest and writing the tale of two women should grieve for a bit, and then move on; there was no need for hard questions about why it happened and what could be learned from the deaths of seven boys—an understandable sentiment in any small, insular town full of hurting families. Less understandable is why news reporters were so willing to accept this view. Fortunately, for the sake of the truth, two mothers had the courage and perseverance to think otherwise. ■ Richard Foot is a Halifax-based writer and an editor with The Canadian Encyclopedia. He is a former national affairs reporter with Postmedia News and Atlantic Correspondent with The National Post.
Atlantic Books Today
AUTHOR BUZZ INTERVIEW
Dr. Richard B. Goldbloom’s achievements and honours are legion— and the man himself is almost legendary; he served as physician-in-chief and director of research at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax for several decades and has authored more than 200 publications. He is chancellor emeritus of Dalhousie University and an officer of the Order of Canada—and, as you’ll see from his answers below, he has a wicked sense of humour. His autobiography, A Lucky Life, was recently published by Formac.
What do you consider your best quality? How you want to die: Listening and observing. To be shot in bed at 103 by a jealous husband. A quality you desire in a partner: Warmth (of all kinds). Your idea of misery: Loneliness. What do you appreciate most about your friends? Favourite colour: Their number and their quality. Burgundy. Your worst quality: Where should I begin? Your favourite occupation: Pediatrician. What is your idea of happiness? The company of family and friends. Favourite bird: The rosy-breasted pushover. Your favourite poet(s): Wordsworth. Your favourite author(s): SJ Perelman.
If you could be someone else for a day Your real life hero(es): who would it be? My late father and the late [Pianist] Vladimir Horowitz. Dr. Sydney S. Gellis (Boston).
Your favourite fictional hero(es): Inspector Clouseau. Your favourite food & drink: Carré d'agneau and a fine Bordeaux. What is your greatest fear? Memory loss. A natural talent you would like to possess: Piano virtuosity. Where you would most like to live? Positano, Italy. Your present state of mind: Tranquil (i.e. mindless). Favourite or personal motto: If I had my life to live over, I’d live over a delicatessen. ■
Atlantic Books Today
AUTHOR BUZZ INSIDE THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO
Mystery author Hilary MacLeod finds inspiration in her two idyllic cottage studios—one in PEI, the other in Ontario
n the early hours of morning, just as the sun inches above the horizon, author Hilary MacLeod is fussing in the kitchen of her cottage in Sea View, PEI, preparing a cup of English breakfast tea. Swirling at her feet are Gus and Sophie, two cats itching to go outside. MacLeod’s Revenge of the Lobster Lover, the first in her “Shores Mysteries” series, was published in 2010 by Acorn Press. It picked up a CBC Bookie Award for best mystery in 2011. Since then, MacLeod has published Mind Over Mussels, All is Clam, and Something Fishy, all with Acorn. [Ed’s note: Find a review of Something Fishy on page 32.] She’s currently working on Bodies and Sole. MacLeod hails from Scotland, originally; she was born Edinburgh in 1949. Remnants of childhood
days spent in Mexico, England and Montreal are reflected in the decor at this Island home—a place where she has spent her last 23 summers. SUMMER IN SEA VIEW From the kitchen, MacLeod makes her way to the living room—the heart of the house—and settles into a wicker chair. With her silver MacBook open and her reading glasses hinged on the bridge of her nose, she begins to write at her portable desk. “I live in this room,” says MacLeod. “Writing. Drinking wine. Cavorting.” This room is filled with treasures from MacLeod’s travels. There’s an old Singer sewing table—an item she picked up in New Brunswick when she was working as a writer-broadcaster for the CBC. In the centre of the room is a wooden coffee table; on top is a
trough filled with rocks and driftwood collected from her leisurely walks on the beach. The writing may happen in the living room, but Sea View is MacLeod’s real studio. She draws her ideas from the people who live there, the tourists who drop by, and, of course, from the ocean, which she visits daily, regardless of the weather. MacLeod recalls that when she first moved to Sea View, she became friends with three local residents who loved to gossip and tell stories. “I would listen to how they talked, the words they used, the cadence and the stories they told,” she says. “Those stories have certainly crept into my books, slightly altered as stories are. That, too, is a large part of my studio—the kitchens of these three elderly people.”
Atlantic Books Today
AUTHOR BUZZ INSIDE THE AUTHOR’S STUDIO
And then there are those moments when ideas are born and new scenes for her current novel emerge as she sits in her corner of the living room and watches the sun rise through the stained glass window. “It’s not onerous,” she admits. “I’m not a struggling writer sitting there in that chair. I spend two or three hours at it, and that’s it for the day.” The stained glass window is a piece she procured at a yard sale in Ontario— the province she migrates to in the fall. WINTER IN WICKER HILL MacLeod’s second studio is in Prince Edward County, Ontario—a region with a reputation for wine, ale and cheese. On top of Wicker Hill, in a small cottage overlooking Muscote Bay, the living room is again her studio of choice. There are many similarities between MacLeod’s two cottages. In each, there’s unused office space and an extensive book collection. Outside, she has immaculate, well-maintained gardens. Unlike her living room in Sea View, though, MacLeod’s writing studio at Wicker Hill is made for winter. She writes the meat of her novels there by the warmth of a wood stove. The room is more spacious, part of the cottage’s open-concept design. “You live indoors more in the winter,” she says. “The use of your space is different. In Sea View, I don’t need a big space because my studio is everywhere.” ■ Ashliegh Gehl is a literary journalist and travel writer living in Belleville, Ont. She has written for the Herald de Paris, Women’s Post, Montreal Gazette, Kingston This Week and Quill & Quire.
Clockwise from top: Hilary MacLeod relaxes during the winter months in the living room studio at her Wicker Hill, Ont, cottage; Sophie (right) enjoys the cottage’s afternoon light; during the summer months, MacLeod regularly strolls the beaches of PEI. Opposite: “The little house at Sea View”—now MacLeod’s cottage—which once stood on a farm owned by Lucy Maud Montgomery’s uncle in Park Corner, PEI.
Sea View is MacLeod’s real studio. She draws her ideas from the people who live there ...and, of course, from the ocean
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