Why I Wrote This Book: Issue #6

Featuring Bobbi French, Andreas Kessaris, Christopher Sweet, and Jenni Tschoban

Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.

Bobbi French, author of The Good Women of Safe Harbour (HarperAvenue March 8 2022)

The Good Women of Safe Harbour, set on the island of Newfoundland (my homeland), tells the story of Frances Delaney, a shy, anxious cleaning woman who doesn’t have long to live. She looks back over her 58 years and sees not the life she wanted but the one that happened: a stark, solitary existence shaped by the series of devastating events in her youth. The crux for Frances is how to fill what is left of her life with all she longs for, and how to find the courage to make peace with her troubled past.

Before I became a writer, I was a psychiatrist, and in that work, I met many women whose difficult lives were the result of factors beyond their control. When I began writing the book, I was thinking of them, all those wise, witty, incredibly resilient women who were so often overlooked and underestimated. I wanted to give voice to an engaging and relatable character who reflected their struggles and strengths; an ordinary woman doing an extraordinary thing, in Frances’ case, coming to see her impending death as an opportunity to really live for once.

I also wanted to create a narrative that explored the particular agonies and joys of walking through life as girls and women, both then and now. For sure, Frances’ story is one of loss and loneliness and the absence of agency, but also one of friendship, forgiveness, and resolution on her own terms. My hope was that cracking open a hard life in this way (with warmth and good humour) might stir empathy for those who carry heavy burdens, so many people unseen in our midst. At the same time, I hoped writing about one woman’s journey toward a chosen, dignified end might lead readers toward reflection about our shared predicament of being mortal.

Andreas Kessaris, Author of The Butcher of Park Ex and Other Semi-Truthful Tales (MiroLand Oct. 1 2020)

After trying to make it as a writer for years and finding myself, at the age of thirty, a bona fide nobody in the business, I gave up and reluctantly became a banker. Bored out of my mind, it was not long before I took up blogging. At first I wrote reviews of movies and TV shows, and long critiques of how the media was reporting the American Invasion of Iraq, posting serious assessments of what I saw as a bias in the coverage.

One day at work I was recounting a humorous tale of how my father was too cheap to pay for furniture delivery, so he shoved a new couch into the trunk of his oversized car. My colleagues told me my blog should be more like that, and I immediately began to fill my splash page with memories of growing up in Park Extension. They became popular enough to eventually squeeze out all the reviews and critiques. At one point I had more than fifty pieces; however, not for a moment did the idea of assembling them into a book cross my mind. Sure, I had some amusing short stories, but what did they all mean? And who would want to read them?

At the age of forty-four I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which threw me into an existential crisis. I went back to my stories, carefully re-read them and realized that the signs had always been there; in fact, it all seemed quite obvious. I had found the elusive centerpiece: These were not simple, random yarns; they contained a common thread that held them together and led me on a path to discovering my true self. I soon concluded that a book about my life could possibly help other people out there searching for answers who may be, like I was, on the spectrum and unaware.

That’s why I wrote The Butcher of Park Ex.

Christopher Sweet, Author of The Boy in the Canvas (The Other Door Publishing Feb. 27 2022)

I’ve been a passionate and prolific fiction writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote entirely for myself until a few years ago when I was given the opportunity and the kick in the pants to finally write a novel. Problem was that I had dozens of ideas swirling about in the ether of my imagination and couldn’t decide on which of them to commit to.

I can only guess that the idea of a boy being able to enter the world of paintings was inspired by my adoration of the medium. Painters, like my wife, have such an incredible gift in their hands. They create magic. It makes sense, to me anyway, that an adventure should be set within those creations.

So the loose idea was there but, beyond having a cool playground for my main character to mess around in, it was just a nifty idea, not a story I felt was worth telling. Yet.

Around this time, I was studying screenwriting while my dad was busy exposing the horrors of Canadian training schools to the world at large. As a victim of these institutions, he wanted to be sure their stories were told and recommended I write a movie about them. I wasn’t interested in writing a biographical film, but at some point my brain married my idea of a kid who can travel through paintings with the very real horrors of these schools. Striking a balance between the story I wanted to tell and being respectful of those affected by these terrible institutions was one of the greatest challenges in writing the book.

Countless sleepless nights and rewrites later, The Boy in the Canvas was born and I’m pretty darn happy with the result.

If you want to keep up to date with what I’m working on next, check out my website: www.authorchristophersweet.com or follow me on Instagram or Facebook @authorchristophersweet

Jenni Tschoban, author of Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me (JTS Press Sept. 14 2020)

Many years ago, I wrote a story ‘My Papa Hated Stalin’ and after a few rejections, I decided to give up writing and go on with life.
I was in my 60s when my daughter asked if I would give up my single life in Ontario and move to Gibsons BC and play nanny for her newborn baby girl and 3 year-old son. She was opening The Sweet Chef Pastry Shop. So, for six years, 3 days a week, I – a Ukrainian-born grandma ‘brainwashed’ the kids. So said Sasha – the three-year-old who kept telling me to ‘Go home, Baba, we don’t need you here. But leave the chocolates.’
A few months into my job as a nanny to my two grandkids, I realized how privileged they were. Especially when I compared their lives in Canada and mine as a kid in Displaced Persons Camps in Germany during, and after, WWII.

Tales & Lies My Baba Told Me is my story about my life with my grandkids – but narrated by grandson Alexandre, when he entered grade 12. Throughout the book are flashbacks of ‘My Papa Hated Stalin’, our escape as Russian soldiers murdered anyone that was not of use to them, in their quest for control of Ukraine. In June 1944, I was four – the youngest in my family of nine – when we trekked through the Carpathians, Hungary, Austria, and Germany. After five years in Displaced Persons Camps in Germany, on February 23, 1949, our ship Samaria docked at Pier 21 in Halifax NS. Kanada! Freedom at last.

So, I wrote Tales & Lies so that all my five siblings’ kids – generation after generation born in Canada – knew how privileged their lives are; and, what their great-grandparents lived through for their freedom.

P.S. On February 23, 2022, I celebrated 73 years in Canada. The next day, February 24 – Russia bombed Ukraine – again.

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