Featuring janice Landry, Susan Mockler, Donna Diebold, and Valerie Mills-Milde
Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.
Janice Landry, author of Eye of the Ocean (Pottersfield Press, 2022)
Losing my beautiful mother, Theresa Landry, on August 26, 2018, was one of the worst days of my life. I discovered my mother at her home when she was in the final stages of life. I frantically called 911 for help. The emergency communicator on the other end of the line was calm, reassuring, and in control. After months went by, and after much reflection, I realized that person, who is commonly referred to as a first, first responder, was my lifeline to hope the day Mom died.
Hope then became one of three major themes in Eye of the Ocean, to honour my late mother, and because of Jason Cochrane. Jason is the senior Nova Scotia EHS 911 communicator who helped me and Mom. I tracked Jason down and interviewed him for the conclusion of the book. Our candid interview remains one of the most impactful I have done in my 35-year journalism career.
The other two themes covered in Eye of the Ocean are love, and empathy. I decided after my 2019 work, Silver Linings, which focuses on gratitude, that love, hope, and empathy were natural choices in a story arc of some of the most important elements in the human condition. Without love, hope, and empathy, we, as a society, are in big trouble.
To be clear, the love I write about in Eye of the Ocean doesn’t have to be human to human. It can be a passion for something – the arts, advocacy, service to community, music, dance, animals rights, the environment, and so on. Find something that makes you want to get up and going each day. For me that is creating. I started writing for fun as a kid. And now I do it professionally. It’s a privilege and honour that I don’t take lightly or for granted.
A big shout out to the Miramichi Reader for supporting me, and so many Canadian authors, designers, artists, and publishers. We have great stories to tell. It takes a village to get a book published. I thank my village members. They are a blessing.
Susan Mockler, Author of Fractured: A Memoir (Second Story Press, Sept. 27 2022)
On a dark highway, in the summer of 1995, I was a passenger in a car that collided with a moose. The accident left me with an incomplete spinal cord injury and unsure whether I’d be able to walk or care for myself again. My recently published memoir, Fractured, recounts my lived experience of acquired physical disability. From the earliest days in the hospital, during rehabilitation, and beyond, I describe my efforts to recover my mobility, and the discrimination I often faced in the way I was treated by others and by the inaccessibility of the built environment.
Initially, I was surprised by the words and actions of others, how they reacted to me as a disabled person. I learned that it was now commonplace to be confronted by intrusive questions, such as, what was wrong with me, ignored or addressed in the third person in the presence of able-bodied friends or relatives, or spoken to as if I were a child. The larger world was now fraught with barriers, steep stairs, lack of accessible washrooms, a failure of inclusion, a clear statement that I was unwelcome, that I didn’t belong.
I wrote my book to document these experiences, to contribute to the literature of disability and disability activism. By sharing my story, I hope to increase awareness of the marginalization and prejudice disabled people often face in attitudes and the physical environment. Ultimately, I hope my book illustrates the need for change to facilitate the full participation of people with disabilities in society.
Donna Diebold, Author of The Other Side of Night Graybeard Publishing, Sept. 12 2018)
As an elementary school teacher for almost three decades, I found it challenging to locate fictional novels for my students, in order to support some topics designated in the curriculum. The medieval period in Social Studies was one of those themes. There was an abundance of non-fiction books available that described and illustrated details of that period, but a fictional story about the adventures of a youth in medieval times remained unattainable.
Since I had an interest in historical fiction, castles, Britain, and time-travel, the dilemma inspired me to write a medieval adventure novel for students in the young adult category. I hoped it would not only entertain students and adults, but also teach intriguing facts about that period in history. The research to find relative details of that century gave me the opportunity to discover additional information pertaining to my areas of interest, and therefore, a most enjoyable task. Writing my novel also allowed me the chance to integrate my favourite literary devices—personification and parallelism.
Although time-travel carries its own element of fantasy, I was determined to make my story realistic and believable. Therefore, I chose not to include the ingredients of magic, dragons, or the supernatural. In my historical fiction novel, On the Other Side of Night, the twelve-year-old protagonist experiences real-life situations and meets characters who could have lived during that time period. The story also includes the protagonist’s development of self-image, the eternal issue of bullying, and a storyline which brings authenticity to readers seeking a credible plot in medieval England.
Having written this book, I hope to provide current teachers with a fictional resource, thus offering additional support with curriculum involving the medieval period—an elusive discovery in my career.
Valerie Mills-Milde, author of The Current Between, AOS Publishing, 2023)
Writing, for me, comes from unshakable hauntings, revisitations of lucid images that demand, provoke, disturb until I answer with story. It does sometimes feel as though there are ghosts inside my head, trying to find their way home.
For this novel (The Current Between) the image was one I stumbled upon in an article referencing the great storm of 1913. The image came down to this; two lakers on the St. Mary’s River, one upbound, the other downbound. It is quiet on the river, starless and dark, and sound hangs crystalline in the dense air. A crewman on one of the boats calls out to a crewman on the other, asking him to look in on his ailing father in Midland once his boat docks. Yes, the other responds. The message wouldn’t have been delivered, of course, the laker taken by the storm. Messages that are misfired, lost. Intention that is held off, and intention that finds a way. A narrative began to form around these themes, and I began to think about how an unavoidable outside force, (which manifested as the storm in this novel), can leverage a sort of correction in communication. Telegraphy, its role in communications at the time, its limitations with respect to reaching the boats on the lakes, began to suggest itself as a conduit. Ultimately, the novel revolves around relationships, a professional preoccupation for me in my non-writing job as a therapist. Specifically, the novel aims to say something about what happens between fathers and sons, what is lost and found, misunderstood and misperceived. What persists.
In the end, I don’t think I wrote the book I hoped to write. I never do. The book is never good enough. It can never do justice to the image I started with. The ghosts are never quite satisfied, but after the writing, they reluctantly shuffle off.
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.