Why I Wrote This Book: Issue #10

Featuring K.R. Byggdin, Anuja Varghese, Rick Revelle, and Chad Norman

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

K.R. Byggdin, Author of Wonder World (Enfield & Wizenty, 2022)

Growing up on the Prairies as a queer and nonbinary kid, I didn’t have access to stories about people like me. By the time I was in my twenties, I felt like the only way I could truly be myself was to leave my small town behind for the big city. But when I moved to Halifax in 2015, it surprised me by how fiercely I missed home.

I decided to explore these complex feelings through writing, first short stories and later my debut novel. Wonder World tells the story of a young queer man named Isaac Funk who returns to his hometown in southeastern Manitoba for the first time in ten years due to a death in his family. Every vacation back to the Prairies became a research trip for the book, allowing me to view the food, culture, and environment of my childhood through the eyes of Isaac, and consider the kind of path he might take back towards a community that had shaped his life in both negative and positive ways.

At its core, Wonder World is a narrative of hope, envisioning a rural Prairie landscape where queer and trans bodies can thrive. I want my book to remind readers that 2SLGBTQIA+ people belong everywhere. Even if our histories have been forgotten or erased, we have always been part of life on Turtle Island and Canada.

It brings me so much joy to know my novel is on the shelves of local libraries from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia to Steinbach, Manitoba to Whitehorse, Yukon. My wish for the next generation of queer and trans readers is that they will see their lives reflected in stories like mine, and know they have a vital and vibrant role to play in both literature and society.

Anuja Varghese, author of Chrysalis (House of Anansi, 2023)

I am always excited to see genre fiction – from fantasy, to horror, to romance – that features BIPOC main characters! But when it came to my own work, I initially (stubbornly) set out to write a book of “literary” fiction, pushing my speculative stories aside. After much workshopping of my manuscript (and generous, honest, gentle feedback from my first readers and critique partners), I realized that the wall I had erected between “literary” and “genre” was entirely of my own making. So, I tore it down! What ended up growing in its place is an intentionally genre-blending collection that features brown characters in both contemporary “real world” stories, alongside stories infused with monsters and magic, fairy tales and myths. I suppose I simply wrote what I am most excited to read.

Another big part of why I wrote this book comes back to how few brown girl main characters I saw in books when I was growing up. And even now, when brown characters DO make an appearance, the narratives are often predictable: we are widely cast as immigrants, nerds, victims, and sidekicks. Although we are seeing more diverse representations of women’s lives emerging in CanLit, I still don’t see many stories that reflect the intersections of identity that I experience as a second generation queer woman of colour. So, with this collection of short stories, I knew I wanted to centre brown women characters, but to give them complexity and agency. To make them dangerous. To give space on the page to the full range of their desire and rage and courage and joy. I wrote this book so that those of us who don’t see ourselves in most stories might find a mirror in these words, and know that we are worthy of reflection.

Rick Revelle, author of The Elk Whistle Warrior Society (Crossfield Publishing, 2023)

Making up only 4% of the total population of Canada, but 16% of the missing women in this country from 1980 to 2012, these statistics prove there is an epidemic of violence against the population of Native women here. The statistic from the USA is as horrific as Canada’s. Each year the numbers worsen. Police forces in both countries either have no expertise in this file or do not care about these women. 

Myself as a Native man, I am horrified by the suffering and pain that is going on among the families of these women. This led to the decision to author a book and make it about a group of women, aided by men who have taken this violence against Native women and Native children into their own hands. I created an educated, skilled, powerful group of women who have only one thought on their minds. Save their fellow women from the violence that seems to hunt them down. 

These women are taking back the power that they had held for centuries before the coming of the Europeans. They have asked their male friends and family members along ,with the Memegwesi to follow along with them, in taking back what they had before Colonialism took it all from them 500 plus years ago.  

The book is about hope, honour, respect along with a liberal dash of revenge added into the mix. The novel hopefully will bring forth Native heroes who may not have a cape, but have three things that equal a cape; bravery, the blue feather tattoo and the elk whistle around their neck. All in honour of their ancestors who preceded them. 

My editor said to me that I had too many characters in this book. I wrote back. That is the way Natives operated in the old way. Helping each other and not depending on three or four warriors to protect them. 

They questioned me why I wrote this book? My answer is, “It had to be written.”    

Chad Norman, author of B and Boy (Cyberwit, 2022)

A new book almost always means a new room in one’s self and life must be entered and quickly inhabited. By this I am saying one must learn how to look after it, begin to understand what acts of promotion are necessary to get it into the hands, and maybe the hearts, of some readers. At this crucial point one must exit the new room and engage the public world, so to speak, in order to give readings, and in this case sit and share the new book with children and families.

B And Boy has been written to address through a simple story, losing the bees and cursive writing, both of which I have been concerned about for a long time. B is a bee. Boy is a boy.

They are brought together due to nicknames they have been given, but eventually learn their real names. The story also features a setting which can be found in Colchester County, N.S., during the end of Autumn when colder weather begins,

and the bees are making the last of their harvesting and trips to their hives. The ending offers a uplifting surprise for both reader and the listener. Tacha Reed, a multidisciplinary artist and designer who specializes in fibre art, has provided the illustrations; she is a graduate from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, from the Avon River area.

Lana Shupe, author of The Lonely Little Lighthouse, says B And Boy is ” A sweet story, with a gentle message of love for the environment as only a child can hold. I felt wrapped in a “warmth of words” while reading this story.” (A copy can be obtained directly from the author by contacting him at namronskichacha@gmail.com.