Featuring Trevor Atkins, Ivanka Fear, and Ariel Gordon
Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.
Trevor Atkins, author of The Day the Pirates Went Mad (Silverpath Publishing, 2021)
My cozy historical fiction adventure, The Day the Pirates Went Mad, is set at the turn of the 18th century and is the first in a series for middle-grade readers. Young runaway Emma Sharpe stows away aboard the New Adventure, learns to sail the sea, bonds with her shipmates, and travels to faraway places. Then, at a deserted island in the West Indies, she and cabin boy Jack Randall must race against time to overcome a cursed pirate treasure. Will they be too late to save her newfound family? To save themselves?
I was first motivated to write to show my daughter that nowadays there are easily available platforms through which you can share your creative ideas with the world. That’s how we first released our three-act play, The King and Queen’s Banquet. Work on The Day the Pirates Went Mad soon followed but for an additional reason.
Telling stories is a great way to make learning fun. Humanity has passed on lessons this way for many, many generations. Today, pirates, dinosaurs, aliens, and monsters are topics children often find fascinating. Of all of these, the Golden Age pirates are the most real – they existed only 300-500 years ago and are part of our modern human history. This has always had great appeal to my daughter. The more real the story and the more real the people, the more she liked it. I also remember commenting to her on how Captain Hook was portrayed in “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” – his hook isn’t even sharp! That led to the question of whether real pirates had hooks or not. We started looking into actual pirates, their ships and equipment, the world they lived in, and the role they played in history versus how they’ve been popularized. Then, with a little inspiration from the greedy in-fighting and backstabbing represented in R. L. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Y. E. Allison’s poem “Derelict”, Emma’s first adventure was born – though without dwelling on some of the grittier realities of the time (that’s the ‘cozy’ part). Entertainingly educational!
So avast and heave to, me hearties! This isn’t just a thrilling yarn – it’s an educational voyage back in time. Aimed at grades 5-7, it can also be enjoyed by younger buccaneers when accompanied by a trusty adult. And old salts have been known to sing its praises as well!
Trevor Atkins lives with his family on the west coast of Canada and has been working with words for much of his life, but has only recently pursued historical fiction for younger readers. A storyteller and role player of detailed characters, Trevor loves to weave together many intertwining threads when writing. His bane is the perfecting effort of revision – there is always more that can be tweaked and improved. But then comes the day when enough is enough and the story must be set free for others to see! Trevor is very excited to be drafting book two of Emma Sharpe’s adventures. He’s also continuing to expand the Teacher’s Guide with more STEM activities and behind-the-scenes & research-related posts on EmmaSharpesAdventures.com. You can get updates as things progress via his mailing list and on his Facebook & Instagram pages. 🙂
Ivanka Fear, author of Where Is My Husband? A Jake and Mallory Thriller (October 2023, Level Best Books)
One evening, as I sat in the parking lot of my husband’s workplace waiting to pick him up, he didn’t come out on time. As the minutes ticked away, I began to wonder what was keeping him. What, I thought, would happen if he didn’t come out at all? My writer’s imagination considered all the possible reasons why a husband might not be where he was expected. During that half hour of sitting in the car, I created the main character, setting, and premise of a thriller novel. A young woman, suffering from extreme anxiety, panics when her husband is late coming out of the warehouse where he works. When he is nowhere to be found, her anxiety escalates as she searches for her missing husband.
As I delved deeper into the plot and character development, a clearer picture emerged of a young couple who bring their individual traumas and issues to the marriage. Mallory, who insists their marriage is perfect, is forced to examine some difficult truths as she considers where her husband is. Reflecting on the last four years, Mallory concedes that there are cracks in their relationship despite their love for each other. But, as I believe there are always two sides to a story, I felt Jake’s voice needed to be heard as well. Through a series of flashbacks interspersed with the main storyline, the possible reasons for Jake’s disappearance are explored, revealing that things aren’t always what they seem. The dual point of view gives the reader a better understanding of this flawed couple and their troubled marriage, and is designed to make the reader wonder who and what to believe.
I wanted to have my characters deal with real-life problems even though they have a fairytale vision of what their married life should be. Addictions, mental health issues, secrets and lies intrude on their wedded bliss. How much should a partner be expected to put up with? What happens when they reach a breaking point? Do they walk away? Or…?
Ivanka Fear is a Canadian writer, born in Slovenia. She earned her B.A. and B.Ed. in English and French at Western University. Before pursuing writing full-time, she enjoyed a long career in education. Where is My Husband, A Jake and Mallory Thriller, is her second book. Ivanka is also the author of The Dead Lie, the first book in the Blue Water Mysteries series. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Canada. Ivanka resides in Ontario, Canada, with her family and the stray cats that wandered in. When not reading and writing, Ivanka enjoys watching mystery series and romance movies, gardening, going for walks, and watching the waves roll in at the lake.
Ariel Gordon, author of Siteseeing: Writing nature & climate across the prairies
In early 2021, I worked the back end of a Zoom event for J.R. Léveillé and E.D. Blodgett’s French-English poetry collaboration, Ex Nihilo (Winnipeg: At Bay Press). I came away from the event like a neon sign that had been turned on, alternately buzzing and humming. So I contacted the person who helped me install that sign in the first place, Brenda Schmidt.
I met Brenda back in 2003 at Fred Wah’s poetry colloquium at Sage Hill. At the time, she had one book to her name and I was seven years away from my debut. In the years that followed, though she called herself my friend, she acted like a mentor. We were a province apart but she was a wonderful light to have on my literary horizon.
So it was midnight, almost twenty years after our first meeting, when I emailed Brenda, asking if she maybe wanted to try something similar to Ex Nihilo?
For some reason, she said yes.
Now the author of five books of poetry and a book of essays, Brenda is also laser-focused on birds, gardening, and photography, so I proposed that she write on birds and the environment, while I would focus on trees and the environment.
I started with a short-ish poem, she responded with same, and that was it.
We wrote Siteseeing together for a year, moving from a polar vortex through a drought reeking of wildfire to a big snow year. It was a hard, pandemic-ed, climate-changed year but, reading through these poems, I think we captured so much of the broken loveliness that is available to us as residents of the Canadian prairies.
Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg/Treaty 1 territory-based a writer, editor, and enthusiast. She is the ringleader of Writes of Spring, a National Poetry Month project with the Winnipeg International Writers Festival that appears in the Winnipeg Free Press. Her just-released fifth book, Siteseeing: Writing nature & climate across the prairies, was co-written with Saskatchewan poet Brenda Schmidt.