I have been looking forward to meeting Gail Anderson-Dargatz after reading Turtle Valley and A Recipe for Bees. Her first book The Cure for Death by Lightning is in my growing to be read pile and is on the CBC list of 100 Novels that Make You Proud to be Canadian. This British Columbia author not only writes amazing Canadian novels but shares her craft through an online mentoring program and a summer writer’s camp on Manitoulin Island.
After the glowing introduction, Gail noted how impressed she was with the packed room. She shared that she does not always get such a great introduction and I will have to share that the moderation of these events is part of the success of the Grimsby Author Series. Ken is always well-researched and shares keen insights about each author.
The Spawning Grounds had taken a long time to write and Gail shared that the years prior to this book had included the loss of her parents, a divorce and then a remarriage after catching up with an old friend and falling in love. These major life changes along with the blending of their families kept her busy. As the mother of 4 children also, I can understand how she could be too busy to write! Her husband is responsible for the terrific photographs in Turtle Valley which introduce each chapter. What a great creative project for a couple to share!
Prior to reading the first chapter, Gail shared that she had began with the image of cartwheeling eagles (see video) which she described as a mating ritual where the flying birds, lock talons and cartwheel through the air. She had been privileged to witness this event and was surprised to see the eagles remain locked together and fall into a bush which sometimes can lead to starvation and death. This image and her fascination with rivers inspired the novel with the salmon country setting. She joked that the “spirit of the sockeye led me to write the boy meets fish story”.
The moderator questioned her about her inspiration of writing the boy at the river and she shared that the first time that she had met this boy was in a dream where he was standing on the surface of the water with the sounds beneath. Gail said that sometimes “characters walk through our dreams” and agreed with the moderator that this was a “velcro moment”. The boy in her dreams had stuck with her for more than 20 years.
“Writing fiction is largely a subconscious act”.
It was also inspiring to grow up with “the stew of magic stories” shared by her parents. This included the story her mom told about being hit by lightning and those that her dad had learned from Shuswap sheep farmers. These magical moments blend with the magic of our nature and the boundaries formed by rivers which have historically divided the First Nations people from the settlers. She writes about these issues of her communities but feels that it is a “mistake to have a message that you want to preach” when writing. Although she writes about her own community, it was interesting to hear that most of her writing takes place on Manitoulin Island since she “needs to leave the home environment in order to write about it”.
I am excited to have 3 signed copies of Gail’s books today including The Cure for Death by Lightning which now has a Gail Anderson-Dargatz original drawing of a cow. When Gail learned that I was the blogger who had connected with her, previously sharing my reviews, she stood up and gave me a big hug. She is clearly a warm individual who supports and mentors others in their writing. I am looking forward to reading The Spawning Grounds but since I have exceeded my book buying budget this month, I had to ignore the temptation to buy a copy to have signed and will be looking to borrow a copy from the library. 😦
Watch for my next post about the second author of the evening, Kevin Patterson as well as more posts about The Art of Leadership Conference!