The crowd in Grimsby was treated to a conversation with Emily Schultz and enables to purchase Men Walking on Water the day before it was released. I had previously been thrilled to win a copy of this substantial tome from a Goodreads Giveaway and look forward to reading it following the Canada Reads debates. The book was introduced as being full of lies, intrigue and deceit during the 1920s period of rum running from Windsor to Detroit.
Emily Schultz is a native of South Western, Ontario. She graduated from the University of Windsor and joined the large crowd in Grimsby after driving straight through from her current home in Brooklyn, New York. Emily is not only a novelist but is also a screen writer, producer, poet and co-founder of Joyland Magazine.
The audience learned that this was her second visit to the Grimsby Author Series (first for her novel The Blondes). I was fascinated to learn that she hosts a blog called Spending the Stephen King money. Before I talk about her latest book, I have added an abridged comment from her blog explaining her blog and the confusion with Stephen King’s novel which led to a royalty windfall:
I’m Emily Schultz. My first novel came out eight years ago. It was called Joyland. Last year Stephen King released a print-only novel with the same title. That was cool, until a few King readers bought the e-book version of my novel by mistake and started leaving negative and confused Amazon reviews… Apparently there were a lot of confused readers as this week I got a—for me—big royalty check for those mistaken books… but I thought a blog detailing how we’re spending the Stephen King money would be a nice way to end this funny and strange story.
The blog is entertaining and Stephen King even tweeted that Emily was his “new hero”. Her blog features pictures of each purchase ranging from books, to a new laptop, a haircut and a car repair along with her comment on “would Stephen King would like it”. During the processs both authors bought each other’s book. What a fun (and entertaining) mistake!
Back to the book event – Men Walking on Water is a story of rum running from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan inspired by a family secret. As an 8 year old, immersed in old-fashioned experiences and music, Emily learned that her grandfather had been a rum runner in the 1920s after being “railroaded” into the family business by his father. She was told not to talk about it as her grandfather was proud to be an upstanding citizen at this point. She learned about her Uncle Alfred who had drowned driving across the ice. Emily admitted that the story “gave me shivers” thinking about the rumours of whether it was an accident rum running, a suicide mission or whether he was racing another car across the ice. Her grandfather carried this grief his entire life.
In Men Walking on Water, which is described to be full of lies, Alfred does not really drown. He abandons his wife and child, moving to New York. Emily reads a selection of the novel, where Alfred is in New York, living his new life.
The book took over 8 years to write. She began writing the first 60 pages and decided “this is really good, I think” . At the time she felt unqualified to write it and backed away from the project to write the Blondes. When her father was dying, she invigorated the project, putting her son in daycare to write 14 hours a week. Her father had helped with the research including driving across the Ambassador bridge together taking photos together. Unfortunately, the novel was not done in time for her father to read it.
She spoke about her large cast of characters and how all of them had met either through crime or through church. She was asked whether she had a favourite character and conceded that “I think I am a little bit of all the characters”. She inserted family names into the text including her own nickname, “the kid” for a character with a lot of spunk and a good heart. Her Dad’s name was assigned to a rum runner.
Emily was a dynamic speaker and took pictures of the audience to tweet to her followers (a repeat performance from her first visit). Her passion for the topic was evident and she took time to speak with individuals as she signed each book trying to tie in a song title from the 1920s. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing Men Walking on Water and will keep my eyes out for a copy of The Blondes.
“All books grow in directions you don’t expect”.
Globe and Mail Article: Prohibition-era novel Men Walking on Water a departure for Emily Schultz