Image by Diogo Sousa

SALT WATER PROSE

How being Canadian has influenced my writing.

There are trees on Vancouver Island you can stand in. You can look up inside the dark, hollow trunks and smell the moss growing on the ancient bark. You can go kayaking in the Pacific, water clear as glass, only to find, in a matter of seconds, you can’t see the water through the pastel tinted swarm of jellyfish, bobbing like buoys, close enough to touch.


I was born here. 


A league of lighthouses dot the coastline of Nova Scotia, beacons to help ships find their way home--but still there are fisherman funerals every year. There are signs on the massive, slippery wet rocks, warnings not to get to close to the edge because the waves hit harder than you think. When seagulls start wailing and flying inland, a storm is coming. 


I was raised here. 


As a writer, I can’t imagine living anywhere besides Canada. The Tolkienesque mountains and fairy tale forests of the west coast have been an ever present influence on my writing, and the haunted houses and sea shanties of the East never cease fueling my creativity. Both places hold such a strong grip on my heart that when I began writing Summoned I couldn’t decide where I wanted to set it. I compromised; though set in the forests of Vancouver Island my main character is a Bluenoser like me. Alton is Yarmouth born, the same town I grew up in, in a house only a stone’s throw from the sea. 

For me, setting isn’t just about place and aesthetic, it influences character on a core level. Alton isn’t just from the East Coast, the sea is in his blood. I wanted that to be more than metaphor so had Alton actually discover his magic from a near drowning incident when he was young, something mentioned but not shown in the book itself. 


Most of the magic and the events of the book take place in, what I consider, one of the most magical places: the coniferous forests of British Columbia. Staying in a remote cabin home in the middle of the woods with an old cranky wizard he just met, and a young witch who speaks more sarcasm than English, Alton’s adventure with magic and demons begins to unfold. 


The Canadian coasts are synonymous to me with the idea of home. For others who feel the same I hope I’ve done these places justice. For those who are strangers I hope I’ve made a fitting introduction. Even in my other writings which involve secondary worlds, where Canada isn’t a place, and where oceans have no names, I continue to lean on these locations for inspiration. 

From Cathedral Grove to Peggy’s Cove I will always be a coastal baby--and there will always be a little of that in my characters too; ancient roots, ocean born, and raised to yell into the storm. 

 

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