River of the Stick Wavers
About the Book
The most important part of a book for me is character. I’ve always been interested in how people think and what motivates them. So, it’s no surprise that my novel River of the Stick Wavers began with a person of interest by the name of Grace Irwin. Left alone after her husband dies, she heads to the French River to grieve and to heal.
Setting is the second most important thing to me in a novel. And setting my book at the French River was inspired – a gift actually from my friend Helen Tyndall who has a cottage/camp on Four Mile Island at the French River which she introduced me to. I love the French River. It calls to me in the same way my native England calls to me. It is a place rich in history. And the fact that being there brings you close to nature is a plus. I’ve always believed that nature has a healing capacity and therefore, the perfect place for Grace to be in order to grieve her loss.
A natural progression from character and setting is research. Research helps me to build a story for my characters around the historic events of my setting. The French River has a history that dates back to the 1600s and the time of Champlain, which I included in the book. Champlain traded with the natives for beaver pelts, and so I decided to include something about the indigenous people in my novel as well.
I’m so glad I set my novel in Canada. It’s a beautiful, big country with so much to offer any writer in the way of setting. You can be sure that my next novel will be set in Canada as well. I may even venture to other provinces. You’ll have to wait and see. I do know my next novel will begin at the French River, given that it is about another character in the book. But I’m not entirely sure where she will end up.
Writing a novel is like building a jigsaw puzzle. You take all of these seemingly disparate pieces and put them together and over time – a long time, you create a complete picture.
It’s been said, “When you write a novel, to make sure you write about something that will sustain you for years to come.” It’s true. I never grew tired of my characters, or my setting. In fact, I had a hard time letting them go, much like letting a child that you’ve nurtured for years go out into the world. It was hard. I know people will tell you to have an outline for your novel. But I didn’t. I enjoyed putting different people together in a situation to see how they will play off each other. It’s so unpredictable. In the end, I recommend you to trust your own vision of how to write your novel. Everyone is different and therefore, their approach will be different. Just do what works for you. The most important thing about writing is not to give up. You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone else. Just work to become a better writer every day, and you’ll be just fine.
SET UP: Grace meets Maggie and Albert Williams who have a cottage/camp not far from Grace on Four Mile Island. She is walking home from their place one night after dinner and hears something she can’t explain.
What seemed welcoming and cool during the day, was at night, cold and inhospitable. In fact, the night shadows along the path, made it difficult for Grace to find her way back to her camp. Why hadn’t she accepted Albert’s offer of an escort? Eyes wide, she kept alert for any familiar markers that would guide her way home.
A loud shriek rent the night. “What was that?” she said aloud, as though she expected an answer. The sound came again from somewhere above her. Eyes heavenward, she searched through twilight branches brushed with red and gold and spied an owl staring down at her with large all-knowing eyes. Then something furry skittered across her feet. She squealed. The owl swooped down, snatched the unknown creature between its claws, and flew off into the night.
Grace was really frightened now. But in her haste to get back to camp, she didn’t see the broken tree branch hidden beneath some pine needles. She pitched forward and landed on all fours with a jolt of pain. She scrambled to her feet and scurried along, while the earth moved at a dizzying pace beneath her, and the trees whispered an eerie cadence. What on earth she was doing out here?
A wave of relief washed over her when the river came into view, signaling that her camp was close at hand. In contrast to the dark woods, the river painted a picture of serenity. Moonlight glistened down upon the waters and created a feeling of safety. Almost there.
Just as her camp came into her field of vision, she heard a melodious rhythm dance on the night air. At first, she thought her senses were playing a trick on her. She searched the night, but there was no one there. How could it be? With a piercing glance from side to side, she began to run across the uneven ground. She couldn’t think about what would happen if she fell. She had to get home. When her feet hit the steps of the deck, she stumbled to the top. She fumbled with the key to the door, while her eyes searched the night. It seemed an eternity before the lock gave way. When it did, she scurried inside, slammed the door, and locked it with a satisfying click.
She pressed her ear against the panels and held her breath. The silence dared her to peek out of the window beside the door. Everything appeared to be peaceful, and yet she knew she had heard something.
She stood frozen as the minutes passed. When no sound came forth to corroborate what her ears had surely heard, she moved away from the door. Afraid to go to bed, she sat in the beat-up old armchair in front of the window. The imperturbable scene before her seemed at odds with the strange occurrence. But she knew what she had heard. There was no longer any need for pretext. The singing she heard tonight was the same as what she’d heard on the night of the storm.