Deep Thoughts and Conversations with Joe Ollmann and Heather Marshall

The third and final event of the Grimsby Author Series spring session was overwhelmed by topics that make one consider what is taken for granted amongst humankind. Joe Ollmann discussed the connection between father and son; the falsehoods of that relationship which are so easily masked when hiding behind a comic strip. Heather Marshall dove into the broken trust between body and government when human rights are withheld, and the aftermath that is now playing out as her book is released at a time where it may be seen as controversial and instructive.

Joe Ollmann

In 2021 author Joe Ollmann made history when his novel, Fictional Father, was the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Governor General Literary Award. Caleb, a conflicted middle-aged painter, grapples with his decision to take over his deceased father’s comic strip Sonny Side Up. Although the strip eludes to an idyllic family life for the original author, time at home is in fact where Caleb found himself neglected as a child and living in the shadow of his father even as he grows up. Ollmann works with (mainly) nine-panels per page and includes colour in each frame. Although Ollmann is colourblind, he relies on his knowledge of colour theory and his children to guide his artistic intentions to intertwine with the words on the page. After a mere year and a half of work, Fictional Father was released. The final page is dedicated to a character furiously drawing, papers scattered around the floor and sweat beading down his face. We like to think this is Joe Ollmann, working in his element.

“It’s like pizza. Even when they’re bad, they’re good.”

While he created the artwork for Fictional Father Ollmann listened to hours on end of audiobooks. When he admitted to listening to hours of Victorian literature, Ollmann reminded the crowd, “There are no guilty pleasures, just pleasures. Read whatever you want.” To have a familiar face on the other side of the camera is always a joyful welcome to begin the final event of the spring 2022 series.

“It’s like pizza. Even when they’re bad, they’re good and I am glad [comics] are around, whatever form they are in,” Joe Ollmann reminisces on the nostalgia of sitting at the kitchen table with cereal and reading a comic strip and the beauty of the art form. Nowadays, Ollmann works exclusively on what is in his heart.

Heather Marshall

When a book is inspired by real events it invites a sense of curiosity and uncertainty. In Looking for Jane, Heather Marshall’s debut novel, she writes about the horrific life of maternity homes while weaving together the lives of three individuals. While doing her masters, Marshall had a thread of an idea about her now bestseller. It wasn’t until later when she came across an article on maternity homes that she decided to write it. “Why not a blockbuster or non-fiction examination?” Ken asked, regarding the form her research was presented. “The content was so compelling and dramatic…it has just reached so many readers as fiction,” Marshall replied. Looking for Jane continues on multiple bestseller lists, its praise high and its content heard.

As Looking for Jane evolved, Marshall always had the conscious decision to braid in details of maternity homes with reproductive choice, to advocate for women to have agency over their own bodies. The number of babies taken away from their mothers is larger than a ballpark, it is an entire city; over 300,000. Looking for Jane is set to release in the United States in the coming months and Marshall could have no way to predict the gathering storm as publicity is ablaze with comments about Roe v. Wade. The Grimsby Author Series looks forward to welcoming Heather Marshall back to discuss the reception of her novel in the United States.

Thank You

To our dear Joe Ollmann, thank you for creating such a thoughtful and kitchen-sink worthy graphic novel, we are grateful to be connected with you. It has been wonderful to have Heather Marshall at the series. We thank you for your stimulating and timely conversations and wait to see the lasting impression your novel will have

Thank you to our sponsors: Hamilton Philharmonic OrchestraObjects to DesireHome Team Realty GroupMelrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes, as well as our benefactors.  We could not do this without your support. Additional thanks also to our book sponsor, Epic Books, for supporting the Grimsby Author Series.

A final big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library through your participation in the Grimsby Author Series!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Seasoned and Immersive: Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill

Two prolific and heavy-hitting authors joined the second evening of the Spring 2022 Grimsby Author Series, both with big stories, various moods and explosive developments. In one novel, the universe is an inception of layers, while the other is a story that weaves in and out of dark and deep obsessions. We are thrilled to have welcomed Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill to the author series this season.

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel is the creator of six novels, various essays, and a handful of anticipated new projects. In 2020, Mandel was set to join the series for her novel The Glass Hotel. As the book had its publication at the gate of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are grateful for her quick pen in creating Sea of Tranquility so that she could make a return virtually this season. Those who have indulged in Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel will be familiar with a line of characters in her new work. While discussing the return of many faces Mandel expressed her fascination with February 2020, “That moment – we knew what was coming – we could read the news and see the incredible disaster that was coming. Virus pouring in every hour of every day. We couldn’t believe it was happening to us. A mass failure of imagination.” To capture that reality in the many pockets of life she illustrates is truly a spectacle to soak in.

“We couldn’t believe it was happening to us. A mass failure of imagination.”

In her new novel, Sea of Tranquility, Mandel easily exposes the human condition of hope as she spans five centuries throughout the book. On each page she showcases a tableau that each of us can set ourselves into, a reflection of time over past two years. With Mandel’s non-linear structure the characters and plot develop wholly and concretely. Like many before it Sea of Tranquility encompasses a style that is all her own. We will be on the edge of our couch waiting for the television adaptations of The Glass Hotel and Sea of Tranquility which Mandel herself will have a hand in. “If we’re to be honest with ourselves, we’ve been changed by the past two years. I don’t want to only do my work alone in a room anymore,” said Mandel. We look forward to many other universes from Emily St. John Mandel.

Heather O’Neill

In 2006 Heather O’Neill debuted her first novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, which became a literary sensation in Canada. With a shelf of other work in between, her book When We Lost Our Heads was published in February 2022. At a time when Canada was on a plateau of the pandemic isolation and an upheaval in the capital with the convoy, O’Neill showed her intimate, dark, passionate and alluring self in the pages of her novel. In a desire to discuss the deeper side of female friendship, filled with powerful synergy and psychotic tendencies, O’Neill weaves the reader into the lives of Marie and Sadie with the prominent backdrop of Montreal. Poignantly describing the connection between the two girls O’Neill writes, “every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive.”

“Every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive.”

Marie and Sadie find a common ground in their obsession with one another in an era when one is born into a certain class and must adhere to strict and often unspoken rules. “…after discovering an illustration of a costume ball, my long desire to write about the time period of the French Revolution sparked.” Marie mirrors Marie Antoinette and the lifestyle and bourgeois anointments reflect within her character. Sadie is a female depiction of the Marquis de Sade, a nobleman known for his erotic writings. It is within the cloaks of these historic figures that O’Neill reveals these fully formed and detrimental characters in their caged dresses, ready to catch on fire.

Thank You

Thank you to our seasoned and immersive authors, Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill. It is fruitless to say, but we will never stop counting down the days for new publication dates from both of you.

Thank you to our sponsors: Good Earth Food and Wine Co., Hamilton Philharmonic OrchestraObjects to DesireHome Team Realty GroupMelrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For copies of the evenings books, check out our dear Epic Books for 10% off. A big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Our First Evening: Nita Prose and Jesse Wente

Nita Prose and Jesse Wente ignite the fire that marks the beginning of the 2022 Spring Grimsby Author Series. Both Prose and Wente masterfully demonstrate what occurs when passions live deep within the human heart. Through connection and conviction, both of these debut authors showcase how the truth is key and showing up for your people is imperative. The host of the Grimsby Author Series, Ken Boichuk, gracefully queries the first authors of the season into expressing their journey as prominent bestselling writers.

Nita Prose

Nita Prose made a giant leap. She transformed her knowledge of fifteen years in the publishing world into the release of her very own novel, The Maid. After a bidding war, a movie deal and being published in thirty-three countries, Prose continues to keep us on our toes as she melds uplifting literature with mystery. Nita Prose speaks with such confidence surrounding the creation of her novel; she knows the ins and outs of her characters. “I had [Molly] and my setting because of an experience I had at the London Book Fair…I startled the maid folding my track pants. It is such an invisible job. That lodged in my mind.” A napkin scribble later and Prose had the idea for her #1 bestseller.

“I had [Molly] and my setting because of an experience I had at the London Book Fair…I startled the maid folding my track pants. It is such an invisible job. That lodged in my mind.”

With comparison titles such as the film Knives Out, authors including Agatha Christie and board games featuring Clue, The Maid was bound to be filled with notes of intrigue and sustained foreboding. In a first person narrative the main character, Molly Gray, struggles to interpret the world after the death of her dear Gran who was the compass that guided her. As a maid at the prestigious Regency Grand Hotel, Molly finds solace in her routine. “To think differently should not equal compromise to one’s self,” Prose said. The police do not share this thought when Molly’s peculiar behaviour puts her at the top of the suspect list when a guest is found dead in his hotel room. While Molly adapts to a world of cruelty, she finds support in unlikely characters that begin to emerge at her side. We will be keeping our eyes peeled for the release of the film, The Maid, and more stimulating work from Nita Prose.

Jesse Wente

In 2017, Jesse Wente spoke his truth regarding the most recent cultural appropriation debate at the time. In the aftermath, every major publisher in Canada was leaving Wente messages, urging him to write a book. In September of 2021 his memoir titled, Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance was released. His list of accomplishments span far and wide as he shares about his home and passion for diversity and inclusion. Growing up in Toronto meant that colonialism shone brightly when he was seen as “the kid from the city,” while spending time in Serpent River First Nation, a place he now considers home. Jesse Wente, much like his writing, was intentional about his connectedness and reforming bonds. As Ken suggests, “this one is to be read slowly and deliberately,” taking the time to reflect, be hopeful and heal.

“This one is to be read slowly and deliberately.”

Jesse Wente makes space for Indigenous storytellers, a creative outlet he deeply believes in. In Unreconciled, Wente directs away from appropriation and executes his concise standpoint for Narrative Sovereignty, literally translated as “Storytelling, Self-determined”. This system was not applied to Indigenous communities and Wente is introducing a long shift in Canadian culture. As Wente poetically explained, “Let’s not reduce or extract. In creating we give back, restoring balance in this circle.” We look forward to many more creations and collaborations from Jesse Wente.

Thank You

Thank you to our two debut authors who have made an unforgettable break from the gate, Nita Prose and Jesse Wente. We hope to see many more creative projects from both.

Thank you to our sponsors: Roland + Russell, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Objects to Desire, Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For copies of the evenings books, check out our dear Epic Books for 10% off. A big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

More and More from Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw

For the final fall event of the Grimsby Author Series 21st season, two prolific mystery writers joined us from across Canada. Best-selling author’s Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw come to us from Montreal and British Columbia, respectively, to discuss their work. As we dive into their niche inspirations and writing routines, we are thrilled to see that both McKenzie and Whishaw have publication dates already anticipated for their next projects.

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie’s captivating eleventh novel, Six Weeks to Live, is a multi-narrative that strides quickly across the lives of the characters. Jennifer Barnes is a middle-aged mother diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six weeks to live. Her adult triplets, Emily, Aline and Miranda guide the reader, along with Jennifer, through the twists, turns and moments of wit. McKenzie, zeroing in on the dialogue between her narrators seamlessly weaves the plot together as Jennifer begins to consider the possibility of a recent poisoning and who might have wanted her dead. “I’ll Never Tell had seven narrators! It’s less backstory, you can shift perspective and spend the story in the present,” said McKenzie, “…but I’ll never do that many again,” she also admits, getting a laugh from Ken.

“I always know the end before I start…you have to know to drop hints throughout.”

Starting her writing career through romantic comedies, McKenzie still found a way to incorporate mysteries into each. Although humour still highlights the darkness within her novels, she is a true mystery writer – former inspiration coming from past obsessions such as Agatha Christie, Dick Francis and Rex Stout. McKenzie writes both by planning and allowing an organic approach, “I always know the end before I start…you have to know to drop hints throughout,” she discloses. The powerful perspective of setting stems from McKenzie’s sense of grounding and space; she is sure to create a location based on somewhere visited or enjoyed to incorporate familiarity.

Before jovially holding up the advanced reader’s copy of her upcoming novel McKenzie discussed some of the excitement behind handing over a project when it is optioned for television. We look forward to much more from Catherine McKenzie in the near future!

Iona Whishaw

Where to begin with Iona Whishaw? Author of short stories, poetry and more, this copious writer presents Lethal Lesson, the eighth novel in the anticipated Lane Winslow Mystery Series. With the ninth on its way in early 2022, Whishaw finds no limitations in her inspiration and the abundance of ideas that become a part of Lane Winslow. “Lane is very clear to me, watching her develop and how she talks. It is clear to me who she is.” Whishaw published her first Lane Winslow book in 2016 and has not looked back since. Lane Winslow, the main character of the series was inspired greatly by her mother who may have had even more inconceivable adventures than Lane herself. “My mother told me she was an intelligence officer in South Africa…she was monstrously good at languages, the same qualities as Lane,” Whishaw confirms. It is through the guiding star of character development that Iona Whishaw honed her connection to Lane and introduced sincere individuals such as Inspector Frederick Darling and Constable Ames.

“Lane is very clear to me, watching her develop and how she talks. It is clear to me who she is.”

“I kill someone off and then spend the rest of the book figuring out how it happened and what circumstances might arise,” Whishaw says when asked about her writing process. She also admits to being surprised by the killer sometimes, “Oh, it wasn’t the person I thought,” and enjoying the awakening her writing continues to enforce.

The cover art of the entire Lane Winslow Mystery Series continues to stun and deliver with its exactness on 1940s design. It is not cheerful like the 1930s, sleek like the 1950s but captures the dullness and ration-filled days while still coming out of war. The creator, based out of Victoria, BC is Margaret Hanson.

Thank you

To Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw, thank you for a powerful evening so full of inspiration surrounding your writing process and showing your deep love for mystery. It was captivating to share a screen with you!

Thank you to our sponsors: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Objects to Desire. Also to our new sponsors Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For more from our authors, including this year’s releases Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie and Lethal Lesson by Iona Whishaw, visit our ever-wonderful Epic Books in Hamilton.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Connecting with Lauren B. Davis and Lisa Rochon at the Grimsby Author Series

It has been quite some time since the Grimsby Author Series welcomed two first time authors in the same evening to the series. On Monday, October 18 we had the pleasure of hosting Lauren B. Davis, author of Even So and Lisa Rochon author of Tuscan Daughter: A Novel. Both authors are incredibly prolific writers, creators, teachers and travelers who weave the necessity of connection throughout their novels.

Lauren B. Davis

“I want to feel myself beloved.” This line comes from the epigraph of Lauren B. Davis’s novel Even So, in a poem by Raymond Carver. Davis comments that, “it is the kernel of truth that has haunted me,” and seamlessly ties the string of thoughts that follow throughout her new work. Even So reflects two women who are trying to make sense of the world, their stories intertwined. Angela, a housewife, has everything she could hope for, a family, a love of growing orchids and time volunteering at Our Daily Bread Food Pantry. This is where she meets Sister Eileen who runs the pantry. Sister Eileen does her best to take a liking to Angela, to support her and see the good in her. When Angela causes a terrible tragedy, Sister Eileen must explore the depth of her compassion and commitment to God even as she struggles with her own sacred silence. In learning to love someone else, Sister Eileen can confront and build a relationship with the unlovable within herself to truly feel herself beloved.

“This moment by moment awareness is what changed the focus of the book from political to a relationship between two people.”

Relationships take on a feature role within Even So. Both Angela and Sister Eileen are healing themselves through the language of relating to and confiding in others. Similarly, Davis took on this tactic in her research for Even So. A friend recommended that Davis talk to Sister Rita, who in turn has become a soul friend. Lauren B. Davis journeyed to a retreat house run by nuns in Pennsylvania to live as they do. Davis was overwhelmed by their level of service, their prayerful energy soaking into each task they undertook. “This moment by moment awareness is what changed the focus of the book from political to a relationship between two people.” Through passion, turmoil and recklessness, Sister Eileen and Angela create a colourful dynamic, heightening the exercise of empathy with the turn of each page.

Lisa Rochon

In 2009 while in Florence, Italy, the seed was planted for what would eventually become Tuscan Daughter. Author Lisa Rochon writes about a young, fearless woman, Beatrice who is brutally exposed and challenged and yet remains tough beyond what she is meant to be. It is through Beatrice that the novel weaves through the streets of Florence in the early 1500s and the countryside lying just outside of the gates to the city. Granted to sell olive oil within the walls, Beatrice is enamored by her love of art and draws on the walls of the city. In doing so she creates an informal apprenticeship with an upstart artist, Michelangelo. Rochon “felt it was time to open a story that dealt with the reality of what it is to be a girl living in the glittering city of Florence,” and through the voice of Beatrice, she does.

“It was an audacious thing to get into the head of these great geniuses.”

Tuscan Daughter, originally planned as non-fiction, fluidly made its way to historical fiction as the rivalry between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo began to flare and it became about who they were as individual human beings, a new challenge for Rochon. Included among these outsiders is Lisa Gherardini, known to many as Mona Lisa, who becomes a confidant of Beatrice. Lisa Gherardini is a complicated woman who has had to bury a lot of her identity. Only in the past ten to fifteen years has research about who Mona Lisa truly was begin to build upon her identity. It is in Rochon’s mind that Leonardo da Vinci and Lisa Gherardini developed a beautiful friendship. It was in these leaps, moving between fact and emotion, that Rochon was able to move from journalist to novelist, “it was an audacious thing to get into the head of these great geniuses,” she admitted.

Thank you

Thank you to Lauren B. Davis and Lisa Rochon for sharing your novels that are so emotionally steeped in the intricacies of human connection and the importance of relationships. We look forward to more from these powerful writers!

Thank you to our sponsors: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Objects to Desire, Calamus Estate Winery, Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For more from our authors, including their new releases Even So by Lauren B. Davis and Tuscan Daughter by Lisa Rochon, visit Epic Books in Hamilton for 10% off.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

The Return of Terry Fallis and Linden MacIntyre to the Grimsby Author Series

In the fall of 2019, Terry Fallis and Linden MacIntyre spent an evening embracing the gaze of over two hundred Grimsby Author Series attendees. They made their way up the staircase of the Casablanca Hotel, sat on the folding chairs in the front row and had the pleasure of bantering with our gracious and articulate host, Ken Boichuk. On Monday, September 13, both of these award winning Canadian authors joined us virtually to once again consume us with details of their thoughtful new books.

Terry Fallis

Operation Angus has been a long awaited novel by Terry Fallis, not only because of his instinctual concept for how humans work but because of the resurrection of his character Angus McLintock. After nearly one thousand book talks over the years, Fallis says, “I always get asked about Best Laid Plans and they wonder when Angus will come back,” referring to his early novels. When Fallis last joined the Grimsby Author Series from the stage he revealed that he would deliver on Angus and Daniel Addison back in action in a comic thriller. He did not disappoint. It is the natural balance of Angus and Daniel, his trusty partner in politics, that brings readers back (and unabashedly asking for more). While Angus is gruff and true to his principles, Daniel is hapless and hopeless in a charming way while providing Angus with an understanding of the political world.

"I always get asked about Best Laid Plans and they wonder when Angus will come back."

An observant attendee was quick to ask Terry Fallis about his security clearance on Parliament Hill and if he required certain permissions to complete his eighth novel. With his infectious laugh, he provided his source in the form of a retired Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) research analysis. Though Fallis did not have official approval, he claims he had plenty of influence!

The adventure paces along quickly in Operation Angus when the life of the Russian President is at stake and the duo must act fast before it is too late. Although the risk is substantial and tensions run high, humor continues to thrive within yet another Terry Fallis creation. As he reads an early passage, he does not hold back. A thick, practiced Scottish accent pours from Fallis with exuberance, engaging every syllable to provide a flavour of his immersive style. Book nine from this prolific author is in the works.

Linden MacIntyre

Linden MacIntyre is just as enthralling over the screen as he is in-person. In his newest book, The Winter Wives, MacIntyre brings us into a narrative full of secrets and examines the geometry of love. Allan is the university football player and later financially fortunate in his business. Byron appears as his mirror opposite; an average individual, lacking social growth and plagued by a childhood injury. The story dives deeper and deeper into the relationship between Allan and Byron as their mutual superficial bond takes on an urgent reality and the question must be asked, “Why do we need each other?” A conversation that is commonly scarce among business partners, this question is one that an intimate and important relationship must consider and one that too often arises in the face of a quantifying situation. It is a question that Linden MacIntyre reflects upon, asking readers to invest so much more than the turning of a page. The Winter Wives explores the bond between Allan and Byron and their respective partners, the Winter sisters, Peggy and Annie. Though Byron married Annie, he considers Peggy the love of his life. The tangled web becomes more haphazard when Allan has a stroke and the state of his unethical business practices are revealed leaving Byron to make sense of who he is. The Winter wives are essential to the survival of Allan and Byron, they are the infrastructure of their lives, their relationship to one another hangs on the connection they have with both Peggy and Annie. Byron will discover that experience changes us all.

Thank you

To Terry Fallis and Linden MacIntyre, thank you for an immersive evening so full of thoughtfully answered questions that will have us reminiscing over and over. These two authors are giants within Canadian literature and have a total of eleven combined visits to the Grimsby Author Series. We are grateful to begin our 21st season with such influential writers!

Thank you to our sponsors, both new and continued: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Objects to Desire, Malivoire Wine Company, The Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For more from our authors, including their new releases Operation Angus by Terry Fallis and The Winter Wives by Linden MacIntyre, visit our dear Epic Books in Hamilton.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Ashley Audrain and Thomas King at the Grimsby Author Series

The summer solstice marked the final evening of our 20th Grimsby Author Series season! We were joined by Ashley Audrain, author of The Push who reminds us of the interpretations and perceptions of motherhood while Thomas King, creator of Sufferance, explores our ties to the finite world and how we cooperate together as we move through life.

Ashley Audrain

Six months after her child was born Ashley Audrain took the leap to challenge the realities of motherhood and the ideals that are expected from it. She did this in the form of her first novel, The Push. Formerly the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada, Audrain set out to create a compulsive page-turning read that would spark the conversation around motherhood beyond those who birth a child. The Push was written scene by scene about the fears and constructs of taking on a new role as a woman. “The real experience is vastly different than what you grow up learning it should look like…you are giving everything from love, to nourishment to time and there are little things left of you,” Audrain admits. She writes with astute detail about the profound transformation demanded from one’s body and the understanding that is often overlooked when such tremendous changes take place beyond your physicality. 

"The real experience is vastly different than what you grow up learning it should look like...you are giving everything from love, to nourishment to time and there are little things left of you."

The Push is a series of vignettes that poignantly showcase the before and after, the loss of identity and the diminishing sanity of Blythe Connor, mother to Violet and wife of Fox. She begins to question what she understood of motherhood and how to navigate a new chapter of her life where everyone has an opinion and holds her to exhaustive standards. Blythe does not connect with her daughter Violet who is distant and unaffectionate, much like her ties to her own mother and Blythe is convinced that something is not right. Fox, her husband, does not acknowledge her concerns about Violet and sees her as his struggling wife. It is not until their son Sam is born that Blythe feels a deeper attachment. What do you do when you can’t live up to the expectations of becoming a new mother? Or when what you thought is layered with fears, challenges and uncertainty?

Thomas King

Thomas King has transformed his love of writing between novels, short stories, children’s books, television and more. He is regarded as one of the most exceptional contemporary Aboriginal writers in North America. King uses the analogy of a front load washing machine to describe the American political scene; a circular motion that keeps going round and round where nothing ever happens and we don’t see beyond to the larger problems. That is what he wanted to try with Jeremiah Camp, the main character of his new novel Sufferance. “If I have to suffer this modern contemporary world, why shouldn’t my characters?” he asked when prompted to describe his similarities to Camp. King explained that by looking at society with reason and intelligence it can be observed that you can predict what might happen.

“If I have to suffer this modern contemporary world, why shouldn’t my characters?”

As a Forecaster, Jeremiah has the ability to notice patterns among the day-to-day cooperation of society to inform the opportunities taken by the rich and powerful. Overcome, Camp eventually flees to an old residential school on an Indian reserve with the hopes of hiding out of sight from the company who formerly employed him, the Locken Group. But before running away, Camp’s forecast produced a list of billionaires who are now suddenly dying off and he is tracked down for his skills. When referring to the phrase that got the book going, ‘We exist at the sufferance of others,’ King responded with, “Groups like billionaires think that they move and think on their own and are self-sustaining,” and reminds the reader that participation and understanding are necessary when it comes to how we treat people. Thomas King is fierce in his narrative about the imbalance within humanity that was created by privilege and power.

Thank you

As the 20th anniversary season comes to a close, a big thank you is reserved for the sponsors of the Grimsby Author Series who have supported this series throughout its impressive run. We look forward to the 21st season which will kick-off in the fall over Zoom.

Thank you to Harbour Estates Winery, the Hamilton Philharmonic and Objects to Desire for being a part of our final event this season. We are proud to have our series take place on National Indigenous Peoples’ Day as we reflect on the treaty agreement of sharing the land, side by side. Thank you to our authors, Ashley Audrain of The Push and Thomas King author of Sufferance for joining us, we wish you continued success! Our wonderful Epic Books of Hamilton will have copies available for purchase.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Paula McLain and Edward Rutherfurd at the Grimsby Author Series

Welcome once again to the third event of our 20th season! Paula McLain graced our screens from her home in Cleveland, Ohio while Edward Rutherfurd made his debut to the series from Connecticut. These authors embrace the creative ideas that have come knocking on their door. They whole-heartedly immerse themselves in the worlds they write of and have honed the art of translating it to readers who are eager to be transported into their universe. We are delighted to be joined by Paula McLain, author of When the Stars Go Dark and Edward Rutherfurd, author of China: The Novel.

Paula McLain

The name Paula McLain is often synonymous with historical fiction and her clarity to paint the past with such astute detail. The idea for When the Stars Go Dark came to her while she was out for a long walk with her dog. The extended walk for an energetic canine gave her the opportunity to steep herself in the suspenseful concept that would soon connect her life deeply to her new novel. McLain admits, “If I knew I was going to pull off all of those layers [of my own life], I would have run the other way.” There is a lot of trust and self-awareness that is created when a story ties so tightly to intimate and personal events and McLain simultaneously tributes her craft and past while building the foundation of her work.

When the Stars Go Dark opens in the fall of 1993 with Anna, a detective who focuses on missing children in San Francisco who is navigating the hurdles of recent tragedies. When she flees to Mendocino in northern California, a place woven with past memories, Anna learns of a missing local teenage girl. This stirs up traumas of her past as her life becomes intertwined with the mystery of the youth’s disappearance. While McLain was engulfed in research, a podcast playing at the time, she tuned in as the name Polly Klaas surrounded her. Her preliminary writing began to echo back to her while listening to the real-life tragedy of young Polly Klaas who was kidnapped during a slumber party in October 1993 and found that December within an hour’s drive of Mendocino. As the hairs on the back of her neck stood tall it was clear the path her novel would travel, “I can tell a story,” she said, “but this is someone’s reality.”

Edward Rutherfurd

From the cadence of his voice while reading a short passage it is clear that author Edward Rutherfurd has internalized all 784 pages of his new work, China: The Novel. As a retirement present to himself this prolific writer went to China. Describing his travels as anything but a holiday, Rutherfurd did everything but rest. He traveled wherever he could and asked questions at each turn. “The history [of China] is so huge I wasn’t going to write about it,” he concedes, but here we are with his weighty and exhilarating novel in-hand.

China: The Novel is a collection of historical events woven together by various storylines and the fictional characters who lead the way. Beginning with the First Opium War, Rutherfurd chronicles the waves of China’s past through the lens of Chinese, British and American families. Although the content is dense and loaded with crucial research, readers are graced with stories of love, betrayal, fortune and peril. Through developed character narratives, Edward Rutherfurd shines a light on the ever unfolding country of China as it theatrically toils over perception, honour and rising power. 

When writing such an extensive and literally heavy novel, one might be curious how he stays organized. At this, Edward Rutherfurd produces a full belly laugh and admits that his writing process is chaotic. Even when producing huge books, a sense of architecture and musicality is required. “Architectonics is marrying the music and architecture. I don’t story board, I let things take over,” he says. His creativity gets the best of him every time, he simply does not interfere with the book.

Thank You

When inspiration visits Paula McLain and Edward Rutherfurd they listen and observe what it has to offer. One author shifted genres to observe her creativity more deeply while the other simply could not relent post-retirement. The Grimsby Author Series is proud to bask in an evening with individuals so in love with their craft. A big thank you to our authors, we hope to see you at the series in-person!

A deep thank you to our sponsors at Peller Estates Winery, Objects to Desire and Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra for providing our remarkable door prizes for the evening. As always, contact our beloved Epic Books of Hamilton for signed copies of When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain and China: A Novel by Edward Rutherfurd. Our next event of the season will take place on Monday, June 21 at 7 p.m., tickets are on sale now!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Mary Lawson and Robert Rotenberg at the Grimsby Author Series

Welcome back to the second winter event of our anticipated 20th season! More than one hundred and thirty members of the Author Series community logged on to support the Grimsby Library as we greeted the eloquent Mary Lawson and Robert Rotenberg. This evening our roots remained in Ontario as our guests painted the picture of a mysterious life in the north and a series of murders in Toronto. While one author brings us to the past, the other observes the present to anticipate the thought-provoking headlines to come. We are delighted to be joined by Mary Lawson, author of A Town Called Solace and Robert Rotenberg, author of Downfall.

Mary Lawson

Mary Lawson joined us just after midnight from England for our 7 p.m. stream in Grimsby (thanks for staying up late with us!). With her first twenty-two years in Northern Ontario, Lawson calls herself a Canadian to this day, “it is home, it is what formed me,” she says. In her recently released novel, A Town Called Solace, we are transported back in time to how Lawson herself recalls the north. “I just hate research,” she laughs, “I stick to what I know.” The book is set in 1972 and opens by introducing the readers to Clara, a young girl who is set on looking after her neighbour’s cat, Moses. However, after no sign of Mrs. Orchard’s return, young Clara sees the mysterious Liam Kane, Elizabeth Orchard’s former young neighbour moving into the house. But what does this mean for Clara as she adamantly watches out the window, looking at the neighbour’s home but longing for the return of her missing sister, Rose?

If you travel to any small town in Northern Ontario, one may come across a handful of Lawson’s eclectic characters from her new novel. With humble brilliance, Mary Lawson captures the inner light of every character, all having abundantly detailed lives beyond their introduction. “The minor [characters] evolve, just as the main ones do, and taking it sentence at a time, you learn a lot about each one,” she reveals. Lawson’s sister is a therapist and her brother still lives in northern Ontario, both acting as a lifeline of inspiration to fully form the individuals that live within her pages. Previous to COVID-19, Mary was able to visit often and now uses her novels as a means to come back to Canada and return home. She sums up what it means to belong somewhere, saying, “The things you pick up before you know who you are form you, much in the way the people you grow up with and the landscape you grow up in.”

Robert Rotenberg

Robert Rotenberg is the author of a fleet of crime-based novels. In his new novel, Downfall, head of homicide Ari Greene returns to investigate a series of murders involving the homeless population of Toronto at the Humber River Golf Course. A pattern woven throughout Rotenberg’s books is his clarity while capturing the diversity, social issues and the rhythm of living and working in Toronto. When he sits with his publisher the question is, “What will happen in the next two years and what will people identify with?” From these moments Rotenberg has assembled a chronological timeline of the city through his novels. This signature feature in his writing meticulously reveals the rapidly changing landscape of a city like Toronto while bringing contemporary controversies to light.

By day, Rotenberg is a criminal lawyer where he has a front row seat to human emotion. When practicing law, he must understand his clients and in the pages of his book he illuminates this perception through his characters. Rotenberg focuses on character, action, setting and voice to activate the momentum of his fiction. When finishing the first draft of the manuscript for Downfall, he went on the early morning coffee runs to put himself into the day-to-day events he creates to establish a deeper connection to his character’s actions. Robert Rotenberg believes in good writing, no matter the form it appears in. He is currently working on another novel.

Thank you

Thank you to our authors for joining the Grimsby Author Series this evening. We are elated to have you on our screens from beyond the lake and across the pond. A deep thank you goes out to our sponsors tonight at Good Earth Food & Wine Co.Objects to Desire and Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. For copies of A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson and Downfall by Robert Rotenberg, see our fabulous Epic Books of Hamilton. Our next event of the season will take place on Monday, May 31 at 7 p.m. and tickets are on sale now!

Jesse Thistle and Jennifer Robson kick off the spring 2021 Grimsby Author Series

The Grimsby Author Series is officially back for another stimulating spring season! As the Series is now being brought virtually to viewers over Zoom, authors are able to join from their home offices from anywhere in the world. This appealing feature will be noticed throughout upcoming events. However, for this evening’s stream we were joined locally by authors Jesse Thistle (From the Ashes) and Jennifer Robson (Our Darkest Night) who articulate the many sides of survival, perseverance and connection.

Jesse Thistle joins the author series with From the Ashes, which arrived on shelves in August 2019. Since its premier, Thistle has been moving through the obligations of a new bestselling author from attending events and readings while continuing his work as an assistant professor, Ph.D. candidate and advocate. Truly grounded to the earth, he wears lavender around his neck during events and connects to nature with a daily ten-kilometre walk. Jesse refers to himself as an accidental author having been offered a book contract following an article about him in the Toronto Star. Appearing incredibly humble, his writing is anything but; he acknowledges the responsibility of creating his own situations and writes with openness and clarity in this memoir of resilience.

From the Ashes feels like a flowing narrative as in story after story we glimpse the moments that shaped Thistle. This is a collection of forty-four years captured in a mere 384 pages. In these pages, the reader joins Jesse through abandonment, the foster-care system, a clash with austere grandparents, addiction, homelessness and self-destruction. As Metis-Cree-Scot, he brings his powerful Indigenous heritage to the forefront of his story. Though it was not at all the case in his pursuits growing up, his identity was the key to him moving through his addiction. His perseverance deepened with the help of many and in acknowledging his journey he relays this message to Indigenous youth: “You are loved.” Jesse Thistle is currently working on his second work about his uncle who lived as a professional bank robber. 

Jennifer Robson is a bestselling author of historical fiction set during and after the world wars. Our Darkest Night: A Novel of Italy and the Second World War is her sixth novel. What brings the balance of depravity and courage to life is Robson’s ability to capture an ordinary moment, “You can close your eyes and imagine what the air smells like…know the taste of their limited food and the state of hunger…” thus crafting tender moments and the trauma of war. The main protagonist, Antonina, was presented to Robson which led to the development of the novel’s relationships and her setting. Our Darkest Night paints the world of Antonina, sent with the hope to survive by fleeing Venice now occupied by Nazi Germany, to the countryside. Nina must leave her Italian Jewish family and pose as the bride of Nico, a proper man forced from the seminary to run his family’s farm. Hope, love and courage guide their journey together as they try to convince suspicious officials of their affection. Soon, the bond of survival turns to flares of true love.

Jennifer Robson expressed, “It is in the complicated grey areas where the true and deep stories lie.” Our Darkest Hour is more than historical fiction that displays the complexities of another time, it is inspired by true events. Robson encourages people to listen to the voices of those who endured this period because, “we are losing them along with their knowledge and their memories.” Currently, she is writing another work that focuses on the lives of ordinary people who get caught up in the extraordinary during the post-war era.

Thank you to Jesse Thistle and Jennifer Robson for safely joining the Grimsby Author Series from their homes, allowing each event to be accessible to so many. We are honoured to be sponsored this evening by Malivoire Wine Company, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Objects to Desire. A big thank you to Epic Books of Hamilton who will have signed copies of From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle and Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson available. Our next event will take place on April 19th and tickets are now available.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Our next event

Mary Lawson and Robert Rotenberg

Monday, April 19 at 7 p.m. via Zoom webinar

Tickets now on sale / $10 per person

Buy tickets to this event

Enjoy a Zoom Webinar with critically acclaimed authors Mary Lawson and Robert Rotenberg. They’ll be discussing their latest novels and taking questions from the audience.

This event features: