Where does Shelly get her inspiration? How is Canada part of her inspiration? Read on and see...
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~ All pictures (except for the 1st) are supplied by today’s guest with their assurance of usage rights.
Early in my English degree, I was told again and again that Canadian authors are deeply rooted in our environment, in the seasons and the land. As a writer myself, I found this frustrating and false. My stories were more rooted in magic, myth, and yes, a bit of snark and humor. I never expected how much of my home, my country, and indeed, my environment would bleed their way into my writing too. This country and Darwell, Alberta –the small town I’ve come to lovingly call home–have me under their spell.
When it came to finding a home for my series about the four horsewomen of the apocalypse, I considered American settings, that version of small town where there’s a welcoming main street neatly lined with buildings. I considered some of the beautiful and mysterious islands Canada has to offer, like Fogo Island off the coast of Newfoundland. But it was while driving home on one of my typically long drives from the city that it occurred to me: I wanted to write a story set in the place I lived. I wanted the welcoming small town I knew to be immortalized in words.
Which was when Beckwell, Alberta, with it’s magical residents and misfits, was born.
Beckwell, like the real small town I live near, the wonderful Darwell, is modest in size, but big on what it can accomplish, even – or perhaps especially – because it’s not exactly what you’d expect from just looking at it.
Darwell was founded around 1915, the name selected randomly from a hymnal to settle an argument, but changed from “Darwall” to “Darwell” when the final papers were registered – and perhaps the final argument was won. It’s located in the county of Lac Ste. Anne, not far from the lake itself which was once known as Wakamne, or God’s Lake by the Nakota Sioux, and Manitou Sakhahigan, Lake of the Spirit, by the Cree First Nations, named for the mysterious creature believed to live in its depths, capable of creating unpredictable currents as it swam and overturning canoes.
Whatever the case, Darwell has long been known as a welcoming place, whether that was for hobos traveling the rails during the Great Depression, or those looking for a place to make their homes. While many of the original town structures are gone, sold-off when they’d outlived their usefulness to pragmatic pioneers, what remains now is a small clutch of buildings centered on a four-way stop, surrounded by softly rolling ranch-land and great stretches of farmers’ fields, protected and hidden amidst boreal forest.
Each of the four corners divided by the four-way stop and intersection hold the small collection of buildings, many of which serve multiple purposes. The school sits on a small rise on the northeast corner, happily devoid of the drama and paranormal danger my fictional version suffers. The northwest corner holds two buildings: one with the store, gas station, and post office, while the other houses the restaurant and bar (neither of which, somewhat disappointingly, are owned by the Norse god Loki as they are in my fictional version – at least, not so far as I know.)
They are friendly places, though, from which you can walk easily across the road to the modest metal buildings housing animal control and the peace officer station, or to the southeast corner, with the library sitting next to the Quonset-style half-round structures of the community hall and Golden Age Club. Behind that are the Agricultural grounds with the deep-red Cow Palace barn, and the single-story TriLakes Manor for independent senior living, which I greatly expanded in the fictional version to a full-service senior and health center – my rambunctious, magical seniors had to live somewhere.
Real residents of Darwell, like their fictional counterparts and myself, appreciate their privacy and space. While there are a couple of houses visible from central Darwell, more of them are scattered among towering poplar trees around the area, standing bravely against the wind on isolated farms, or gathered together in spacious acreage communities. Though you’re sure to see plenty of people at the Darwell Annual Fair, around since the first one in the 1930s, but now boasting the Barnburner Country Music Concert and the Ag Drag.
To the casual observer, perhaps a small town like Darwell appears nothing like the magical version I’ve fictionalized. It might seem small, at worst mundane. Yet on late summer evenings, as the wind whispers and rustles through the poplar leaves, as the wide sky comes alive with pinks, purples, and golds, there is something magic afoot in this place. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and the breeze is blowing just right, the wheat or grass in the rolling fields ripples like an undulating, gleaming wave, and it’s one of the most beautiful and magical things I’ve ever seen. Something truly magical, truly enchanting comes alive in this small Canadian town, and I am so grateful for being able to share some small piece of it with my readers.
I used to think my Literature Professors were batty for suggesting Canadian writing was inundated and heavy with the feel of Canada, of our seasons, our land...but maybe that’s the greatest magic of all. The magic of our land, the places we’ve been seeps into us and into our words, so we can spread them far out and around the world, into places where that magic can live forever.
Thanks so much for having me, Jacqui, and to you, dear reader, for stopping by. Now it’s your turn!
Comment below and tell me what you love about the place you live for a chance to win an ebook version of either Must Love Plague (book 1) OR Must Love Famine (book 2) of my Sisters of the Apocalypse series (your choice which one you prefer).
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Shelly Chalmers writes humorous paranormal romances that run the gamut from space opera to werewolves, all with a touch of magic, a sense of humor, and a dab of geek. She makes her home in rural Alberta, Canada, with her husband, daughters, and two nutball cats.
Her latest book, “Must Love War,” completing the adventures of the four horsewomen of the apocalypse, is out now.
Twitter: @scchalmers or twitter.com/scchalmers
Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/Shelly-Chalmers/e/B075KN6SYV
BookBub author page: www.bookbub.com/authors/shelly-chalmers
Sisters of the Apocalypse series: books2read.com/ap/RDbkL8/Shelly-Chalmers