Grey County huge part of book
By Rob Gowan, Sun Times, Owen Sound
Sunday, December 15, 2013 2:31:13 EST PM
Gail Gallant wanted to call her first book Grey County because the novel wouldn’t exist without it.
“I would have never written a book if I weren’t here,” said Gallant, one of about 15 local authors gathered at the Ginger Press in downtown Owen Sound on Saturday for its 28th annual authors’ open house. “It is completely inspiredby the landscape. The landscape and the weather are all in there.”
The Annan-area author’s murder mystery thriller, Apparition, released in September, is set in and around Owen Sound and tells the story of a teenage girl name Amelia who sees ghosts and the adventures in her life it causes.
Gallant said the working title of the book was always Grey County because it seemed so natural. The name change didn’t come until she was looking for a publisher, which she found in Doubleday Canada (Random House).
“Grey County to me surmises the book,” said Gallant, who was a weekender in Grey County for about a decade before moving to the area about two years ago. “I have a lot of geographic references like Inglis Falls, the Bruce Trail and some of the local parks and cemeteries.”
While the area is known for its beauty, Gallant said in a different light it can also be a very spooky place.
“On our property we used to have a dead apple orchard and there was nothing more Tim Burton than that apple orchard,” said Gallant. “It is very spooky and I have to say it arose naturally from my own emotional response to the landscape and the history in the landscape.”
Gallant said she loves the delapidated beauty in the old barns that are scattered across the area and has always been obsessed with the old cemeteries throughout the countryside.
“I don’t want to get nostalgic like there is only history here, because there is also an amazing future,” said Gallant. “But I think there is something deep about the feeling of the past here.”
Much of the book centres around a haunted barn, which is based on a rundown barn at a property Gallant owned south of Meaford.
“Eventually we took it down because it was half falling down, but it was spooky and somewhere along the line I started imagining a story,” said Gallant.
It was about a dozen years ago and Gallant’s son was going through some tough times as a young teen and Gallant imagined a story of a ghost in the barn that was forcing young boys to commit suicide and it had to be stopped. Gallant, who kept the story in note form, couldn’t bring herself to complete the book until about four years ago, when she decided to tell the story through the eyes of a teenage girl, rather than a mother after her son — who is doing well now and works in a bookstore — bought her a book from the Twilight series.
“As soon as I adopted the point of view as a teenage girl, the book came out,” said Gallant, who is originally from Toronto and has worked in television as a producer and director for the CBC and done freelance work for about 20 years.
Gallant said the book has been categorized as for teens and she has received a good response from teen readers, but the book is also quite serious.
“It is not a fantasy, it is really dealing with things like death and loss,” said Gallant. “The narrator is probably a lot more confused and a little neurotic and troubled than the average teen narrator.”
Gallant has already written a sequel, called Absolution, that is currently in the copy editing stage. It is slated to be released next fall.
Gallant said the local landscape again plays a major role in the new book, which she feels is an improvement on her first.
“”Grey County is right through both books,” Gallant said. “I don’t think it could have been a bigger part of it.”
Maryann Thomas, owner of the Ginger Press, said Saturday’s event was an opportunity to bring together authors so they can connect and share stories and meet with the public. The event has turned out to be a celebration of local literacy in the community.
Thomas, who opened the Ginger Press 35 years ago, said the store has made a deeper commitment to new and old books by local authors and about the region and that has led to the store now having more than 70% local content.
“I think that is a phenomenal statement about the wealth of literature in the community,” said Thomas.
This is my first Apparition Blog entry. It’s all about ghosts – and the mysterious images, strange noises, and spooky feelings that go with them. I’ve always been interested in ghosts. Do they exist, and if so, what exactly are they? What do they want? And if they don’t really exist, why are ghost stories such a universal part of human culture, all over the world and since the earliest of times?
I’ve been writing supernatural thriller/romance stories about a reluctant clairvoyant teenage girl named Amelia who sees and talks to and sometimes hangs out with ghosts. Amelia is ‘reluctant’ because she doesn’t really relish the fact that she sees dead people. It’s scary, and disturbing, and even frustrating. Because she often feels they need her help, but it’s hard to tell how or why. The first book, APPARITION, is out in September, 2013, and its sequel, ABSOLUTION, comes out next Fall.
All Amelia knows is that, wherever there’s a ghost, something’s wrong. Usually something she’s got to try to figure out and fix. That makes life complicated and often dangerous. To make matters worse, her heart is torn between two boys in her life: Kip and Matthew. One of them is alive and one of them is dead but still in the picture, if you know what I mean.
Do you believe in ghosts? I’m not so sure myself. At least not when I’m downtown, walking along a busy sidewalk on a sunny day.
But alone in the country after sundown, in a secluded 158 year old stone farmhouse in Grey County, Ontario, set back a quarter mile from the road and hidden behind towering black walnut trees, well, that’s a different story.
It’s bedtime, and I head up the dimly lit staircase. I turn a hard right into my bedroom, careful not to glance to the left down the long hall toward with dark doorways that open onto three other empty bedrooms, for fear of what I might see. Like, for instance, a moving shadow in the corner of my eye. Or a portal into some ghoulish abyss.
This is when I have the creeping feeling that ghosts really do exist. In fact, I sense them filling up my bedroom as soon as I flick off my light switch. The souls of the dead surge in from hallway and surround me, crowd all around my bed, float overhead and lurk in corners behind furniture. I know they’re here because I can feel them.
That’s the problem with ghosts. There’s not much hard proof, just a cold, creepy feeling. But where does that feeling come from? Why is it so strong? It’s not like I’m making it up.
I’ve always suspected that people tend to see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe. It’s a bit cynical, I know. For instance, I fear that for many people, ‘heaven’ is a very appealing concept, a celestial paradise that’s comforting in the face of death, but maybe, just maybe, a bit of wishful thinking too.
Ghosts are different. They’re not exactly part of a heavenly choir, offering comfort to us anxious mortals. More like the opposite. I think ghosts serve as a nasty reminder of our mortality, not an escape from it. And belief in them often arises not from wishful thinking but from raw personal experience, whether we want to believe or not. Whether we are reluctant, like Amelia, or not. And what good comes from thinking about our mortality? Well, because it might encourage us to live mortal life, for as long as it lasts, more fully, more deeply.
What about you? Have you ever experienced a ghost? How did it make you feel? I hope you’ll check in on my blog, and share your thoughts and stories too.