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.
My APPARITION character ‘Morris Dyson’ is a columnist at a fictional Owen Sound newspaper, an historian specializing in the local social history of Grey County. That’s his day job. By night, he’s a secret ghost-tracker, mapping out ghost sightings, researching the stories surrounding them, helping my protagonist Amelia Mackenzie solve the mysteries behind their restlessness. Dyson is himself a world-weary, haunted man, with a heavy heart and a gaunt face. I kind of imagined him as Harry Dean Stanton in the wonderful Christmas movie One Magic Christmas (shot, by the way, in Meaford and Owen Sound in Grey County!), with a sad, cowboy drawl.
But when it came to Morris Dyson’s day job, I was inspired by the vocation of another writer – whose columns I’ve read with admiration and respect, though I only met him for the first time a week or two ago. And his character is nothing like that of Morris! Nothing at all!
Andrew Armitage is a Grey County treasure! He’s a columnist at the Owen Sound Sun Times, the long-time, now retired, chief librarian of the Owen Sound public library, and a wonderfully skillful and engaging author of local histories. For years, my husband and I have admired his writings, and Morris Dyson’s day job is my way of paying homage to the decades-long contribution that Andrew Armitage has made to the celebration of Grey and Bruce County history. Is Andrew Armitage the real ‘Morris Dyson’? Of course not! (But I can’t help thinking that researching local history might make a great cover for a secret ghost-tracker!)
It’s a special thrill that Andrew Armitage included a review of my book Apparition for the Owen Sound Sun Times this past weekend in his weekly column “Read This”, on October 26th, 2013, and I’m reprinting it below with his permission:
“We have a new novelist living in Grey County. Let me introduce her. Gail Gallant is a television writer and story-editor who has worked on productions for CBC, the Discovery Channel and History Television. Gail and her husband (think The Nature of Things) live in one of the old Telford houses in what was once north Sydenham Township.
Sitting in the Ginger Press one day, Maryann Thomas received a call that the author of a forthcoming Random House title somehow worked this writer into her plot. I didn’t think more about it until a reading copy of Apparition (Doubleday Canada, $14.95) came in for review. Even then, I waited until I had the actual book in my hand before I took the plunge.
I whipped through Apparition in one sitting and then, went back and read it again. This is a ghost story, a gripping grand tale of an old barn, an apparent suicide, the deaths of broken-hearted young men by their own hands, dating back decades. It is atmospheric, supernatural, and destined to keep readers glued uncomfortably to their chairs.
Yep, I’m there, barely recognizable. “My name is Morris Dyson,” he continues. “I’m a writer. I write a column for the local paper. Mostly short history pieces.” Dyson (along with his son Kip) leads Amelia (age 17) to the barn where her best friend, Matthew died. And then becomes a guide to the events that unfurl in one very scary place.
Gail introduced herself last Monday on the MS Chi Cheemaun’s fall voyage down the Peninsula. Puzzled, I asked her why her new novel was listed as Young Adult. Which led to a great long talk about publishers, agents, and readers. Apparition is certainly not “YA” (ask me, I was once a young adult librarian in Philadelphia). Even though it deals with the lives of young people, this is a full-fledged novel that reminds me of the early work of Susie Moloney, the Winnipeg author of Bastion Falls.
Apparition makes excellent use of its Grey County setting. Unlike other recent novels that attempt to superimpose a place on a story, Gallant’s rambles through such well-known places as Inglis Falls, the Scenic Caves, Greenwood Cemetery, and Branningham Grove ring true.
“A grand old three-storey Empire Loyalist mansion. It’s been run as a restaurant, changing owners about three times in the past ten years, and no one has been able to make it work. But back in the late 1850s it was a last stop in the Underground Railway – the secret route to freedom for slaves escaping from the cotton plantations in the Deep South. Apparently it was also a tavern and brothel for sailors, back when the town was a thriving port for ships on the Great Lakes.”
Apparition, which appeared in print this fall, will be followed by Absolution in 2014. Also published by Doubleday Canada, it will continue the story of Amelia and Matthew. And this reviewer can’t wait to read it. But that is months away.
On Tuesday night, October 29th at 7:00, Gail Gallant will have her Owen Sound book launch at the Ginger Press. I will join her that evening to tell some ghost stories, explore the world of scary living in the outback of Ontario, and belatedly welcome Gail to Owen Sound. We will also break a bottle of bubbly over my new book, Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem: 26 True Tales of Grey and Bruce. By the way, proceeds from the book will go to support the enthusiastic work of the Community Waterfront Centre to forge a new vision for Owen Sound’s historic port. Join us!”