New Year, New Voices: A Strange Kind of Comfort

New Year, New Voices: A Strange Kind of Comfort

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Hello Canada,

 

My novel, A Strange Kind of Comfort, was accepted by Dundurn Press in October 2018. As a first-time author, I was thrilled, yet I soon had doubts about what I’d gotten myself into. Did I really want my words and thoughts out in the world for everyone to ponder, analyze, and criticize? But I told myself I was finally fulfilling a life-long dream and I settled into the awesome journey, learning about publication with the incredible editors and staff at Dundurn.  

The novel is based on a short story I wrote during a creative writing course I took at the University of Manitoba in 2007/2008. I had returned to university after thirty years to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree. My (much younger) classmates chose my story, “Fence Lines”, for an end-of-year chapbook. They were interested in Caroline Webb, my main character, and I knew she had a much larger story to tell that couldn’t be confined to short fiction. Thus began my novel. I created another main character, Sarah Bilyk, added some townspeople, a few villains, and stirred in a mystery to keep the reader turning the pages. It’s a story of motherhood, betrayal, abandonment, friendship, and forgiveness.  

I adhered to the old writer’s adage, write what you know. The novel is set in a small prairie town, and because I didn’t recognize myself or my demographic in the recent Canadian novels I was reading, I wanted to tell a story about rural women: the forgotten, unsung heroes in the growth and prosperity of rural Canada. Their contributions are often overlooked, and I wanted to make their voices heard. I included some of my own Ukrainian heritage by recounting an old folk-healing ritual that, as far as I could determine, has never been written about in prairie fiction. I completed the first draft in 2015 while I was enrolled in a creative writing course through Humber College, mentored by author Sandra Birdsell. With the helpful and honest opinions of my friends in the Parkland Writer’s Group, I finally submitted a draft to Dundurn Press.

2020 is going to be a busy year with my book being launched in my hometown of Gilbert Plains, Manitoba on January 25, followed by other events. I am at work on a new novel about siblings Tom and Marissa Nychuk, and the turn their lives take after the death of their father. Our family suffered its own unimaginable loss in 2019 and I’m thankful to leave the year behind. Writing is my respite; as I continue to write and create this year, I hope you pick up A Strange Kind of Comfort and find a refuge of your own within its pages.

 

Gaylene