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Like many Canadians, I moved around a lot in my very large country. I grew up in Ottawa. My first job as an English teacher was on the East Coast in Nova Scotia; my next in Burnaby on the West. I eventually acquired three increasingly impractical degrees, on the strength of which, I taught at Canadian universities including Acadia, Simon Fraser, the Universities of Calgary and Ottawa University. I also worked as a writer, editor and communications officer for the public and private sectors. I am retired, and I live with my wife Katherine in Chelsea, Quebec.
When I lived in Nova Scotia in the 1970s, I worked as a contract writer and editor. I also wrote and voiced radio essays and theatre reviews. It was during this time that I sailed on Mike Whitehouse’s schooner HAKADA to the south coast of Newfoundland – an experience that was the genesis of The Astreya Trilogy. Astreya’s world stayed in my mind, with chapters being added by fits and starts. When I retired, writing became a full-time activity, and the story grew from a novella to a trilogy. The Laughing Princess followed The Astreya Trilogy into print in 2012. In 2015, I published The Hippies who Meant It.
Some more detail for those who haven’t lost interest yet.
I am from a seagoing family going back many generations. When I was five, my father read Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner to me out loud. At the time, I thought it was autobiographical. I learned to sail a dinghy from him, who, like his father, was a Master Mariner and Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy.
Simple mathematics reveals that I must have been conceived in 1940 during my father’s brief shore leave between his first command, a corvette in the Mediterranean and his second, a frigate in The Battle of the Atlantic. Before he died at 99 and three months, he read a first version of Astreya, and called it, “A good yarn, once you get rid of the bit where your hero biffs someone over the head with that novelist’s weapon, a belaying pin.” I hastily corrected the manuscript, and wrote more carefully thereafter.
When I was fifteen, I thought that the best thing a person could do would be to write a book that would be enjoyed by people who had read what I had read. At that time, my list of authors included Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, C.S. Forester, Captain Marryatt, and Captain Joshua Slocum — all of them men who wrote about the sea and sailing ships.
When I was 30, I wrote a PhD thesis on science fiction. My then current list of authors included Ursula Le Guin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. The doctorate essentially made me unemployable at any university where I could imagine myself teaching, so I became a contract writer and part time civil servant for a decade, after which I reinvented myself as a professor of communication studies for a few years. Then I went back to editing/writing, which I did for more than 20 years further, at the end of which, I had written for more than 25 government departments and agencies, plus private sector companies — most of it mind-numbingly dull.
In the 1970s, while in Nova Scotia I escaped the daily grind for a few days and sailed as mate on a traditional 50-foot wooden schooner from Nova Scotia to Grey River on the south coast of Newfoundland. The coastline is a wall of cliffs that fall hundreds of feet into the sea. Had it not been for a flashing light on a navigation buoy, the entrance to our destination would have been invisible. Inside the narrow passage between the cliffs was a fjord that widened into several high-sided bays and inlets, on the least steep of which was a tiny community. We met with children picking cloudberries, which are like big, white blueberries, and found that we could barely communicate, so strong were their accents. Apart from the one or two summer visits from a supply ship, we were their first visitors in longer than the children knew. It was from this experience that Astreya evolved.
It was many years later while I was teaching in Calgary and hiking in the Rockies that I wrote The Laughing Princess, borrowing from Pamela Nagely Stevenson the names of a dozen dragons she had sculpted in ceramics. The harp music of Kim Robertson played as I wrote.
I studied English Literature because I loved books, particularly fantasy, which was no help at all in becoming successful as an academic. Reasoning that all those years of education must have at least equipped me to research and write, I spent the last 20 years of my working life as an editor and writer-for-hire, which helped me do my share of bringing up my second son Ben and keeping the Golden Retrievers fed. After I retired, my wonderful wife Katherine soldiered on, giving me the great gift of being able to write for me, instead of someone else.
I live in Chelsea, Quebec, just north of Ottawa, Canada, and have done for more than 25 years — the longest I have ever spent in one place. This is where I completed a lifetime’s ambition to write a story for boys and tomboys of all ages: The Astreya Trilogy, published by Fireship Press. It was also where The Laughing Princess came out of a box in the basement and ventured into print, published by Açedrex. Emboldened, I dug out an early version of The Hippies Who Meant It and went to work to bring it to publication. After 45 agents and two (Canadian) publishers turned it down, I decided it was time to self-publish through Scribl. The book launched on December 17, 2015.