I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I think, generally, if you are a writer you’ve always wanted to be a writer, whether you’ve recognized it as early as grade three or not. I’ve always had an inclination to process and express myself through writing. Even in high school, as cheesy as it may sound, I was a note-writer. But the process to become a published writer was a long one.
I didn’t get a book published until I was about 33 years old. Again, it’s different for everybody, but that was my path. And up until that point I’d written all kinds of stuff: poems, short stories, novels, screenplays. I found my niche with graphic novels and I’ve done well with them, and they’ve helped students learn about history from an Indigenous perspective and they’ve helped teachers bring that history to students in ways that are engaging and effective. I love writing graphic novels. But my heart was always set on writing a published novel. That dream has finally come true.
Maybe I was just waiting for the right story to come to me. I don’t know what took me so long. I mean, I’ve written about 6-7 novels before The Evolution of Alice but they’ve not been all that great. I self-published two that I’m not going to name because I don’t want you to read them but they were a part of my journey as well. I think it was a collision of things that finally prepared me to write my first published book. First, I’d been working on my skills through my graphic novel and television writing. Writing through this lens requires you to be less generous and more focussed with your words. As a lover of imagery and babbling, this was important to me and it helped me write more succinctly while not losing the use of imagery, metaphor, and simile that I love so much. Second, it was the story. I think I needed something that would allow me to write with enough purpose and emotion.
I was driving through a First Nations several years ago (I’d been doing work in several communities) when my passenger, a member of that particular First Nations band, pointed out a trailer at the side of the highway. She said the day before a young girl had been run over and killed in the driveway late at night. Nobody knew who did it, and, to my knowledge, it’s still a mystery. The profound impact of that loss stuck with me for a long time. It nagged at me and kept me up at night. And, as writers do, I eventually had to process through my writing. So, that one incident became the catalyst for what would become The Evolution of Alice.
The novel was a challenge to write, which is good. Originally, it was going to be a collection of short stories that all touched on how the loss of a young girl impacted a community. As the stories were written, however, and as my editor and I arranged them, it turned out that the collection of stories read like a novel, and the stories were like chapters. So, although the stories are told from different POVs and they overlap in time, some POVs revealing more information than others, The Evolution of Alice is a novel two years in the making. There are fourteen “chapters” and fifteen “mini-chapters”.
It’s all real now. The novel is coming out in August, and it is off to the printer’s today according to Highwater Press. The cover is beautiful, and I’m so happy that my wife and three daughters were able to be the models for Alice and her three girls, Kathy, Jayne, and Grace. It’s appropriate, too, because whenever I wrote Alice’s girls I was thinking about mine, and they certainly share traits with my girls, Emily, Anna, and Lauren. But that’s what we do as writers. We take experiences from our own lives and we plug them into our writing, sometimes directly and sometimes more indirectly. But it’s the old adage: write what you know. And that’s what I love about the reviews that have come in for the book thus far; they’ve talked about the realism of the characters and their journeys, and the emotional weight of the novel. That’s been so important to me, because if you connect with the characters, if you care about them, you will connect with the story.
I still remember when I was done with the novel and I emailed it off to my publisher. I felt like I was saying goodbye to Alice and her girls and Gideon, that they were moving away. I was sad at first, because I’d spent so much time with them. But now I think it’s good, because they’re going to meet other people. And I hope you love them as much as I do.