Canadian Historical Romance with Riana Everly

The Maritimes of Canada is one of my favorite places in the world. The people, the music, the natural beauty and the history. Yes, history. Canada has history, not that you’d know it from the bookshelves. We’re also a pretty lovable bunch, but you never read stories about hot Canadians and the romantic fantasies they evoke. Well, Riana Everly has written a historical romance set in Halifax with ties to Jane Austen. You think I’m letting that go by unexplored? Do you know me at all?

What’s your deal, Riana?

I was born in South Africa, but have called Canada home since I was eight years old. I have a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and am trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. I first encountered Jane Austen when my father handed me a copy of Emma at age 11, and have never looked back. Now I in Toronto with my family. When not writing, I can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with my husband, trying to improve my photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!

What’s your story about? It’s got an ingenious hook.

The Assistant is a historical romance, a prequel as it were to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Set in England and Nova Scotia in 1799-1800, the novel tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet’s favourite aunt and uncle, the Gardiners.

The story begins when young Edward Gardiner comes across an injured youth while on a business trip in Derbyshire. This youth, Matthew, is a gifted mathematician and Edward takes him on as his assistant. But when Matt introduces Edward to an elusive young woman, Edward discovers his life will never be the same. A sea of mystery surrounds this new assistant: Why is young Matt so reluctant to talk about himself, and who is his friend, who insists on such secrecy? Is there any connection between these two newcomers into Edward’s life and the rumours of a missing heir to an estate in the north and tales of a cruel and usurping uncle? The search for the answers will take Edward and his assistant across the ocean to the colony of Nova Scotia, but will the answers he finds destroy his every hope?

What is it about that time period and place in history that intrigues you?

As a Canadian, I am always interested in both the history of my own country and in how that history relates to British and European history. Nova Scotia in 1800 was at once a distant and wild colony and the centre of Britain’s naval power in the New World. In the aftermath of the American Revolution and in the midst of hostilities with Napoleon’s France, Britain’s control over the massive natural harbour at Halifax and the wealth of timber from both Nova Scotia and the neighbouring colony of New Brunswick were vital to the security of the Empire. By the time my characters set foot in Halifax in 1800, the city was about 50 years old, still finding its character and place, but established and looking towards a prosperous future, buoyed up by the recent establishment of the Naval Dockyards upon its shores.

Nova Scotia did not only provide the Empire with natural resources, but with human ones as well. Thousands of United Empire Loyalists fled the lower colonies in the 1770s and 80s to end up in Nova Scotia, often bringing their institutions with them. The Loyalist masters of King’s College in New York CIty re-established their university in Windsor, about fifty miles from Halifax on the Bay of Fundy, making it the oldest English university in what is now Canada. My hero Edward Gardiner received his education at King’s, and in my imagination he was involved in one of the first hockey games, when the traditional game of hurley was taken onto the ice on the frozen river by the college! And the old King’s in New York? After the dust settled it was re-established under the new name of Columbia University. (Editor’s note. One of my favorite pastimes is telling my American friends the REAL story of the American Revolution from the Loyalist side. It’s fun watching their heads explode in outrage.)

What’s your favorite (or favourite, depending on who’s reading this) scene?

One of my favourite scenes in the book takes place fairly late in the story, when Edward disembarks from the ship which carried him back to Nova Scotia after some years back in England. He remarks upon how the town of Halifax has grown in the time he was away, and upon the multitude of languages he hears on the streets—English, French, Mi’kmaq, and German, to name a few—and the multitude of hues of people’s skin. I did not go into much detail in my book, for the information was extraneous to the story, but I fell into the rabbit hole of research and discovered a wealth of Black history in colonial Nova Scotia, mainly concerning the thousands of former slaves granted their freedom by the British after the American Revolution and transported to Nova Scotia, where they could live their lives as free citizens of the colony. Perhaps there’s another novel in there!

I agree. It’s a fascinating and under-shared story. Where can we learn more about you and your books?

The Assistant can be found at your favourite bookseller through this link:
www.books2read.com/theassistant

You can learn more about me and my books at www.rianaeverly.com. My blog is on the website, and I have some information on another region that is rich in the history of the War of 1812 – Niagara.

Also, please visit me at www.facebook.com/RianaEverly/ to connect on Facebook. I love meeting people and chatting about books and history and whatever else appeals.

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Booze, Bars and Battles with Morgan Wade

As much as historical novelists like to talk about the “reality” of their characters and times, I suspect there’s one area in which we don’t do the job we should–when it comes to the role booze plays in great events. It stands to reason that if rebellions start in Taverns (and there’s enough proof of that from almost every corner of the world) the key players weren’t exactly sober during those discussions. As a comedian friend of mine (I think it was Boyd Banks, but memory fades) used to say, “without booze and bad judgement, most of us wouldn’t be here.”  That leads us to Morgan Wade, and his novel “Bottle and Glass.”

After all, if you’re going to write about displaced soldiers, you’d better catch them in their natural habitat–the bars and taverns of Upper Canada in this case. The story also has an interesting development as a stage play, which is very cool.

Here’s the Morgan Wade story…

Morgan Wade’s debut novel, The Last Stoic, edited by Helen Humphreys, was released in June, 2011 by Hidden Brook Publishing and it made the 2012 ReLit Awards long list.  His short stories and poems have been published in Canadian literary journals and anthologies including The New Quarterly and The Nashwaak Review.

He adapted his second novel, Bottle and Glass, into an immersive, site-specific play that, in conjunction with Theatre Kingston, had a sold-out run during the 2016 Kingston WritersFest.  Audience members pursue the story through the streets and pubs of Kingston, drinking along with the characters and experiencing the city’s history like never before.  The production is set to be expanded and re-staged for a three week run in the summer of 2017.  When not writing, Morgan earns his keep as a software engineer.  When not busy writing or programming, he plays soccer or spends time with friends and family in beautiful Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Editor’s note: Kingston Ontario  contains a federal prison, Queen’s University and the Royal Military College. It’s safe to say that while it’s beautiful, but has its share of bad-ass bars and poor decisions influenced by booze.

In a nutshell, what’s the story of Bottle and Glass?

Bottle and Glass is a story of survival and escape told from the barstools of

Canadian author Morgan Wade

two dozen boisterous Kingston taverns at the close of the War of 1812.  The story focuses on Jeremy and Merit, two young fishermen from Porthleven, Cornwall pressed into service aboard a Royal Navy frigate. They are forced to leave their native England for Canada and eventually Kingston, where they are stationed as Royal Marines. They spend much of the novel attempting to escape and return home, but by the end, having attained their freedom, they are resolved to stay and make a new life.

Inns and taverns figured prominently in Upper Canada’s frontier life. In 1812, when Kingston had a population of 2250 plus 1500 soldiers, it could boast 78 taverns. Many of these, including “Old King’s Head” and “Mother Cook’s,” are mentioned in the newspapers and correspondence of the time. This novel is structured so that each chapter takes the title of a historic Kingston tavern and each tavern is featured in the chapter in some significant way. The novel’s title is taken from the infamous watering hole, “Violin, Bottle, and Glass.”

I notice a rise in Canadians writing about the Loyalist era. What is it about that time period that fascinates you?

Kingston, Ontario, is a city rich with history, especially relative to many other cities in a country as young as Canada.  When my wife and I moved here in 2001 we were struck by the historic architecture, national monuments, and wealth of other historical artifacts (e.g. Kingston is the final resting place of our first Prime Minister).  It was on a visit to Fort Henry, now a world heritage site, that I realized I wanted to write a historical fiction novel based on the Kingston of 200 years ago.  Standing behind the old rifle loopholes or in the underground escape tunnels, I imagined what it must have been like for a young, raw recruit, thousands of miles from home, stuck in this cold, damp, forbidding place.  I wanted to explore what a young man would have felt and experienced and to walk a mile in his shoes.  It would be a way of delving deeply into the stories all around us just waiting to be discovered.

I’d originally wanted to set my novel within the Fort.  I liked the idea of all the main characters in the book saying something like “it’s fine, don’t worry, they’ll never attack Fort Henry,” and then three quarters through the story the American forces would stage a huge attack.  It would be a big shock and I thought it would be interesting to see how the characters would deal with that.  But, as I dug deeper into the research, I realized that Fort Henry was never once attacked in its entire history, so that ended that.  Nevertheless, I’d done a good deal of research by this time.  In my research I was struck by how prevalent drinking was in this rough frontier town two hundred years ago.  I’d loved the names of all the old taverns I’d come across.  So, I decided to set the story in the town instead, winding itself in and out of the many, many inns and taverns of 1814 Kingston.

Do you have a favorite (or favourite, I’m still a Canuck at heart) scene?

There is a scene early on in the book that takes place at a so-called “work bee”.  I think many people have this conception of an old-fashioned work bee as a standard, sedate affair in which friends and family and neighbours come together to clear some land or erect a barn.  I did, at least.  I imagine fifty or more Mennonites coming together to put a structure up in one day.  These early tenant farmers in Upper Canada were living on the margins and barely eking out an existence from some formidable countryside.  It was a boon, if not a necessity, to get the help of neighbours and friends and to, one day, return the favour.  But, in my research, I discovered that the work bees didn’t always go so smoothly.  Often there was chaos and idleness.  It was an all day affair usually with a lot of drinking involved as a reward for hard work.  The “work bee” sometimes devolved into brawls as drunkenness increased and tempers frayed.

In Bottle and Glass, some of the main characters decide to host a work bee.  When men arrive from the Kingston taverns Badgley’s and Metcalf’s, Beach’s and Brown’s, thirsty and having nothing better to do, the work bee which had started out so well takes a turn.  What happens has serious repercussions for the rest of the novel.  I like how the bucolic scene of the work bee curdles over the span of the chapter and I hope that the reader feels, as the scene unfolds, the growing sense of menace from the interlopers and the increasing desperation of the hosts.  It turns the romantic idea of the work bee on its head!

Where can people learn more?

Bottle and Glass is available in both Kindle and Paperback form on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01N4ACN5V

For more information, please visit:  http://www.morganwade.ca

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/bottleandglass/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26347330-bottle-and-glass

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/morgancwade

The Other Side of the 49th- Elaine Cougler’s Loyalists

The whole point of historical fiction is to tell a story. And every story has two sides, unless it’s your side and then the other side’s uh, side, is apparently invalid. Sometimes this gets contentious (those of you who missed the point of my last post and thought I was a Castro apologist need to breathe.) So let’s take the most calm, polite example I can think of: the Loyalists who built Southern Ontario after the cruel terrorists forced them from their lawful land in America…. oh did that hurt? #sorrynotsorry.

Fact is, that the American revolution didn’t end in 1778, and the “other side” weren’t all animal brutes and Hessians hired to oppress the good people of the colonies. Elaine Cougler has done yeoman service in her “Loyalist Trilogy,” and I interview her here.

So, here’s the Elaine story in a nutshell…

Elaine Cougler is the author of historical novels about the lives of settlers incougler the Thirteen Colonies who remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution. She uses the backdrop of the conflict for page-turning fictional tales where the main characters face torn loyalties, danger and personal conflicts.

Her Loyalist trilogy: The Loyalist’s Wife, The Loyalist’s Luck and The Loyalist Legacy came out this month. The Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair selected The Loyalist’s Wife as a finalist in its Self-Publishing Awards. The Middlesex County Library selected the book as its choice for book club suggestions. The Writers Community of Durham Region presented Elaine with a Pay-It-Forward Award.

Alright, so this is the third book in the series. What’s it about?

The Loyalist Legacy plunks the Garner family right in the wild heart of Upper Canada (now southern Ontario) to build a life after their devastating losses in Niagara. They’ve suffered through the American Revolutionary War (The Loyalist’s Wife) and the War of 1812 (The Loyalist’s Luck) and now settle on two hundred acres awarded them by the Crown for military service. All they want is peace and prosperity. Instead they find extreme hardship, back-destroying labor, disgruntled native peoples,  family feuds and a government where they have no say and must watch as the “Family Compact” keeps power and position in the hands of a privileged few. This last becomes the divisive knife that leads the settlers ever closer to rebellion. Perhaps Upper and Lower Canada will take the path their neighbours to the south have taken.

What’s your interest in that time period?

I  have in my possession a book about Butler’s Rangers, a famous group of militia who fought for the King in the Revolutionary War, and in the back are the names of two of my relatives, John Cain and John Garner. That absolutely got my attention even though there is some question about whether the second one is actually my John Garner ancestor. My brain took off on all the possibilities and mapped out a fictional story for John Garner set against the history of the times after the Boston Tea Party, the resettling after the Revolutionary War (where did all those disgruntled people go?) and the War of 1812. Once I was into the initial research more and more nuggets seemed to drop into my head leading to not just one novel but a trilogy. My brother and his wife shared their findings of the family history and took me on a car tour to the actual land where William and Catherine (Cain) Garner settled north of London, Ontario. I could just see the third book as I gazed out at the two hundred acres on either side of the Thames River and the place where the Garners had built their home. How in the world did they do it?

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene?

loyalistI have so many. There is one involving Catherine Garner and her ability to rise up and fight against a lynx that has come right up on her porch and grabbed a papoose from its cradle there. There is another where she is furious with William because of his treatment of his brother and in a flash of insight switches to empathy for the man she loves. I love the strength of Migisi and Kiwidinok, a Chippewa couple who represent the plight of the native peoples at this time in our North American history. And I love the scene from Lucy’s point of view at her granddaughter’s wedding and its subsequent denouement. All of these scenes and many more show the strength of these ordinary people who when circumstances demand become absolutely extraordinary. These are the ancestors of many of us lucky enough to live here now in North America.
While the times I write about often emphasize the division between the United States and Canada I am ever mindful of our united beginnings. Brother against brother in the wars, laws restricting land ownership  based on allegiance which went on for years, the ugly head of slavery, the struggles of neighbour against neighbour where had been staunch allies—all of these show the difficult times my characters and our ancestors lived in, no matter which side of the border they were on. Still today most of us have relatives on the other side of the US-Canada border. Imagine if our two countries went to war not as allies but as enemies. When governments and those in power make decisions, we the little people must find ways to survive. This is the backbone of the Loyalist trilogy.
You can learn more about Elaine and her work here:

Her blog

Her Amazon author page

Twitter @ElaineCougler

Her Facebook author page