In a hushed voice, she said, “Now, imagine that the woman on trial today is your own mother or your own sister. Try to picture in your mind your own mother or sister being mistreated, suffering for so many years, forced to accept such abuse almost from the day of her birth. If you or no one else did anything to prevent this, would not your mother or sister, forced to live under these conditions, eventually break and knowingly or unknowingly act or react in order to protect the children involved, to break out of this horrible cycle.” – Bob McCarthy
Sarnia’s historical fiction writer Bob McCarthy writes and publishes books faster than I can read them. With 11 self-published books behind him, he’ll soon be launching Generations, a new historical novella. However, first he will be touring numerous Lambton County libraries, sharing his historical knowledge and promoting his most recent project, a reprint of Early Days in Oil Springs, a commemorative edition celebrating the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. The double-book also includes a novel Black Springs Abbey by Petrolia-author Gloria Pearson-Vasey. (Her profile will be shared in the near future.)
Before I continue, I need to disclose that McCarthy and I have been writing friends for almost a decade. Although he is not a poet and my interest in history was soured by the dry presentations of my high school history teachers, we have a mutual respect for each other’s work.
“I only like rhyming poetry,” he admits with a big grin on his face. I laugh because it’s a standing joke between us. I seldom include end rhymes in my work. He often injects humour into his conversations and presentations.
As a retired high school teacher turned writer, McCarthy makes history (especially Lambton County facts) come alive. Although he is best known as a regional writer, he wrote his book Case 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story to appeal to a wider audience. As stated in this book: “The story of Elizabeth Workman is of national interest, a story about the only woman in Canadian history to be executed after being found guilty of a crime, even though the jury strongly recommended clemency.”
One of McCarthy’s strengths is his ability to promote his work and the work of other writers. He cares about people and recently created a new writers’ workshop group “Writers Helping Writers (WHW)” held Monday afternoons at the Point Edward Library. The open group is composed of writers who are serious about having their work torn apart and edited by fellow scribes. Mutual respect and laughter is encouraged.
He is also a regular reader at Sarnia’s Spoken Word event held the last Friday of every month at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts.
Earlier this month, Bob was one of four featured readers at the Saturday, October 3rd Bluewater Reading Series event.
Future joint presentations with Pearson-Vasey have been scheduled for five Lambton County Librairies:
Point Edward -Wednesday, October 7 at 10 a.m.
Petrolia – Thursday, October 15 at 11 a.m.
Wyoming – Wednesday, November 18 at 1:30 p.m.
Courtright – Wednesday, November 18 at 7 p.m.
Watford – Monday, February 29 at 1:30 p.m.
I asked McCarthy to share his thoughts on his writing process. Below are his responses:
(1) Describe your book. Why did you publish it?
This year is the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Oil Springs. I wondered what it was like in the mid 1800’s in the mosquito ridden swamps of Enniskillen, who I might have met in the bog a century and a half ago? Early Days in Oil Springs is a retelling of the years from 1858 to 1863, the era of the Tripp brothers, James Miller Williams, Hugh Nixon Shaw, John Shaw, John Henry Fairbank, Robert McBride and others. I wanted to narrate a novel about the first days of oil, a story about the lives of real people who were a part of the historical past of Lambton County.
Early Days in Oil Springs is an account based on a few facts and a gusher of imagination.
Why did you decide to publish it as a double book with another author?
When I found out Gloria (Pearson-Vasey) was writing a fantasy about Oil Springs, we decided to combine our two stories into one book, a double-book, a tête-beche, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Oil Springs.
(2) What are you currently working on?
CASE 666-Travesty of Justice, a novel I wrote in 2013, is the story of a woman convicted of murdering her husband. Elizabeth Workman, a battered woman, was hanged, in spite of the jury’s strong recommendation for mercy. While trying to locate living descendants, I found a great-great-great-granddaughter, also a battered woman, sexually abused as a child and subjected to both mental and physical abuse as a wife.
My next book, Generations, written as historical fiction, will explore a possible story of the impact of nature and nurture on the descendants of Elizabeth Workman’s two children.
(3) How does your work differ from other authors?
When I am writing a story, I gather known facts, lore or legend and try to imagine how they came about. Then I create characters to hopefully present these facts in an entertaining, interesting and informative manner. I usually write by dictating through Dragon Naturally Speaking, letting my imaginary characters take over and tell the story. Then, it’s on to editing.
Thanks Bob for the interview.
Additional information about Bob McCarthy can be found on his website.
*from the book CASE 666 – Travesty of Justice – The Elizabeth Workman Story (Quinn Riley Press, 2013) page 164. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2013 Bob McCarthy
Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author Profiles including one on Gloria Pearson-Vasey. Her website/blog appears here.