Now in plain view, Black Springs Abbey loomed before them, a neglected neo-gothic structure. Ivy wrapped itself protectively around the building’s pale yellow brick exterior, creeping across windows and partially obscuring ornate brackets under the roof’s projecting eaves. Third-storey dormer windows gazed blankly from the once-elegant mansard roof, slate tiles now faded and chipped. – Gloria Pearson-Vasey*
Canadian author Gloria Pearson-Vasey begins her new book Black Springs Abbey with the tires of a police cruiser crunching on gravel. Within one page, her storytelling hooks me.
“Was it some kind of ghost,” he said.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen a person who fades in and out before.”*
Several pages later, the police officer drives Hilma down a twisted laneway where the protagonist catches her first glimpse of the abbey, a setting that plays a prominent role in this page-turning novel. Who lives in this abbey and what secrets lie hidden on its grounds? You’ll need to read this historical fantasy to find out.
A seasoned writer and a member of the Lambton Writers Association, Pearson-Vasey is the author of 9 published books: two speculative fiction, two literary fiction/mysteries, three non-fiction books and two historical fantasies including The Bells of Prosper Station and Black Springs Abbey. The latter is part of a double-book published with Early Days in Oil Springs, a historical fiction novel by Sarnia’s Bob McCarthy. The tête-bêche was launched last spring as a commemorative edition celebrating the sesquicentennial of The Village of Oil Springs. See more information about McCathy and the book here.
Earlier this month, Pearson-Vasey with McCarthy began a series of joint presentations at the Point Edward Library. Additional library presentations are planned for
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 Pearson-Vasey to share her thoughts on her writing process. Below are her responses:
(1) Describe your book. Why did you publish it?
Black Springs Abbey is an historical fantasy written to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Oil Springs, once known as Black Springs.
I was drawn into the fantasy genre by a creative writing group at LCCVI who set me wondering if the local oil heritage could translate into fantasy. Might the fumes from 19th century oil gushers, fires and nitroglycerine explosions cause some citizens to evolve into timeriders, psychic vampires or guardians?
The result became The Bells of Prosper Station and its sequel, Black Springs Abbey. In the first book, Azur Moonstorey and her companions exit the town library, board a midnight ghost train, and are transported to nineteenth-century Prosper Station (aka Petrolea). Their mission is to rescue Azur’s sister, Hilma, from the psychic vampire, Vek.
In Black Springs Abbey, Hilma is still beset by anxieties and insecurities five years after being rescued. Encouraged to take a position at a dilapidated abbey, she soon discovers that life at Black Springs Abbey can be as unsettling as she feared.
(2) What are you currently working on?
I’m in the final stages of editing my son’s book, Living in the Eye: Life with Autism. The process of updating Kevin’s past book, while integrating his more recent writings and convictions, proved to be more difficult than I’d expected. I hope I’ve done it justice.
At the same time, I’ve amused myself by doing research for my next novel. The characters and storyline are already taking shape although the genre remains a bit hazy. It will not be fantasy or speculative…maybe family saga with a touch of mystery.
(3) How does your work differ from other authors?
I’m a multi-genre author, and I get totally caught up in whatever I happen to be writing. Readers tell me that in both fiction and non-fiction, I have a lyrical voice. I suppose that my love of music, nature and literature contributes to that. Using words to paint scenes and settings can be incredibly satisfying.
(4) Why do you write the way you do? How does your writing process work?
I’m a storyteller, preferring fiction to non-fiction because it provides both adventure and escape from the mundane. And as storytellers do, I write to entertain. Often I weave contemporary issues (social justice, ecology, human foibles) into my novels. I like a story – be it speculative, literary, mystery or fantasy – to be authentic and to end on a note of hope. Before I ever settle down to write, I do months of preparation that includes endless research. I take photos and jot down random thoughts in note books. The anticipation is exciting!
Once I steel myself to begin writing seriously, I keep research notes and pictures close at hand for inspiration. In order to immerse myself into the development of characters and the setting in which they dwell, I need to be truly present to both. Blocks of time free from interruption are critical.
Usually I work from an outline with chapters briefly plotted out. As the story develops, the chapters change and move about. The more I write, the more the characters take over, often communicating to me while I sleep. Sometimes they force me to change course, eliminate whole chapters and add new ones.
(5) Is there anything you’d like to add? If so, please share with the readers.
Writing is hard work. Discipline is essential because many writing days, at least for me, start off slowly. But languor ultimately gives way to wisps of enlightenment which in turn grow into periods of happily flowing prose.
If you’re a writer, seek out readers to proof and critique your finished drafts. Be genuinely appreciative of everything they suggest and mull over their words of wisdom. Correct the typos they find and incorporate ideas for change when it feels right. Then follow your heart. It’s your book.
If you’re a reader, please remember that authors love feedback and honest reviews of their work.
Thanks Gloria for the interview.
Additional information about Pearson-Vasey can be found on her website/blog here.
Additional information about McCarthy can be found on his website.
*from the book Black Springs Abbey (Quinn Riley Press, 2015) epigraph from page 11, quoted dialogue from page 6. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Gloria Pearson-Vasey
Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.