One-time Red Deer resident and acclaimed novelist Elinor Florence will be in the City Oct. 6th for a book signing at Chapters.
Her latest novel, Wildwood, was released this past February and Florence, who also enjoyed a long and successful career in journalism, is excited to meet readers and chat about her latest literary offering.
The book signing runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wildwood, set in the Peace River country, tells the story of a single mother from the city who must spend one year living in an abandoned off-the-grid farmhouse in order to claim her inheritance.
The main character Molly Bannister (a name which many Red Deerians will indeed recognize) and her daughter must adapt to the pioneer lifestyle.
Florence, whose resume includes a 10-year stint at the Red Deer Advocate from 1978 to 1988, has found the transition to novelist a most fulfilling and enjoyable one.
She now calls Invermere, B.C. home.
She and her family had relocated there from Vancouver, and at the time, Florence felt that perhaps her journalism career had come to an end.
“In fact, I stumbled across a guy who had driven his propane truck off of a cliff and survived, and the words, ‘drama in real life’ sprang to mind. So I typed up the story, sent it to Reader’s Digest in Montreal and they not only published the story, but they also asked me to become a regular writer for them.”
For the next eight years, she did just that.
It was also around that time she started to work on an idea she had for her first novel Bird’s Eye View.
”I think it came in part from my newspaper background, because back then, when I started at my hometown paper in Saskatchewan, we had to of course take our own photos and print them in the darkroom. I had an interest in photography, and I had also seen a picture of a woman in an air force uniform studying an aerial photograph through a magnifying glass.
”I was intrigued by that, and thought that would have been a very interesting thing to do during the War.”
She started to research aerial photographs in general and a whole new and compelling chapter of history opened up.
“These people were known as photo interpreters, and they studied the aerial photographs being brought back from flying over German-occupied territory,” she explained. “They studied these photos to look for camouflaged munitions factories, airports and troop movement (for example). When I started researching it, I realized that not much had been written about it and also that it was a very important but little known branch of intelligence,” she said.
Indeed, Florence had plenty on her plate during that time, but she also found herself the owner of a successful Invermere weekly newspaper.
“I sold it in 2010, and at that point I thought, I’m going to go back and read this old manuscript (for Bird’s Eye View) and see if anything was there. It was on floppy disc, so that’s how old it was,” she added with a laugh.
From there, Florence spent about a year rewriting it and then sent it off to a Toronto publisher. They accepted it and published it in 2014.
It wasn’t long before the book was enthusiastically embraced by readers right across the country. In fact, it made it onto the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail bestseller lists. It has indeed had a personal impact on many.
“I get emails from people every week telling me how much they like it – book clubs enjoy it, too.”
With Wildwood, Florence was inspired by the notion of people living ‘off the grid’ and how it would turn out for a young modern woman from the city to basically ‘live the life’ of the pioneers.
“I did borrow the name Molly Bannister because I think she was a wonderful role model, and I knew about her because of my stint in Red Deer.”
Again, she delved into the necessary research that has proven so very enriching to her works.
“I think I read about 35 books of pioneer memoirs. I also drove up to the Peace River area and visited the pioneer museums,” she said. “It’s Canada’s northern most farming community.
“I also have a deep love for old houses, so the house in the book is almost like its own character,” she said. “So that was part of the motivation – plus the idea of pioneer life and what that would be like to live that way today.”
For Florence, the feedback she receives from readers remains the biggest highlight that stems from her work as a novelist.
“I’ve met so many lovely people and connected with so many different types of people from right across Canada. I love hearing from people and I really enjoy my book events, too,” she said of the joys of writing. “So many come and also tell me interesting stories of their own, so really, it’s the people.”
Visit elinorflorence.com and check out her blog at ‘Wartime Wednesdays’.