Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Defining the "Canadian" in the Canadian Voice

What is Canadian literature? What is a Canadian novel? I am not going to be so foolhardy as to attempt to define these terms; many have wandered into this wildernessand returned, what else but bewildered if they were honest, or with simplistic or outdated notions if they were naive; this is hardly surprisingthe country is changing around us even as we speak, stirring up a host of conflicting ideas and interests, and to look for an essence, a core, a central notion within that whirlwind is surely an illusion. To define this country or its literature seems like putting a finger on Zenos arrow: no sooner do you think you have done it than it has moved on.
    M. G. Vassanji, "Am I a Canadian Writer?"

Here at Five Rivers Publishing, we publish Canadian voices. This means here at Five Rivers we aspire to amplify the Canadian voice. If your throat is feeling a little scratchy, and you find yourself scratching the back of your head, going but what exactly do you mean by a Canadian voice? here are some thoughts thrown around by our authors to help you find that voice which is definitively Canadian!

Aaron Kite
Aaron Kite, author of A Touch of Poison, believes the Canadian voice is largely framed by our relationship with our neighbours to the south, the USA. Both moulding the English language to their message, the Canadian voice finds its distinction from something quite similar. Aaron further explains the majority of our passion regarding what it is to be Canadian has a great deal to do with attempting to define ourselves as different and distinct from our US counterparts, despite the pervasive influence their culture has had upon both us and the rest of the world.

Aaron also mentions being referred to as the 51st state is often times infuriating, and brings about Canadians sense of place in the world and our pride in our quiet, polite and fierce pride of all our achievements weve managed in our (relatively short) history. In a sense, Aaron regards the Canadian voice as an attempt to have a voice that can compete with our neighbours 10 times our population, and 100 times our global influence. 

Matt Hughes
Matt Hughes, Canadian Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Crime writer, puts forward the comments that the Canadian voice has a good focus on the setting: We're said to be good at a "sense of place," which is supposed to mean we can convey a strong impression of settings. Matt also finds we have a broader point of view, rather than be[ing] limited to our own cultural frame of reference. Perhaps that comes from the success of multiculturalism since the 1970s.

From a personal experience, my intercultural communications class  has demonstrated the very Canadian aim to be multiculturally inclusive rather than strive toward a cultural melting pot of our American counterparts.

Our multicultural nature has the beauty and fragility of a stained glass. Matt believes we have tendency to be less strident, more inclined to seek a balance among competing philosophies. We are less inclined to have a common agenda. Our heroes are do not fit perfectly with the conventionally heroic; instead we value a more nuanced, more prone to self-doubt individual. In turn our endings are not concrete triumphs, but an acceptance of outcomes that are mixed and muted.

John Poulsen
John Poulsen, author of Shakespeare for Readers Theatre, emphasizes the actively changing Canadian voice shaped by the changing Canadian cultural, emotional, and physical landscape. John asserts the Canadian voice, like its culture, cannot be simplified. He points out while Canadians are thoughtful and mostly caring to others, the Canadian game (hockey! How can we not talk about hockey when we are talking about Canada?) is rough and competitive. The Canadian voice is spirited and assertive as well as polite and giving, when appropriate. John also believes the Canadian voice is shaped by our seasons: The Canadian voice is built on summer and the Canadian parks. Finally, we are coloured by Autumn and the long hot days followed by chilly nights.

Mike Plested
Mike Plested, author of the Mik Murdoch series, opens with a quick quip about the discussion: I think pointing out what the characteristics of Canadian voice is almost as difficult as realizing that Canadians have accents. But Mike asserts the Canadian voice is rooted in the real. This realism means the Canadian voice acknowledges the dark places where there are no fairy dusts or happy endings, that not every problem has a good solution. Sometimes our stories give us solutions where we have to choose the least bad option. Mike believes this sentiment is rooted in our early days of exploration of our country including the pioneers who left everything behind to come to Canada to make a new life. It was reinforced by both World War I and World War II and all the other conflicts we have taken part in. The Canadian voice speaks more of what an individual needs to do rather than what we want to happen.

Mike also spoke of the regional differences in the intonations of the Canadian voice. He acknowledges that coming from the west, Alberta specifically, his writing has a more Wild West/Cowboy tone, while he found works from Ontario have a sense of age and political thinking, considering that is where our country really first came to life.

Susan Bohnet
Sally McBride
Susan Bohnet, author of My Life as a Troll, expresses that where you live impacts your literary voice. A succinct way of saying the Canadian voice reflects the Canadian culture. While Sally McBride, author of Indigo Time, emphasizes individualism I read what I read, my voice is my own, and I can appreciate all sorts of different styles and approaches to telling a story. Which reminds us the Canadian voice may emerge from cultural influences, but it has to be our own.

Lorina Stephens, author, and publisher at Five Rivers Publishing, shares her strong belief Canadians have a distinctive voice and experience in the arts. She highlights the geographical influence such a large country has on our voice. She asserts that the enormous country sparsely populated has an effect on our psyche, that translates into a sense of isolation for many of Canadas people, particularly outside the few large urban regions. She also puts focus on the global stage, in that we are part of the G7, but it seems the world pretty much forgets about Canada as any sort of influence. So, that factor feeds into our sense of isolation.

Lorina Stephens
Canadas climate also shapes our voice. According to Lorina, the interesting and extreme weather reminds us that there is a necessity to work together in order to survive and survive well.

Lorina also talks about the Canadian heroic figure who deals with the struggle of the individual, championing the underdog, outrage against injustice, ambiguity in the face of implacable forces. Canadian authors dont deal with ultimate good versus evil. They deal with grey, with uncertainty, with small, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, finding simple solutions and then slipping into the mainstream again. The heroics are low key, often unidentifiable. And that is such a very Canadian thing.

The Canadian voice is multicultural and in flux.
The Canadian voice speaks about the grey.

The Canadian voice speaks.

Is the scratchy throat gone, or do you want to let us hear what you think defines the Canadian voice? We love to hear your comments.

Or perhaps you want your Canadian voice to be heard? If so scuttle to this page here for Five Rivers Publishing submission guidelines for a turn on the mic. Submissions are welcome every February 1st to the 14th.

Were very excited to hear from you.

Bohnet images from Claresholm Library signing

Susan Bohnet's reading and signing at the Claresholm Public Library was a great success, well-attended by young fans and readers.

Thought you would enjoy some images from the event.

Bohnet reading to young fans
Bohnet signing a copy of My Life as a Troll for one of her fans

Friday, 17 October 2014

Susan Bohnet appearing at Claresholm Library

Susan Bohnet
(photo courtesy BN Harker Photography)
Susan Bohnet, author of the popular YA fantasy, My Life as a Troll, will be appearing at the Claresholm Public Library Thursday, October 23, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. She will be reading and signing copies of her novel.

available in print and eBook
from Five Rivers
online booksellers worldwide
and select bookstores

Claresholm Public Library is situated 211 49 Avenue West, Claresholm, Alberta.

Monday, 13 October 2014

LibraryThing reviewers praise My Life as a Troll

It has been Five Rivers policy to offer digital review copies of our new releases through LibraryThing in order to allow the people who matter, readers, an opportunity to experience books they might not otherwise.

It would seem the following three reviewers are greatly enamoured of Susan Bohnet's debut YA fantasy, My Life as a Troll.

available in print and eBook
from Five Rivers
online booksellers worldwide
and select bookstores
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have to be honest, I am guilty of judging a book by it's cover/ cover art and while I did request this book when the time came to read it I was not overly enthusiastic to start. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the main character and I share a first name. (I'm not sure why, but I love when this happens!) I rather quickly became engrossed in this book. The main Character Jared is your typical Jr high boy. His family is a bit dysfunctional and he escapes into the world of Lavascape (an online multi-player game) where as the title hints at, he is a troll. The book chronicles his growing addiction with the game and the consequences this has on his everyday life. I think this book would be a good read for younger readers (5-8th grade). There are a couple of mature themes that may raise questions for younger kids. I really enjoyed this book and I will definitely recommend it often.  )
  vote   flagmadhatr | Oct 6, 2014 | 
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a good read. I look forward to a sequel. If you’re looking for a book that has a good moral background of standing up for what is right along with a little bit of action then this is the book for you. Through in a dash of comedy, a pinch of teen romance, a computer game and good ol’ family drama and you have ‘My Life as a Troll’. Don't be fooled, this book will get you hooked within the first couple of chapters.

Jared faces what many kids will go through in School. Having to deal with a bully, choosing between right and wrong and crushes add to that a troubled home life and you have the recipe for normal teen angst. Jared has the choice between living in a fantasy world of a game or accepting and dealing with real life. The game Lavascape gives him an escape from real life but in the game he acquires a resilience and toughness that he lacks outside the game, until events that happen in the game start blending over into the real world. He develops a stronger sense of self and ultimately figures out that living in the real world is so much better than being in Lavascape even with all its problems. )
  vote   flagandbmay | Oct 6, 2014 | 
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Jared is an outsider at school and unhappy at home, his parents fight all the time and his sister only has time for her boyfriend. So when he gets a copy of Lavascape, a fully immersive MMORPG with helmet, gloves and other tracking devices, he jumps at the chance to play a Troll. At first he is content with hanging out in the village, playing games all the time, but when he starts to have visions of a beautiful princess in distress, he starts to change his mind and prepare for an adventure. While he is spending more and more time in Lavascape and thus neglecting both his friends and his homework, he starts to notice strange changes with himself. Some injuries he incurred while playing suddenly appear in real life, and where are all those muscles coming from?

Susan Bohnet manages to take a coming of age story with a strong focus on computer games and takes it to the next level. My Life as a Troll is a very captivating read that I could not turn down, and even though I foresaw some plot points, there were turns I didn't see coming at all. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever played a computer game and a must read for everyone who plays MMORPGs!  )
  vote   flagpratchettfan | Sep 4, 2014 | 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Two Susans at Alberta Author's Day

Susan Bohnet (My Life as a Troll) and Susan Forest (Immunity to Strange Tales) will be appearing at Alberta Author's Day, Saturday, October 18, 2014, held at Pandora's Boox, 5009 51St., St. Olds, Alberta.

The event features a host of Albertan authors who will be signing and discussing their books.

Pandora's Boox's and Tea is owned and operated by Jason Moody and Lesley Winfield.

Jason and Lesley are both avid readers and passionate about both tea and books! There's no better place to be on a Saturday afternoon than a bookstore like this!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Congratulations, Robert Runte!

Congratulations to Five Rivers' Senior Editor, Dr. Robert Runte, for receiving the Prix Aurora Award for Best Fan-related Work, for “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto.

Robert Runte, front, fourth from left
mugging it with other Prix Aurora winners at V-Con 2014

Well done, Robert! We are so proud of you.

Robert Runte (right) holding his Prix Aurora, with William Gibson author of the seminal SF novel, Neuromancer  (left)

The Prix Aurora Awards were presented this year at V-Con, Vancouver BC's premier science fiction, fantasy and games convention, since 1971, held this year October 3-5, at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford hotel.

Congratulations to all of this year's Prix Aurora winners:

Best English Novel: A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
Best English YA Novel: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
Best English Short Fiction: “Ghost in the Machine” by Ryan McFadden, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
Best English Poem/Song: “Night Journey: West Coast” by Eileen Kernaghan , Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, EDGE
Best English Graphic Novel: Rock, Paper, Cynic by Peter Chiykowski, webcomic
Best English Related Work: On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Best Artist: Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Best Fan Music: Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity
Best Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles, Chair and Programming, When Words Collide, Calgary
Best Fan Related Work: Robert Runté, “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto

Friday, 26 September 2014

Michell Plested signs books for eager young readers

Michell Plested appeared at the Ponoka Jubilee Library September 13 to read from the first two novels in the Mik Murdoch YA fantasy series. Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye from the Ponoka News interviewed him. We're pleased to present that interview here.

Author of young adult books, Michell Plested, autographs his newest book to fans at the Ponoka Jubilee Library Sept. 13.

Anyone looking for a good young adult book series may find themselves enjoying the story of Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero.

Author Michell Plested has a growing following in his Mik Murdoch book series. The second of six books was recently printed and he took some time Sept. 13 to read some excerpts from the book, The Power Within, at the Ponoka Jubilee Library .

The young adult series, published through Five Rivers Books, is receiving positive reviews online and Plested says his publishers are eager to see the third book.

“That’s a good problem to have,” said Plested.

The story of Mik Murdoch is told in Plested’s first book Boy Superhero, published August 2012, where Murdoch develops powerful abilities. Plested says this new installment finds Murdoch a few months later after the first book ended. Murdoch is facing his powers.

“It’s all about dealing with thing’s he’s never had to face before,” said Plested.

Writing the first and second books has an interesting back-story; Plested says he had already written them some years ago but as his writing improved, re-writing the books was easier than fixing errors in the story.

He says his writing abilities keep improving and important tools such as plot and character development continue to help him write better stories. Plested recommends aspiring writers are better off writing rather than looking for the perfect story.

“If you’re trying to write a perfect sentence…You’re going to keep writing it over and over,” he stated.

He suggests it is better to write the first chapter and return and adjust it later. If faced with writer’s block, Plested says he writes ideas in point form to keep the creative juices flowing.

Big things are planned for the Mik Murdoch series. Plested says a new character introduced in The Power Within will become more important later on in the series. And there are some spin-offs planned for the future as well.

The two books in the series can be purchased from most book retailers including Amazon.ca. For more information on Plested and progress in his third book check www.michellplested.com.