Trillium follows three Canadian families as their stories intertwine over generations and through many obstacles. What served as your inspiration while writing this novel?
I began this novel in my mind almost a decade ago. I did a rough outline at the time and popped it into my writing box. I had wanted to write a work about the rural farming landscape that supports us in an engaging and believable way. At the same time, I wanted to investigate the moral dimensions of humanity on a broader canvas than my previous two novels.
It was while I was researching ‘screen culture’ for an article that I began to see the ‘key’ in how I could manifest this current work.
Many of the revolutionary technological innovations that we now take so much for granted, like electricity, indoor plumbing, the automobile, aviation and the pill, happened within the last century. These life-changing innovations have allowed us to leap forward in an unprecedented way. As a result, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to fathom what life was like, (and still is like for many), without these modern conveniences.
Using a class structure, over the passage of time, allowed me to examine the impact of these techno-innovations on the evolution of the three very distinct families. As example, the O’Sullivan clan, because of their wealth, had immediate access to the innovations of the day long before the poorer classes, be it a telephone or a tell-a-vision. This access established ‘privilege’ for generations to come.
The characters and families were well developed and distinct. What were some driving ideals behind the families development throughout the story?
As I mentioned above, one of my desires in crafting this work was to examine the adopted moral structures of humanity.
Firstly, each family in this story comes from a very different inherited religious background. Religious doctrines shape our morals and are often manifest in the minute decisions that we daily make, for good and/or evil.
When we decide on anything, underlying that decision is a choice about the betterment or ruin of ourselves and others. Whether it be the 10 commandments, or The Golden Rule, or social ostracism or foul play, organized religions provide humanity with a moral framework. How we internalize these inherited religious codes greatly impact how we socially engage with others, especially within families and within civil communities.
A bully, as example, is, fundamentally, someone who never internalized the difference between ‘right or wrong’ behaviour. If they did internalize the ‘rules’ at an early age, they know full well that they are choosing ‘wrong’ behaviour when they bully. The inevitable internal conflict can manifest in many ways through the eventual self-destructive use of drugs and alcohol or the exercising of perverted power in intimate relations. Very often bullies continue to act out destructive behaviours on themselves and others because they have no understanding or fear of consequences. Simply put, they have no self-governing set of ‘rules’.
I would argue that, basically, bullies secretly desire the ‘structure’ of ‘good parenting’. Many bullies, aside from a deep craving for attention, want to be disciplined. But if their own parents never exhibited ‘good behaviour’, (as result of their own upbringing), the likelihood that a child will develop ‘good behaviour’ is very slim. When a child sees how their bullying parents achieve their desired ends, that child naturally internalize these ‘lessons’ and will act out in the same way in later life. And thus, the cycle of abuse continues. I have demonstrated how this vicious cycle re-occurs within generations throughout the novel.
Secondly, the impact of ‘media’ to shape our moral structures has increased exponentially over the past few decades. Within this historical fiction, I have slipped in some of those media innovations, beginning with the literate broadsheets of the eighteenth century. I moved into radio culture prior to WW2, and then introduce the advent of black and white film and television in the mid to late 1940s. Computers began to impact our work places and then enter our homes as recreational ‘video games’ in the mid 1990s.
Today, we are rapidly moving from a hard-won literate culture to a super stimulated visual culture. We are bombarded by a visual plethora of ‘info-entertainment’ from an assortment of screen sources that are designed to over-stimulate our dopamine receptors. All of us have succumbed to ‘click bait’. I wanted to reveal some of this increasing intrusive dependency towards the end of this novel. Though, overall, the latter media intrusion of the internet is intended as a sub-text to the on-going generational actions and reactions of the dominant characters at that time.
Finally, to be clear, I am not suggesting that organized religion, per se, is a panacea for the ills of humanity. We all know that religious indoctrination can obviously swing too far to the extreme. But I do believe that sound ‘elder’ teaching, supported by tight communities of engaging families, can sincerely help floundering individuals who flail. I demonstrated that kind of communal guidance and support when Tom Hartford’s descendent, Faith Hartford, wisely counsels Tony Di Angelo after his unhinged act of revenge. Her display of forgiveness was a profoundly social act of instruction – and acceptance. Faith was very kind to an emotionally wounded man.
This story takes place in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario Canada during the 1750’s. Why did you choose this time and place for your novel?
The story starts in the 1750s. Like a skipping stone on a body of water, time does skip forward quickly. At the middle of the book, the lineage of the three diverse families coalesce at a summer bonfire bash in 1965. The remainder of the novel plays out over the following decades, and the story ends in 2001. I ended the work then because I did not want to enter too far into the digital age.
I chose the Niagara region as emblematic of a ‘border-territory’ and the evolution of a farming culture that eventually specializes in wine-making. This region is beautiful, with the escarpment above and the great lake of Ontario below, and relatively unknown on the world stage. It’s a fascinating area, historically, and well worth a visit.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am developing an audio version of this title and hope to have that available by the summer of 2019. I also feel that this work has the innate potential to be an engrossing television series that will appeal to a broad range of viewers. I am going to attempt to do that too.
Screen culture now rules the marketplace of ideas. If I hope to impact others with this story, I really must try to reach a wider audience beyond the realm of the literate.
TRILLIUM could easily have a sequel, but, at this time, I have no intent to do that. As I mentioned, it has the potential to be a wonderful television or Netflix series …
Insightful, compelling, engrossing and enlightening, TRILLIUM intimately portrays the intertwining evolution of three very distinct families in the wine-making region known as Niagara in the Golden Horseshoe region, Ontario, Canada. …It all starts when 19-year-old Tom Hartford crosses over the mighty Niagara River in the 1750s … Readers will meet Maaka, an ingenious indigenous trapper; Franco, a dirt poor Sicilian labourer; Paddy O’Sullivan, a sweet-talking Irish con-artist and sweet Cate, the Hamilton port prostitute. And that’s just the beginning! All unfolds with a pair of motherless red-headed twin brothers, a diabolical hate-filled drunkard, two devoted raven-haired sisters, an obsessed land developer, hard-working Mexicans, a blind man, a handsome Italian-Canadian wine-maker, a blessed treasure trove of attentive mothers, one demented vineyard-wandering wife – and a startlingly beautiful, simpleton savant, Anna.A 250 year-old story about three families: the good, bad … and ugly.
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This saga begins amid the wealth of Southern plantation owners and Northern investors. By identifying the equities gained, greater concerns began to rise among the nation’s abolitionists. As a consequence, regional politicians began moving the citizenry into opposing camps.
COTTONBLOOD tracks the lives of two adolescent murderers: The first, a mixed-breed Canadian entering American waters as a deckhand aboard a French freighter. The second, a youngster captured from Sierra Leone to a foreign land where a strange language is spoken. Although the two men never meet, their journeys lattice one another as each search for some form of security. When false hope leads one into an unsolicited life of labor, the other haphazardly finds a future of opulence.
The plot traces their lives, and relations, through generations of survival leading the inheritors into the first year of America’s horrendous Civil War.
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As the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario, a young farm boy sits at the front of a boat as lookout, in the year 1758. A man from Sicily steps off a ship and finds himself in the bustling Hamilton Harbour as he looks for work, in the year 1835. Finally, a man from Dublin looking to make his fortune finds himself tossed out of a bar on Barton Street, in 1885. These are the seeds that Holton plants to begin the intricate intertwining of stories throughout the book. Trillium sees these three characters, with three vastly different backgrounds, struggle to make a home in Canada, and follows their legacies as their memory lives on through their descendents.
The book connects with the history, not only of Canada, but of the world. It draws upon various historic events, including both world wars, as its context. This grounds it in the real world and gives it a universal sense of what we all strive for in much the same way as the three families – a home. As generations pass, they seem to take a firmer grasp on the land they live on and become part of the history themselves. As such their progress fits well with the underlying rural theme that the chapters take, such as roots, growing vines, and the grape harvest. The book seems to create a family tree, which intertwines with the other family trees in the book, as they grow.
The reader is plunged into a world shaped by conquest. The characters in the book encounter wars, displacement and enterprise, all of which are constantly shaping the landscapes. Each character tries to find their place in this world of uncertainty. Throughout the generations, they all have a hope to find their way in a changing world and to settle down somewhere – to carve out their own patch of land to call their home.
Holton brings this world to life with poetic prose. As the book spans literally centuries, the passage of time is very clear in its writing. The natural setting is gorgeously described through the changing of the seasons, right down to the colors of the leaves. The natural Canadian landscape appears utopian when set in the foreground against the chaos of the world wars or the bustle of a city harbour or the noise of a railway being built. This contrast is eloquently drawn in the prose, especially when WWII hits the novel, where, though the characters have deep personal ties to the war, daily events in the book still transpire on a humble peach farm in Ontario.
I give this book a four out five for its awe-inspiring approach to the natural world and everyone’s place in it as we carve our path in the landscape through agriculture, enterprise, and even war. I cannot recommend this book enough. The stories connect beautifully and get to the heart of what it means to have a place to call home.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: 0992127289
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YEGman by Konn Lavery is a dark thrilling romp through the back allies and underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Michael Bradford, our hero, is a vigilante, who struggles with violence. His issues aren’t going to get better as he investigates the most notorious gang in Edmonton, the Crystal moths. His methods are caught on film and uploaded online to become viral sensations and are labeled with the hashtag, YEGman. The videos fascinate a rebellious journalist, who wishes to cover the story of this mysterious hero.
This novel is an unexpectedly gritty trip through the Canadian crime scene that I don’t find too often in literature. Most of what comes to mind may be cozy mysteries, not ultra-violent vigilantes dealing with criminals. The novel takes a fun turn with the involvement of the student, Lola and how she gives a better and deeper inside look of the gang culture. In some ways, the trope is rather familiar with an attractive journalist in training along with the brooding vigilante in Bradford. It kind of brings to mind a mix of Batman, Spiderman, and Lois Lane. It’s an affirmation of Lavery’s skill to synthesize all of this together to make a novel that engages the reader and doesn’t let up until the end.
Lavery’s style leans on description, which helps to develop the world of this noir thriller, but I felt that the characters sometimes overly explain things. The prose is decent and kept me involved, but the pacing sometimes slows because of the over explanation which left me often wandering from the story. With an action packed story like this, putting the brakes on to go into detailed explanations lowers the tension on an otherwise exciting story.
This novel is plenty gritty, with a dark narrative and the definite feel that danger lurks within every shadow. With a consistently murky tone and treacherous atmosphere to the novel I was able to sink my teeth into the dark underworld set in an alternative Edmonton. For Canadian readers and noir thriller aficionados alike this novel would be a fun read, even people who enjoy a little bit of mystery and can tolerate the violence, this is recommended reading. Overall, an exciting addition to Lavery’s body of work.
Pages: 461 | ASIN: B07B3N5S92
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Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, by Mel Anastasiou, is a series of dramatic detective mysteries. The novel contains four different detective stories, each of which are interconnected yet independent. In addition to the stories, the opening of the book contains an interesting philosophical and logical argument. It also gives a hint to some of the content of the book. Anastasiou does an excellent job of providing depth to not only the characters and their actions and motivations, but also in the general style of her writing.
The novel practically seems to drip with British style. So much so, that without careful reading and generous knowledge of Canadian and American culture and institutions, most readers will probably assume that it is set somewhere in Britain instead of actually being set in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Having read her, Stella Ryman engenders the same feelings as most Dorothy Sayers detective stories. However, there are some subtle differences between the style of Stella Ryman and the British detective novels of the 19th and early 20th century. Those old stories tended to deal with a static, aristocratic society, police forces that were not corrupt, but were certainly not in any position to solve the case, and a lack of emotion among the affected cast of characters. Stella Ryman is similar and brings in other classic mystery themes: a senior care home provides a rather static environment (even though the residents may invariably change from time to time), the managers of the care home are bumbling but not corrupt, there are no supernatural causes in the story, there is a secret passageway, and Stella has a tendency to honestly declare her thoughts, intuitions, and deductions.
There are also significant tie-ins to American pulp detective novels as well, primarily in the commonality of the characters (there are almost no aristocrats and most people are average and middle-class) and the feeling of inevitability—that truth will out and that justice will be done. Overall, Stella Ryman seems to fit roughly a quarter of the way between British and American writing styles—perfect for Canada.
Stella Ryman, as a character, is quintessentially heroic — in the classic sense. At points throughout the book, it appears that Anastasiou is reading Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces as she is writing her own book. In the beginning, Stella refuses the call to adventure (being a detective), is completely content with her own mortality, and is merely waiting to die. Eventually, she realizes that there is a third option—something besides life and death. As a side note, herein lies a common theme within the novel, the breaking of logical fallacies—ad hominem, false dichotomies, circular arguments, causal fallacies, and hasty generalizations being the most common. Stella, after making her third choice, is confronted with supernatural assistance (Mad Cassandra, whom is herself rife with mythological allusions). Stella runs across a few other mentors along the way, makes a deep, personal transformation, and returns with a gift for her fellow residents: the ability to make life worth living again.
Overall, this book is an excellent read, full of colorful characters. Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries, is appropriate for teenage and adult readers. Although younger demographics may have difficulty with some of the allusions and references that are peppered throughout the book. Younger readers may also have difficulty relating to an octogenarian, but Stella’s tenacity is something certainly worth emulating. There is no obvious sexual content (there are hints, however) or illicit drug use, there is some personal violence, and a lot of discussion of heavy, emotional and existential topics.
Pages: 151 | ASIN: B06XTG2GWJ
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Redemption: The Advent is a fantastic sci-fi-thriller set during present day where a police investigator becomes host to an ethereal being from a parallel universe. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
As a civil engineer with a master’s degree from a Canadian university, my career required me to travel and live in a number of countries among people with diverse cultural backgrounds. These differences often resulted in violent confrontations with grave injustices inflicted by opposing ideologies. At the same time our world is currently inflicted with two devastating plagues, the proliferation of drugs and religious radicalization.
The book tackles these topics by describing two contemporary adventures, interlaced with superhuman moral guidance. In so doing I wanted to demonstrate the vanity of materialism and the virtue of harmony and peace which can only be achieved through empathy and understanding.
The Valdorians have watched Earth and deemed humanity too far gone to achieve spiritual evolution. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating the Valdorian race?
Although I adhere to no specific philosophy my deepest convictions indicate that there must me a superior intelligence underlying the whole of creation. The nature of this intelligence is unknowable. What is evident however is that harmony and understanding will bring peace to the world. This is the only credible behavior that will result in unity with each other and ultimately our creator.
James Baxter becomes host to a Valdor which leads to some very interesting conversations and confrontations. What was your approach to writing the interactions between characters?
In a world where science and technology are advancing at breakneck speeds and greed appears to be the main driving force in human affairs, the spiritual meaning of the old systems that govern us is becoming increasingly blurred.
By imagining a race of beings that are immortal, it necessitates a different viewpoint to morality and the reason for existence. By the interactions outlined in the book some of our religious myths are intermingled and questioned. The interaction provides food for thought that will resonate with anyone who has ever pondered on the mysteries of creation.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
“Redemption the Journey” – Sequel to “Redemption the Advent” – It will elaborate on the trials and tribulations resulting from the Valdor intervention, as they attempt to create a Utopia on Earth.
I have already planned the basic outline of the novel but will only complete the narrative once the first novel proves popular.
Two beings. One Body. And a critical mission to save the world. The Valdors, ethereal beings from a parallel dimension, have guarded the development of consciousness since the beginning of time. Humanity’s greed and fanaticism have derailed progression towards spiritual evolution, and the Valdor Council has earmarked Sol III (Earth) for annihilation. In one final effort, Balthazar is sent to Earth to redeem Humanity. When Bal connects with the mind of James Baxter, a seasoned police investigator, he must convince him to assist with his mission. Bal and Baxter have to share the same body. Using human effort and Valdor mental power, they combat a drug lord who has hijacked a mind-controlling microchip, and an Islamic extremist who plans to rule the world. Embarking on an adventure of intrigue and ruthlessness, Bal and Baxter’s journey exposes the weaknesses and triumphs of the human character as they struggle for Humanity’s redemption.
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