Spawning a new novel

An idea that germinated eight years ago is about to flower.

Book alert: The Spawning Grounds

An idea that germinated eight years ago is about to flower.

Talented Shuswap author Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s new literary novel, The Spawning Grounds, will be published by  Knopf Canada in fall 2016.

The book is about a tragedy that had split a family and the healing process family members go through.

“In large part it’s about our relationships as newcomers – European and First Nations, and it goes into the deep past, near past and future,” she says of the novel that is set a couple of years from now.

Anderson-Dargatz says she was not trying to write a sequel to Cure For Death By Lightning, which was published 20 years ago, but one character did return and refused to leave.

“One of them did turn up. I was surprised but I shouldn’t have been,” she laughs. “Writing really is the act of surprise; you have no control over the process, they just turn up.”

Anderson-Dargatz says the book is not political but is about our relationships with rivers and streams and contains an element of her trademark magic realism.

That the book is set in the Shuswap is no surprise. It is the landscape of her childhood and is ingrained in the author’s psyche, although she purposely alters locations.

While Anderson-Dargatz is amused by the term Gothic some readers use to describe her work, she agrees she is deeply affected by the landscape.

“I don’t think that, but when I am writing, I am thinking  fall, moody, secretive and I like it,” she says. “When we get that kind of weather, I  hunker down, I feel enveloped, hugged by the landscape. I guess I am a bit of a moody writer, so it fits.”

Excited about her first literary novel in 20 years, Anderson-Dargatz has never stopped writing.

“People have been asking when I would write another literary novel and the short answer is, I had kids and teaching,” she says, alluding to her years with UBC and a number of Rapid Read books she has produced. “Literary writing takes a lot of time and focus and the kids are moving into their own worlds, so I have more time now and will be getting books out there more quickly.”

Anderson-Dargatz is working on the final edits of The Spawning Grounds and is already feeling sad to let the fictional community and its occupants go.

“I have another project waiting, because if I don’t, I’ll enter a period of grieving,” she says. “A literary novel is a commitment, a serious marriage… Leaving it is akin to divorce in a way.”

Anderson-Dargatz already has a draft of a young adult book ready for her attention.

“Young adult books are a very different kind of writing – more fantasy elements, a more commercial feel and much more fast-paced,” she says, pointing out they are meant for kids who have a good learning level. “Doing literacy books taught me a lot about keeping the reader’s interest and moving along. In literary, the focus is more on character than plot and more slower paced.”

Anderson-Dargatz left her online teaching post with UBC in 2013 and is delighted her private teaching has been both successful and rewarding.

Most of her teaching remains online but Anderson-Dargatz is holding local workshops. The first is a one-day event, a Sunday morning salon on the novel, at Blind Bay Hall, on Oct. 18. This short workshop will explore several issues with the goal of writing powerful fiction that has the authority that can only come from “writing what you know.”

A second, weeklong fiction intensive will be held at the Notch Hill Hall over the week of Nov. 23 to 27 and will include critiquing.

“It’s very hard to see mistakes in your own writing, but in the process of learning how to critique, you learn craft,” she says. “Working one-on-one with a mentor is great, but you learn a whole lot more when working with your peers under the guidance of a good mentor.”

Anderson-Dargatz says workshops also build community and allow writers to deal with the accompanying fear and anxiety writers experience.

“To be a successful writer, you have to have certain traits, an emotional intensity and the ability to observe deeply,” she says, pointing out most writers come from a ‘deep emotional landscape.’ “The upside is it can also fuel the writing. It’s an interesting thing we really have to deal with; it’s the black dog that can turn and bite you.”

For more information, contact Gail Anderson Dargatz at



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