Local author launching new book

The average life pinballs between moments of chaos and moments of grace.

Northern lives are no different in their general basis, but the context for all of us who live here is the same: our landscape.

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We are shaped by our spaces, which includes the nuts and bolts like our neighbours, co-workers, classmates, weather, profession and location of the places we go the most.

Glory is a state of mind, but it is also a character, a fictional human invented by writer Gillian Wigmore. Glory is ironically named and also carries the weight of the title of Wigmore's new novel.

It hits the streets with a launch party at Omineca Arts Centre on Saturday.

"I set it in Fort St. James, and I named it straight up, and that is scary," said Wigmore. "I'm not from there (she was raised in Vanderhoof, the town next door) but our family has had land there since about 1920 and our family still has a summer place there."

Stone's Bay on Stuart Lake is named for her forebearer, and if you tour the National Historic Site fort situated there, a great-grandfather is spoken of in the interpretive materials. Wigmore found that somewhat odd when she worked at the fort.

She has also worked at the Eagle Crest Pub and resided for a while in Fort St. James, but has always been self-conscious throughout the writing process of her position as a part-time Fort St. James resident.

"I'm an inside outsider," she said, trying to make sense of it. "I can't get the place out of my mind. I'm forever interested in it. The landscape alone is fascinating. Vanderhoof is bucolic. Stuart Lake is ferocious. It's beautiful, terrible, inviting, tragic, all of those things. It's such a part of me."

And then there are the people. Fort St. James is a full blend of aboriginal and colonial cultures and all socioeconomic subcultures - again, an opposite demographic design than the diametric reality of Vanderhoof - so as Wigmore wrote, she found the voices of her characters blending as well. It was so overt that she made a conscious effort to expunge all trace of ethnicity from the fictional people in her book. Each one could be aboriginal or not, colonial or not.

"I'm not writing about anyone's background, I'm writing about place, through the voices of characters," she said.

The strength of the characters began to reshape the original concept of the novel out from under Wigmore's initial feet. It took a lot of time for that to happen, since it occupied the past 10 years of her life.

"It started as a straightforward narrative, A to B, but as I wrote it over such a breadth of time I just couldn't maintain a consistent sound or tone to it," she explained.

"I'm just not the same writer I was 10 years ago, so the book couldn't really stay static either. A small town, a really small town, can destroy you or build you, and both of those things by word of mouth. Hearsay is such a tool of life in a community of that size, so the novel just took that on and became polyphonic - told through so many voices."

Some of the themes that emerge in strongest force are postpartum depression, the way people aren't all bad even if they do reprehensible things, and even the lake itself comes off as a character.

The long time spent creating Glory was not Wigmore's only occupation over that time. She is well known in her home region and across Canada as a poet, plus the novella Grayling released in 2015.

She also had to shape her life as a writer around being a wife, homeowner, librarian (she helps manage the Nechako branch of the Prince George Public Library), and especially parent. The pulls and pushes of those factors tend to domesticate a writer's approach to the unwritten material growing wild in the brain.

So, Glory took her time to be fully born onto the page, but she has now arrived with all her fingers and toes (and lakes).

Wigmore will be in Toronto for her eastern Canadian launch of the novel. As a former singer-songwriter (not that such an occupation can ever be truly quashed within the heart of a creative person) she is thrilled at the location of that event. Her Ontario-based publisher Invisible Publishing set the party up at Grossman's Tavern, the legendary rock 'n' roll concert venue.

Her Prince George launch event on Saturday is also inside creative confines. It is free to attend the 7 p.m. family-friendly party (reading at 8 p.m.) where the first copies of Glory will be available.

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