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About Able Hands...or, how a retired construction guy managed to write his first novel

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

You don't work in construction for 30 years and then turn to writing novels without gathering a few interesting stories along the way, so I'm hoping to use this blog to offer some context for the book and my path back to writing.

There’s no question that several components to the story that I tell in Able Hands are drawn from my own experiences. Like a lot of first-time authors, I turned to my own life for inspiration as I started to work on this novel. After a while, the story and characters developed on their own, with no personal memories attached.

At the beginning of the book, the main character, Jacob, just wants to have a normal life, with a job, a wife, kids, and a house. Growing up in an isolated town in a family situation that wasn't always totally stable, I guess I became very focused on creating a "normal" life for myself, and to the extent that Jacob shares some of my own goals for myself at the start of the novel, I guess you could call him an autobiographical character.

But that's when things got weird! As a long-time fan of the disparate forms of poetry, suspense, and fantasy fiction, I was probably always going to write a book that mixed and matched elements of a character's internal search for meaning with a strong plot line that brings in fantasy, evildoings, and the supernatural. As I worked on this novel, the main character's search for understanding about himself became attached to a plot that revolved around threats to his family life, special (supernatural) powers and abilities, and the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Hopefully, as I gain readers for this book and for the other books in the same series, I'll have a chance to think and write some more about the links between my own upbringing and the types of characters and situations that pop up in my writing.

I grew up in a little hamlet at the farthest north point of New Brunswick. The closest town supported a pulp and paper mill that kept the majority of the town and surrounding area working. The area didn’t have much to offer in the way of entertainment in the late 60s and early 70s, so I had to rely on my imagination to keep myself amused. I believe that’s where my creativity was born.

The rest of my life has been filled with events that range from the bizarre to the amazing. My son being born when I had just turned 23 was the best start imaginable to my adult life. Working as a carpenter in construction, many lean times forced me to travel for work. That’s where most of the bizarre and amazing experiences came from.

Family means a lot to me, and even that changed along the way, but it didn’t change who I am. Love, far too much loss, and the challenges of creating a “normal” life filled my time here with many of those bizarre and amazing moments that made me who I am today. I love writing, always have. I started when I was your typical melancholy 14-year-old kid, scratching out poems, and here I am now, on the cusp of publishing my first novel.

Able Hands was difficult for me to write. I’ve heard that first books always are. No argument here. As I told my publisher, Iguana Books, writing this book was harder than building a house. But I must have enjoyed it because I haven’t stopped. My next book, which is taking the form of a sequel to Able Hands, is already well underway, and I can’t wait to start the third…and so on.

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