Author’s debut novel set in Westman
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/04/2021 (715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The pandemic freed up enough time for Terry Dann to complete his debut novel — a longtime ambition inspired by a love of the Prairies.
Called “Land Title: A Novel of the Prairies,” the historical fiction is set largely in Westman — a landscape the Winnipeg author wrote from experience.
“I’m smitten by the Prairies,” he said. “I know it sounds corny. … The Prairies — the smells, the vistas, the extremes, the storms — all those kinds of things just fascinated me, and I found it easy; that part of writing was the easiest part for me.”
Dann’s wife grew up on a farm in McAuley, which they’ve visited numerous times over the years, and although they now live in Winnipeg they’ve “lived all over” during the years.
The book also draws the expertise of a Souris doctor who publicly cautioned the people about the Spanish Flu in the late 1910s by urging people to wash themselves, wash clothes in boiling water and stay separated from one another, among other things. The book, set at the turn of the century, includes not only the Spanish Flu but the fallout of the Dakota War of 1862 and the First World War.
Dann, a retired teacher and principal in his 70s, said the thought of writing a novel had been percolating in his brain for several years, and he finally got started on it four years ago.
Life, he said, got too busy for him to ever find enough time for the project, which included a great deal of historic research to get things as accurate as possible.
His goal was to write a story about the Prairies — one that shared how rural life was back in the day.
“I want to show how hard it was to establish what we take for granted now,” he said.
“The foundation of our economy in Manitoba was the small farm, and the way those people managed to get things going and all the things they had to overcome are our current-day foundation.”
At the same time, he said he recognized he needed more than historic fact to get things rolling. He needed drama, love, sex and violence to grip the reader.
In time, he learned to love the intertwining characters he wrote about, which he said helped spur him to complete the project.
That, and the pandemic freeing up time during the past year.
“As a writer, there are always reasons to turn away from the page. You have to discipline yourself whenever there’s any difficulty,” Dann said.
“Ordinary things that are important, too, are an easy out, but when you’re stuck at home in the pandemic, there weren’t too many things to turn away to.”
One of the challenges in the book, he said as a self-described old white guy, was in writing an Indigenous character.
He enlisted the help of an Indigenous writer to ensure he wasn’t stereotyping or misrepresenting things, which he said resulted in numerous changes between drafts.
Although still worried about how accurately the character was written, he said it’ll be curious to see how it’s received.
The self-published book is now available online at amazon.ca.
Dann has already started thinking about his followup novel, which he plans on setting in the believable future, with faint links to the characters described in “Land Title: A Novel of the Prairies.”
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB