musings from Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington ... home of The Write Spot
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Is it a bird?
What would you say if I asked you to name your favourite flower? I'm guessing many people would choose roses or daffodils, perhaps peonies or iris. My own choice, without a moment's hesitation, would be lily-of-the-valley. A good friend once surprised me by picking bird-of-paradise as their best-loved bloom. At the time, I wasn't sure I'd even heard of such a fabulous plant, let alone seen one. But that was before I moved to my west Toronto condo, a short trek away from Centennial Park and one of the city's loveliest conservatories. I walk there often. Last week, rounding a corner in the lush tropical house, I came face to face with this spectacular specimen.
Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia), also known as Crane Flower (you can see why!), is native to South Africa.Isn't it glorious? Almost as fierce and flamboyant as the friend who loves it!
I'm absolutely thrilled to have New York
Times and USA Today bestselling
author Susan Elia MacNeal as my guest for this special edition of The Write
Spot. She's sharing a few of her favourite writing spots and introducing The
Queen's Accomplice, the new book in her Maggie Hope mystery series,
released October 4th.
Thanks to Penguin Random House and NetGalley, I had the opportunity
to read an advance copy of The Queen's
Accomplice and savoured every minute of it. As with all the Maggie Hope
books, The Queen's Accomplice is
first and foremost a terrific story – thought provoking, involving, meticulously
researched, and elegantly told. (Read my five-star review, here.) I'm already
feeling impatient for the next instalment and, with the news that Daisy Ridley
(Star Wars: The Force Awakens) has
bought the rights to the entire Maggie Hope series, I'm hoping we'll soon see
Maggie on the big screen, too. How exciting!
A bit about the author: Susan Elia MacNeal lives in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn with her husband and young
son. When asked about her background, she says, "I grew up in Buffalo, New
York (Blizzards! Chicken wings! Sabres!) and went to Nardin Academy, which is
an all-girls Catholic school. I then went to Wellesley College, where I majored
in English, and cross-registered for classes at MIT. Did the Radcliff
Publishing Course at Harvard (a six-week summer book and magazine intensive),
and was able to get a coveted paid internship at Random House. From there, I
worked my way up the editorial ladder at Viking/Penguin and McGraw-Hill, until
I landed my dream publishing job, as an associate editor and staff writer at Dance Magazine. It's been a wonderful "full
circle" for me that the Maggie Hope series is being published by Random
House, where I first interned."
Susan. Tell us what makes 'The Write Spot' for you.
I live in New York City and so, once my son was born eleven years
ago, I didn’t have an office/spare bedroom anymore. So, typically, I’m at home
and writing at my desk in the dining room – or, more likely, slouched on a sofa
or even in bed (hey, at least there’s a door for the bedroom, which is key to
privacy and quiet!). I've tried several different New York City writing spaces
(The Writers Room, Paragraph) and while they’ve been lovely, there's nothing
that beats writing at home in your pjs. So I continue to couch write, usually
with five-year-old tabby cat, Lola, nearby. Other options are the library,
various local cafes (I'm partial to one called Cocoa Bar), and the apartments
of friends who are out-of-town. And I've written on trains, planes, and
Here's my desk– the pale pink juxtaposes nicely with the chart I made of The Queen's Accomplice's Blackout Beast's murder victims and Jack the Ripper's victims, right? The postcard is of the puppet show Punch and Judy, an image I used throughout the novel.
Here a stack of books on my desk – research for the sixth book in the series. I really use my desk more for stashing things than writing.
Lola on the couch with me, as I try to edit. "Why don't you pet me, instead? Look, I'll make it easy by sitting on your manuscript!"
Lola again. Everyone's a book critic.
This is the ceiling of the gorgeous public library where I work sometimes.
Here's the view of Manhattan from a friend's penthouse balcony. We take care of their cats and rabbits while they're at their country house, so sometimes I'll work up there.
Working on a train. Love the train. I work on trains, planes, and automobiles.Trains are the best, though.
So many inspiring writing spots! I love that Manhattan view. Other
than your computer or laptop, what's the one thing you couldn't be without in
your Write Spot?
Coffee. A nice mug of coffee. Or at least water. That's really about
it! I'm pretty low-maintenance.
are you working on now?
I'm writing the sixth book in the Maggie Hope series, The Paris Spy (August 2017).
Can't wait! Where can readers find out more
about you and your books?
I also blog with six other mystery writers on Jungle Red Writers, which has been described as "The View, with
bodies." It's a great place for mystery and thriller fans.
Thanks so much for visiting The
Write Spot, Susan, it's been a real pleasure!
Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal is available now from your favourite bookseller.
code-breaker extraordinaire Maggie Hope returns to war-weary London, where she
is thrust into the dangerous hunt for a monster, as theNew York Timesbestselling mystery series for fans of
Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Anne Perry continues. England, 1942. The Nazis' relentless Blitz may
have paused, but London's nightly blackouts continue. Now, under the cover of
darkness, a madman is brutally killing and mutilating young women in eerie and
exact re-creations of Jack the Ripper's crimes. What's more, he's targeting
women who are reporting for duty to be Winston Churchill's spies and saboteurs
abroad. The officers at MI-5 quickly realize they need the help of special
agent Maggie Hope to find the killer dubbed "the Blackout Beast." A
trap is set. But once the murderer has his sights on Maggie, not even Buckingham
Palace can protect the resourceful spy from her fate. Buy the book from your independent bookseller or from...
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About The Write Spot:
been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. Whether it's backstage
photos from my favourite play, a peek into the kitchen where a chef is working
her culinary magic, or simply a glimpse through an uncurtained window into a
stranger's private world, there's an undeniable thrill of discovery, a sense of
secrets shared. It's no surprise, then, that I'm immensely curious about where
other writers do their work. I first
blogged about it in this post about my own 'write spot' and so enjoyed the comments, I was inspired to launch a
regular feature here at stillpoint. Join me as I discover the many and varied
places where writers write.
stillpoint is the blog of Canadian author
Cheryl Cooke Harrington.
The Write Spot is back and for this 26th
edition we're celebrating the release of author Elle Wild's debut novel, Strange Things Done, winner of the 2015 Arthur
Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel.
I was intrigued by the premise of a murder in Dawson
City – a town about to be cut off from the rest of the world – and jumped at the
chance to read an advance copy. I absolutely loved it. Here's my review.
Elle says she grew up in a dark, rambling
farmhouse in the wilds of Canada where there was nothing to do but read Edgar
Allan Poe and watch PBS mysteries. She's an award-winning short filmmaker and
the former writer/host of the radio program Wide
Awake on CBC Radio One. Her short fiction has been published in Ellery Queen Magazine and her articles
have appeared in The Toronto Star, Georgia Straight, and Westender. Elle makes her home on an
island in the Salish Sea named after the bones of dead whales. Welcome, Elle! Please tell us about yourself and your
I recently returned to Canada after four lovely
years in England and three in California. I've settled on a small island off
the rugged coast of British Columbia with my husband and son. Bowen Island is a
wonderful place for artists of all sorts, and indeed there are almost as many
of this species as there are deer, seals, and giant slugs.
My personal "write spot" is a little
office off of the kitchen with a banana-yellow desk and a leafy view of the
forest out back, where my son's tree house is perched (next to the "owlery").
I enjoy being able to look up from my work and watch the wildlife, including my
son and his small friends. This island is also a great place for long walks.
Currently I'm working on a few different
things. I'm chipping away at a new novel, called The Secret Bones, which is set in Victorian London and Dorset. It's
based on a Mary Anning type of character who makes an astonishing but dangerous
archaeological discovery, putting not only her own life at risk, but also those
she cares about.
Readers who might be curious about my work can follow
character, Jo Silver, runs a small newspaper in Dawson City, which you can
follow on Twitter at: @TheDawsonDaily
visiting, Elle. Loved the book and, I have to confess, I'm a wee bit (okay, maybe a lot) envious of your beautiful
island home. ;-)
Strange Things Done by Elle
Wild is a dark and suspenseful noir thriller, set in the Yukon.
winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived
journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and
quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it
seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible
murder and Jo is the prime suspect.
Strange Things Done is a
top-notch thriller – a tense and stylish crime novel that explores the double
themes of trust and betrayal.
Subscribe to stillpoint
– You'll receive email notification when a new blog is posted, no more than
once a week and absolutely no spam, I promise!
About The Write
always been fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes. Whether it's
backstage photos from my favourite play, a peek into the kitchen where a chef
is working her culinary magic, or simply a glimpse through an uncurtained
window into a stranger's private world, there's an undeniable thrill of
discovery, a sense of secrets shared. It's no surprise, then, that I'm
immensely curious about where other writers do their work. I first blogged about it in this post about my own 'write spot' and so enjoyed the
comments, I was inspired to launch a regular feature here at stillpoint. Join
me as I discover the many and varied places where writers write.
stillpoint is the
blog of Canadian author Cheryl Cooke Harrington.
"I think that I shall never see
a poem lovely as a tree."*
Yes, it's true. I'm a tree hugger. I've always felt a deep affinity for
anything with branches. But there's a special place in my heart reserved for
one particular spruce – the heroic tree that saved my family's home.
It was a sticky-hot
afternoon in the summer of 1985. My three young sons and I were picking peas in
our farm garden when a fierce and unexpected storm blew in across the fields. We
ran for the house with rain pelting our backs. Wind ripped the door from my
hands as we struggled to get inside, and then slammed the door behind us with an angry gust. We
stood gasping and dripping in the middle of the room as the storm raged around us, rattling
windows and battering the shingles until our little house trembled like leaves on an aspen. When the first flash of lightning split the suddenly
dark sky, the answering boom of thunder seemed ominously close.
were frightened and so was I – I've never liked thunderstorms and this one was
a doozie. But I pasted on what I hoped was a brave face, gathered them close,
and told them not to worry, we would keep each other safe. I had barely formed
the words when a flash of dazzling blue light and a massive BANG-crack assaulted our senses. The air around
us seemed to sizzle, our ears popped, and the hairs on our arms prickled to
attention. In one surreal moment, the plastic thermostat casing flew off the
wall and struck my eldest son in the forehead. A trickle of blood leaked from his
wound as we stood there, trembling and holding each other tight. A final gust
of wind rattled the windows and the storm roared away as quickly as it had
quick head check and a Band-Aid for number one son, the four of us ventured
outside. Instead of the usual after-storm freshness, the sharp tang of burnt wood
filled the air. Lightning had found the highest point on the farm: one of three
mature spruce trees in the yard. That poor tree was split from top to bottom. Wisps
of smoke rose from the jagged scar and charred wood chips littered the lawn.
Electricity had run to ground through the tree's roots, jumped to the plumbing that crossed
the yard from well to house, burned out the water pump in the basement, and then
surged through the electrical system to launch the freaky flying thermostat.
We'd had a
close call. I'll always be grateful to that majestic spruce for taking the hit,
because the second highest point on the farm – mere feet away from the tree –
was the chimney on the roof of our beautiful little house.
Harrington House in Box Grove, Ontario circa 1990 Painting by Jorge Nascimento
have a photo of my heroic spruce to share but I hope you'll enjoy this slideshow
of other trees I've loved. Click on the player to start/advance the show.