PORT ALICE—While her work may be titled Disappearing in Plain Sight, local author Francis Guenette seems to be doing anything but, as interest builds in her debut novel.
Guenette's latest promotional outing will be as host of a book club discussion at the Port Alice Library this week, but the author has already completed numerous events across the tri-port area since the book's launch in March of this year. And it seems to be paying off, the work garnering critical praise, four and five star reviews on Amazon.com and award nominations online — including reaching the semifinals in the literary fiction category for the Kindle Book Review’s 2013 Best Indie Book Awards.
The novel, which the author describes as "modern fiction with a splash of romance," follows a summer at the fictional Crater Lake, a tight-knit North Island community and the characters' personal dealings with themes like loss, bullying and emotional trauma.
Guenette draws on her experience as an educator, researcher and trauma counsellor to paint complex and truly realized characters who, as the back cover copy describes, "are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices — only shades of grey."
The author began working on the novel around four years ago while working on her PhD thesis. "it almost seemed like a distraction," she recalled.
As the characters developed however, the story took on a life of its own and the novel began to take shape: "The characters started to define the story."
After completing the first draft, the author began working with an editor to refine the story and decided to self-publish the novel with assistance from Victoria's Friesen Press.
As she embarked on the publishing process, the indefatigable Guenette also began blogging about the experiences of a first-time writer striving to see her work in print. With that mission complete, Guenette set out to find her readers. "The biggest surprise was the support from the local community," said the author. "That was just wonderful." Guenette had envisioned selling her book primarily through e-sales, but the novel quickly became a hit amongst locals.
"(Guenette's husband, Bruce Witzel) approached manager Bill Faeder Jr. of FP Foods in Port Alice to ask if he would carry Disappearing in Plain Sight," the author's blog explains. "Bill was open to the idea. He wanted to start off small, taking a few books at a time and seeing how it went. After the sixth invoice, he has decided to take a bigger order."
Disappearing in Plain Sight is also available locally from Cafe Guido and Rexall Drug in Port Hardy, MarketPlace IGA and Shoprite Marine in Port McNeill and from stores in Winter Harbour and Telegraph Cove. The e-book edition can be found at Amazon.com.
Work is already well underway for Guenette's follow-up, tentatively scheduled for release in early 2014. "I've certainly learned a lot (from writing the first novel)," she said. "I've been working closely with my editor and I've learned a lot on structuring. Hopefully there won't be as many rewrites this time!"
Titled The Light Never Lies, the novel will return the reader to Crater Lake as the characters face a new set of challenges.
Guenette explains on her blog: "The Light Never Lies picks up the threads of everyone’s life almost one year down the road. If the theme of Disappearing in Plain Sight was getting on with your life, the theme of The Light Never Lies is how that getting on can get messy."
The author's book discussion in the Port Alice library will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12.
For more information on the author visit her blog site at disappearinginplainsight.com.