Inspiration by fire for author

 Gail Anderson-Dargatz, a former Oceanside resident, is back in town to promote her latest book, Turtle Valley. -
Gail Anderson-Dargatz, a former Oceanside resident, is back in town to promote her latest book, Turtle Valley.
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Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s latest book was shaped by fire.

The author, a former Parksville/Qualicum Beach resident said Turtle Valley started when her parents became involved in the 1998 Salmon Arm forest fire.

“It was a huge fire,” Anderson-Dargatz said, adding it was the largest peace time evacuation in B.C.’s history.

Anderson-Dargatz said the fire, although destructive, was quite visually stunning. At times, she said there was fire raining from the sky.

“Everybody’s focus was on their possessions,” Anderson-Dargatz said. “Everybody was packing their stuff up.”

But what she noticed was the items people were concerned about were not worth the most financially. People were more concerned about their photographs and heirlooms, both items which triggered memories.

At some point during the fire, a fire ball swept through the Salmon Valley.

Anderson-Dargatz said no one expected that to happen.

“That’s the event I wrote about,” she said.

To write her book, Turtle Valley, Anderson-Dargatz interviewed many people.

She said her tactic is to interview people and turn the material into fiction.

“It becomes something much bigger and it becomes fiction,” Anderson-Dargatz.

She worked with her husband, a professional photographer, on the book. The couple is planning other collaborations as well.

The experience of seeing the familiar landscapes through her husband’s eyes changed things for Anderson-Dargatz.

She said she saw landscapes in different ways.

“It was an unexpected gift,” she said.

She has been travelling the country promoting her latest book. Two of her other books, The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees, were nominated for the Giller Prize. 

Turtle Valley is about Kat, a lonely woman whose marriage to a man whose brain has been damaged by stroke is exhausting. Kat returns to her family home in Turtle Valley to help her elderly parents prepare to evacuate because of approaching wildfire. She is forced to sort through her parents’ belongings and decide what to save and what to leave behind. She finds a clue in her grandmother’s carpet bag that could solve a family mystery. 

There is an author dinner evening Nov. 8 at Lefty’s in Parksville. Tickets are $18 and include a three course meal. Tickets are available at the Mulberry Bush book stores in Parksville and Qualicum Beach.

Dinner is at 6 p.m. and Anderson-Dargatz presents at 7:30 p.m. The author will also be signing books at the Mulberry Bush book store afterwards.


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