News and Interviews

Exploring Elinor Florence's Picturesque Invermere Writing Paradise

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Journalist and novelist Elinor Florence's Bird's Eye View earned rave reviews, so readers will be happy to hear she's back now with Wildwood (Dundurn Press). The novel opens with a Monkey's Paw-esque inheritance - all of Molly Bannister's problems will be solved (and her daughter's medical bills paid) if she can meet the terms of her great-aunt's will and spend one year in a remote farmhouse in norther Alberta. 

Unprepared but determined, Molly teaches herself to survive in the brutal north, protecting her daughter all the while. From snowstorms to bears, she is challenged over and over until it seems like the north itself is conspiring to keep her inheritance from her. It's a tense, visceral page-turner grounded in an unforgettable character whose love may prove even fiercer than the frozen north. 

Florence herself is no stranger to cold winters and farm life, having grown up northwest of Saskatoon. We're excited to welcome her here today to share her unique writing space in Invermere, BC. It's a picturesque setting, and Elinor has been kind enough to share photos so we can all get a peek into her office, where Wildwood was written. Read on to hear from Elinor about her move to Invermere, the value of deep silence and solitude, and pantsing vs. plotting. 

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At the Desk with Elinor Florence

I grew up on a farm outside North Battleford, Saskatchewan. After leaving home I earned my journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa and worked as a newspaper and magazine editor in all four Western provinces.

Weary of city life, twenty years ago my husband and I moved to the village of Invermere, British Columbia. Located in the heart of the Rockies, this tiny resort community has a population of 3,000.

1. Elinor Florence -- at desk, with contract from Dundurn Press for new novel

Although my dear little village isn’t large enough for writing groups or classes (we don’t even have a bookstore), returning to my rural roots was the right thing for us, and for our children.

We built our new house in the midst of four acres on the edge of our village, bordering on the wilderness, with views of lovely Lake Windermere. Here I have the solitude I need in order to write.

2. Elinor's Florence, my screen saver is a photograph of the area around Peace River, Alberta

I’m incredulous when I hear about other writers who work on their laptops in coffee shops, airports, and taxis. My creativity flows from the deepest silence, available here in my peaceful home office, surrounded by the alpine forest.

A tidy desk is a tidy mind. For me, piles of papers, books and other paraphernalia are the kiss of death to organized thinking. Before I begin my writing day at 9 a.m., I straighten up my desk and even clean my computer screen. I usually write until mid-afternoon, with a break for lunch.

3. Elinor Florence -- my office on a wintry day is still bright

(My office isn’t always immaculate, however. I have two little granddaughters who live within walking distance and visit me often. After they leave, my office looks like a bomb full of toys exploded.)

I keep my pens and pencils in a mug from The Western Producer (souvenir of my very first job, as a farm reporter in Saskatoon); and notepaper, envelopes and stamps in a filing tray. Since I continue to support my tiny post office by writing lots of thank you notes by hand, I collect pretty art cards on my travels.

5. Elinor Florence -- my coffee table serves as a sticky board for plotting my novel

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a plotter, not a pantster [editor's note: "pantser" refers to writers "flying by the seat of their pants"; in other words, following the narrative where it takes them, rather than outlining before working on a draft]. I like to think big picture, and see the big picture as well. That’s why I have the maximum 27-inch screen on my iMac computer.

Although I use the digital calendar on all my devices, including iPhone, iPad, and MacBook (like most journalists, I’m an Apple aficionado), I also have a large paper desktop calendar from Staples where I pencil in dozens of book signing events that I conduct every year.

8. Elnor Florence -- deer looking through my office window

To the right of my computer desk is a long, marble-topped coffee table. Although I use an electronic Excel document for plotting, I like the tactile experience of paper as well. When I’m working out a timeline, I arrange dozens of sticky notes in different colours all over that tabletop so I can see the entire arc of the story. To the left of my desk, within arm’s reach, is my bookshelf filled with historical reference books and writing guides.

My first novel Bird’s Eye View is about a farm girl from Saskatchewan who works for a newspaper until she joins the air force in World War Two and becomes an aerial photographic interpreter. I’m passionate about Canadian wartime history, so I drink Kicking Horse coffee, brewed right here in Invermere, out of a mug bearing an image of a Lancaster bomber.

6. Elinor Florence -- my office with bookshelves on the left

My new novel Wildwood is about a single mother from the city who inherits an abandoned off-the-grid farmhouse north of Peace River, Alberta. When researching this novel, I drove my truck through the colourful grain fields and boreal forest of northern Alberta. I took many photographs of this spectacular landscape, and my screensaver shows one of them.

I’m always inspired by the natural world. In summer, I admire the sapphire waters of Lake Windermere. The evergreen branches outside my windows are green and fragrant and fill the room with dappled light patterns. In winter, the surface of the lake is frozen and sparkling, and the trees are laden with snow and ice. Occasionally a wild deer wanders through the yard, and stops at my window to peek inside. For me, this is the ultimate writer’s paradise.

Elinor Florence, January 2018

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Elinor Florence is an author and journalist. Before publishing her bestselling novel, Bird’s Eye View, she edited several daily newspapers and wrote for many publications, including Reader’s Digest Canada. Elinor lives in Invermere, British Columbia.

Related reading

Wildwood

A single mother. An abandoned farmhouse. An epic battle with the northern wilderness.

Broke and desperate, Molly Bannister accepts the ironclad condition laid down in her great-aunt’s will: to receive her inheritance, Molly must spend one year in an abandoned, off-the-grid farmhouse in the remote backwoods of northern Alberta. If she does, she will be able to sell the farm and fund her four-year-old daughter’s badly needed medical treatment.

With grim determination, Molly teaches herself basic homesteading skills. But her greatest perils come from the brutal wilderness itself, from blizzards to grizzly bears. Will she and her child survive the savage winter? Will she outsmart the idealist young farmer who would thwart her plan to sell the farm? Not only their financial future, but their very lives are at stake. Only the journal written by Molly's courageous great-aunt, the land’s original homesteader, inspires her to struggle on.