(… or, rather, 26 of them)
You may remember, waaaaay back in October of 2020, I announced that I’d begun the first draft of my second novel. While it didn’t yet have a title, the general concept was already well established and I had a good idea of where it would go narratively, certainly much better than when I began The Perpetual Now, who’s story revealed itself much more gradually. The difference in the turn-around time was dramatic: rather than labouring on and off for six years, I churned out that first draft in less than 11 months. I guess I must have learned a few things.
Since then, the new work has been reviewed, edited, re-reviewed, re-edited, tweaked, untweaked, retweaked, adjusted, fine-tuned, then put away and left idling by the curb for a number of months, to be then dusted off anew and revived for more tweaking. Oh, and somewhere along the way it acquired a title: Day of Epiphany.
Now it’s ready to be unleashed upon the world and the real work of getting the book published begins. I’m extremely proud of this novel, and judging from early feedback, I think I’ve succeeded in creating something special: a detailed, intimate, and page-turning fictional account of an oft-overlooked Canadian tragedy, that is at once engrossing and, I must admit, uncompromising.
Day of Epiphany is not an easy book. In case you need a refresher on the book’s subject matter, here’s how I introduce it in the Foreword:
This novel is a fictional account set against the historical backdrop of Québec’s Grande Noirceur — Great Darkness — a period from 1936 to 1939, and from 1944 to 1959, characterized by the despotic reign of premier Maurice Duplessis and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church over all aspects of every day life.
Even before Duplessis, the Church held a stranglehold on all matters pertaining to health, education, and social services in Québec, which included hospitals and orphanages. These institutions were, more than anything, extremely profitable ventures that made millions of dollars for the religious orders who ran them. Then, in a manoeuvre designed to redirect federal subsidies earmarked for mental hospitals, Duplessis facilitated the deliberate misclassification of some 7,000 orphans as “mentally ill”. Many of these children were sent to psychiatric facilities or, alternatively, the orphanages themselves were converted into asylums.
These orphans, often the children of unwed mothers pressured by the Church into relinquishing custody, had no rights under the law. Medical orders were forged or fabricated, birth records were altered, identities erased, and children were subjected to experimental drugs, confinement, straight jackets, electroconvulsive shock therapy, lobotomies, and unspeakable levels of abuse.
These children would come to be known collectively as les Orphelins de Duplessis.
So not the lightest reading, but the story is imbued with a surprising amount of humour, it’s thoroughly researched, the characters are painstakingly crafted, and there’s even a mystery element to it that will keep the reader guessing, all in a book that is 30,000 words shorter than The Perpetual Now.
It’s a terribly exciting — and kind of scary — time as I wade back into the publication process, and over the next weeks and months it will be fun to have something new to write about and once again share in the adventure.