Whale veins and mystery solvers: Two francophone authors at St. Thomas University

Life is full of strange coincidences. You can be in Halifax, meet an Australian, hitchhike across Canada and recognize the same Australian on a street in Vancouver. You can go for a walk and suddenly envision a character talking to her dead mother on a tower.

Coincidences like these inspired two Francophone authors to write their first novels. St. Thomas University student Arianne Gagnon-Roy and Nicolas Dickner from Quebec were highlights on campus during La Semaine de la fierté française, the week when Francophone New Brunswickers celebrate their language and culture with different events and activities.

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Arianne Gagnon-Roy wrote her entire trilogy by hand with her special, “magic” pen.

“I really like this one brand, because it glides on the paper. When I type on the computer, I have the tendency to write slowly, and I find that my ideas can’t follow,” the 21-year-old said.

The second-year French honours student presented her novels at a recent book launch hosted by the Centre Communautaire Sainte-Anne.

The idea for the first volume of her trilogy Les mystères de Blandy-les-tours came when she was walking on the street and saw in her mind her main character on top of a tower talking to the ghost of her mother.

Within three months, she filled 150 pages with the adventures of a strong headed Sara who helps ghosts to find their murderer so that they can rest in peace.

However when it comes to ghosts, Gagnon-Roy said she isn’t as courageous as her protagonist.

“For example, when Sara sees someone, a ghost, in her bathtub who is totally under water, she approaches him. Then suddenly this person, the ghost, opens his eyes. But Sara doesn’t run away,” she said.

“I wouldn’t approach the bathtub. I would have gone in the opposite direction!”

With the trilogy finished, Gagnon-Roy is already in Chapter 12 of her next novel. Her biggest goal is to become well known so the computer program Word doesn’t underline her name as ‘misspelled’ anymore.

“[…] Every time I type my name, it says it’s misspelled,” said Gagnon-Roy.

“So I would like to write my name one time without getting it marked as wrong. ”

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In Chapter 44 of Moby Dick, Captain Ahab studies the “veins,” the ever same travelling routes of whales, to find out where he can find Moby Dick, the whale he wants to kill since it bit off his leg.

This chapter influenced award-winning author Nicolas Dickner when he wrote his first novel Nikolski.

The Quebecker visited places like Spain, Guatemala, Germany and the Dominic Republic. While backpacking, he noticed a certain phenomena. It seemed as if people would travel on lines through life. They’d live through the same experiences and they would meet the same sort of people on their way.

“We don’t meet people who are just beside us, like our next neighbour,” he said.

“But far, far away on the other end of the world we meet people who are close to us, because we travel on the same veins.”

This sort of same destiny happens to the main characters in his novel where the protagonists have more in common than they think. Although they never meet in person within the story, the reader knows that the three are related and go a similar way.

When Dickner told a friend about his theory, his friend asked, “how can you explain this?” Dickner answered, “well, I can’t prove it, but one day I’m going to write a book that won’t prove this theory but that will make it sound believable.” And so he did.

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St. Thomas University French professor Cécilia Francis said hosting two Francophone writers was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the richness of Francophone culture.

“Students were exposed to two unique voices and styles. Gagnon-Roy, a young Acadian author, weaves chatelaine tales that appeal to a young adult readership, whereas Dickner, an award winning Québécois writer, experiments with postmodern narrative as he explores chance determinisms binding members of a scattered community,” she said.

“Such talented writers are a true inspiration to our students.”