April 21st, 2024

Local author pens new novella


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 2, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Local author Rick Gillis has released his new published novella "The Last Swans" a story with connections to southern Alberta and the Crowsnest Pass.

A local award-winning author has launched his new published novella “The Last Swans” which follows three of his earlier novels and a volume of short stories.

Rick Gillis has published four novels and his latest effort is his fifth publication.

Gillis has an extensive background in writing having done years of journalism.

In an interview, Gillis shared the inspiration behind “The Last Swans” with the character Bushman Charlie being based off of a real man.

“The inspiration for this particular book came from my background growing up in the Crowsnest Pass. And as it turned out there used to be an old character up in the Crowsnest Pass called Bobwire Johnny. And he was a very real character,” said Gillis.

Gillis said his novella uses Southern Alberta as the setting like his previous published novels have.

“Like almost all my previous books, ‘The Last Swans’ has an unmistakable connection to southern Alberta, and more particularly to the Crowsnest Pass, where I grew up and spent a great deal of my adult life,” he said.

Gillis said ‘The Last Swans’ lends to a portrayal of a family conflict in which the flawed family members are desperate to rediscover some form of normalcy in a cauldron of deceit in the mistrust of tragedy.

In the midst of the family, hermit and patriarch “Bushman Charlie” reveals a secret he has kept from his family for years which creates conflict that rapidly disintegrates the family.

“Although the book is introduced through Bushman Charlie, he’s just kind of a launchpad for the story of a family and conflict and a family and in mistrust and how something that’s physical like gold for example… It just gets worse and worse. And the family dynamics just disintegrate and that’s really what the story is about.”

“If nothing else, I am an optimist,” says Gillis. “Through these layers of conflict are hints of humour and positivity. But the story is, above all else, instructional, dealing with the fragility of our familial relationships.”

‘The Last Swans’ is available for purchase at local stores such as Analog Books along with the Allied Arts Council Works store. It is also available at the Crowsnest Pass Public Art Gallery which is where Gillis said he encountered the store of Bobwire Johnny.

“What got me started on this book was a friend of mine and a fella by the name of Ted Sillito who’s noted in there, in my appreciation. He read a short story at one of our writers group meetings, and it talked about a hermit,” said Gillis.

Gillis added he asked Sillito’s permission to run with the story.

That kind of got me. So, I said to Ted, ‘Do you mind if I take that idea, the shell of the idea and just build on it?’ He said, ‘yeah,’ so I got his written permission to use it as the foundation for the story.”

Other novels Gillis has published includes ‘The Boy Who Couldn’t Die,’ ‘Buckskin Girl and Blackheart,’ ‘The Chair,’ and ‘The Astonishing Legend of Johnny P’tuu.’

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