Inspiration can come from anywhere.
John Carswell drew the inspiration for his new book, The Big One, from a dream.
The 67-year-old lifelong Comox Valley resident started writing the book in 2008, during his father’s final days.
“My father was dying of pancreatic cancer…, so in the times that dad was out of it, I just started writing,” said Carswell. “I had a repeated dream that he and I did one last adventure together, and decided to kayak around Vancouver Island. So that’s sort of the premise of the book. My father is in the book a lot, and along the trip they encounter all kinds of adventures.”
The latter part of the book explains the title. ‘The Big One’ means the same thing to most Vancouver Islanders - a reference to the next big earthquake to hit the Island. Experts have been saying for years that it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.
In the book, the main characters are viewing whales three kilometres off of Flores Island, when the predicted massive earthquake hits Vancouver Island.
“I’ve sort of always been, I guess morbidly interested in what would happen if the 1700 giant earthquake happened again on the West Coast here, so these guys survive it because they are way out there,” said Carswell. “Then they come back and… everything is wiped out. So that’s why it is called The Big One.”
Carswell said the story should have broad appeal on Vancouve Island. Much of the research done for the novel is based on lived experience.
“My target audience, I guess, would be anybody that has spent any time on the West Coast, or has kayaked around any of these places,” said Carswell. “In my life, I worked as a deck hand on a troller, and I have spent time, or kayaked, or boated to most of the places mentioned in this book.”
His due diligence has already been noticed by a fan.
“I had a phone call from someone who just finished reading an e-edition of the book. They were born and raised in Tofino, and they said, ‘Boy, you really captured what it’s like to be there. You obviously know this.’”
The cover art was done by former Comox Valley resident Dana Statham.
“One worry I had was that the cover might be better than what’s inside,” said Carswell. “But the review I got yesterday was, ‘Oh no. What’s inside is more than worthy.’ That made me feel better.”
The Big One is available at both the Laughing Oyster Book Shop in Courtenay, and Blue Heron Books in Comox.
And what’s up next for Carswell?
“Well, the way the story ends, there is a way a sequel can come out of it, so I have a sequel in my brain, barely started, but this would have to sell pretty well before I would pursue doing it,” he said. “I had an editor from Friesen Press do an evaluation of it from before we decided to go ahead with the whole process… and they compared the beginnings of it to Tuesdays With Morrie. They really encouraged me, ‘You need to publish this.’ So who knows?”
In other words, he’ll sleep on it.