- by Cathy Hird

Urban fantasy is a genre on the rise, in part because people get into the story through places they know. But not everyone lives in a city. With my newest novel, Fractured: When Shadows Arise, I asked myself what would take place in a contemporary fantasy set here in Grey County.

People say "write what you know" so the story is based on a farm where bedrock rises in the pasture with forest beside it. Thick cathyhirdfence rows cross the landscape. Some of my favorite spots appear in the story: we visit Delphi Point twice.

What I did not realize when I set the story here was that the landscape would become more than a setting for the action. The land becomes an actor in the story.

For example, fractured limestone influences the shape of this story. The escarpment runs across the back of our land, and the bedrock that rises in the pasture is this kind of rock. Water drains from our fields under a pile of rock from which the music of flowing water echoes, then the stream disappears through cracks in the bedrock. The water joins a river in the valley a kilometer away.

In ordinary life, this makes me conscious of the way surface water can flow unfiltered into deep aquafers. In the story, these fractures in the fabric of the land invited me to ponder what might rise up through them from worlds deep in the earth. I turned to Celtic mythology to respond to the question the land asked, and imagine the hollow hills beneath where elves live, and deeper lands with living shadow creatures.

The minerals common to our area are calcium and magnesium, so that we can find the crystal dolomite here. But calcium and magnesium are also the minerals in our body that enable the transfer of messages between neurons. The geology of our land got me asking, "What if energy could move through the earth as it does through our bodies?"

As I grounded the novel here, I remembered this is traditional Ojibway territory. A young man with a mother from a local reserve and a father who is Metis stepped into the story.

As I wrote of places I walk and work, the structure of the landscape affected the progress of the story. I was reminded that land is not just a thing that is under our feet. Land is alive and shapes us as it shaped my novel.

The story begins with a grade twelve student stepping onto the rail trail outside Thornbury. But that spot becomes a liminal place, a threshold into a world that runs by different rules than what she learned in school. In this novel, we are invited to enter our landscape and imagine where we might end up.





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