Angie Abdou answers questions at the Fernie Heritage Library after talking with Gordon Sombrowski about her new book, In Case I Go, on Thursday September 14. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Local author reaches beyond comfort zone

In Case I Go , by Angie Abdou, takes a trip into the past

On Thursday, September 14, Angie Abdou sat down with Gordon Sombrowski to discuss the release of her new book, In Case I Go.

To say that the creation of this book was a long and difficult process, would be an understatement.

This newest addition to Abdou’s collection of work is far different than anything she has ever produced. In her eyes, her other work is satirical in comparison to the solemn mood In Case I Go possesses.

What started as an outline for a ghost story eventually took on a more serious, historical theme when Abdou decided to incorporate the genocide of Aboriginal people into her book.

Abdou was drawn to write a horror novel, based in Fernie. Over time, human remains have been found in certain areas of Ridgemont due to the number of burials that took place there in the past.

As she wrote it, Abdou realized the novel just wasn’t coming to life. She started to question herself; ‘maybe I’m done’.

She was faced with a wall of darkness – not knowing where her novel would go if she continued. As a writer and a creative person, she has learned to trust the darkness, and persevere.

“It became a novel about the ways we are haunted,” said Abdou.

Rather than focusing her book on the haunting of the town by human remains, Abdou decided to take on a more complex theme – the haunting of society by indigenous genocide.

Abdou has a ten-year-old boy. She believes he is haunted by what her generation did to First Nations people in residential schools. She believes it is up to him to change this, and rectify this in the future.

“It is our history that suffocates us,” reads an excerpt from her book.

The main character of the book, Eli, is haunted by his grandfather, a person who lived in the time when residential schools were still a reality. Eli is an innocent character, but when possessed by his great-great-grandfather, the book switches to a more mature theme.

Mary, an indigenous character in the book, was originally written in as a ghost. However with consultation from coworkers, she realized that she had to make the Aboriginal character as real and as present as the main character, otherwise this could reflect poorly on the idea that true indigenous culture is a thing of the past.

“You have to make her as real, as solid and as grounded in this world as Eli is,” said Abdou.

This final idea for the novel did not surface on the first draft. When she first came across the idea of focusing the book on the history of Aboriginal peoples in the area, she refused the concept. Abdou did not want to write a historical novel.

However, the more she pondered, the more this idea resonated with her, she felt it was the right thing to do. With this, she knew there would be much preparation and precautionary steps she would have to take in order to remain correct and not upset anyone.

She decided to consult the Ktunaxa Nation, and ask if they would be okay with her writing a novel on Aboriginal presence in the Elk Valley, with a satirical tone.

This material raised questions such as can, and should a non-Aboriginal person write a novel about Aboriginal history? Abdou wondered this herself, and asked established Indigenous writer, Rosanna Deerchild who said, “No, we need to make the circle bigger.”

Through many conversations with the Ktunaxa Nation, Abdou corrected factual mistakes and formed a work of art that was correct, but not yet complete. She knew it needed something more.

Abdou was told by the Ktunaxa Nation elders that if she was to talk about the Ktunaxa Nation in any way, she would have to include a history of the residential schools. This conflicted with Abdou’s intention of not creating a historical novel. However, she obliged.

This was difficult for Abdou, who doesn’t consider herself good at group-work.

Speaking of this experience afterwards, Abdou admitted that she never felt censored by the elders, who read her book before publishing.

“It’s not like they spoke with one unified voice, they had different opinions about what I could and couldn’t do,” said Abdou.

In the end, Abdou was given the okay to use the Ktunaxa name in her novel.

“It was a really different process for writing a novel, but I feel like it’s a better novel because of that, and I feel a lot more confident coming out with that approval.

Abdou’s end product is somewhat of a reconciliation novel, a historical novel, a love story and a horror novel. It also encompasses the theme of multi-generational trauma.

During a conversation with the elders, the topic of guilt came about. Abdou was told that she didn’t have to be sorry, she simply had to recognize that it happened.

“I’ve tried to be respectful and I hope the book reflects that,” she said.

The next BOOKED! authors coming to the Fernie Library is Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier on October 6. This is a reading not to be missed.

Following this is Adam Lewis Schroeder on November 23, and Joseph Boyden will be coming in March.

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