'Write the place I stay': Lori Hahnel's new novel takes an surprising flip to time journey and the supernatural, however stays rooted in Calgary

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Up till now, there was nothing in Calgary writer Lori Hahnel’s physique of labor that might counsel she harboured a want to write down a time-travel novel.

Her 2020 short-story assortment, Vermin, supplied all kinds of durations and settings with tales about “loss, longing and music,” however all of them remained down-to-earth. Her debut novel, 2009’s Love Minus Zero was a fictionalized account of the writer’s days in Calgary’s Nineteen Eighties punk scene. There have been just a few hints of the supernatural in 2014’s After You’ve Gone, however it was principally a multi-generational story concerning the musical careers and lives of a grandmother and her punk-rock granddaughter.

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However Flicker doesn’t simply dabble in sci-fi and the supernatural, it dives proper in. It tells the story of a younger girl with psychic skills who someday finds herself whisked again to the yr 1900 after discovering a time-travelling machine on the vintage retailer the place she works.

In observe, this can be a new space for the author. However Hahnel says it didn’t come out of nowhere.

“Time journey is one thing I’ve needed to play with in a novel for a very long time,” she says. “Once I was a youngster, I learn numerous time-travel novels that actually caught me. I learn A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court docket by Mark Twain, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut. All of these put in my thoughts to someday write a time-travel novel. I additionally really feel time journey is a variation of the twin timeline construction that I all the time appear to work with. In my different novels, I’ve all the time had not less than one character trying again on their life. In Love Minus Zero and After You’ve Gone, I had two characters reflecting on their lives, a grandmother and a granddaughter. Right here I’ve bought one character travelling forwards and backwards in time. I suppose it’s only a variation of what I all the time like to make use of.”

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“So far as the supernatural goes, it’s a enjoyable factor for me.”

The introduction for Flicker definitely looks like it may have come from a Stephen King novel. At eight years outdated, Cass Reisender hits her head on the ice, an occasion intently adopted by a tragedy that renders her and her youthful brother orphans. It additionally results in Cass discovering she has psychic skills, one thing she sees as a curse slightly than a present. It will definitely results in a depressing life travelling with a fortune teller, Madame Freyja. She finally escapes that life and heads to Calgary, the place she works in an vintage store. That is the place she finds a tool that sends her again to 1900 and, extra particularly, to the West Orange, New Jersey, laboratory of Thomas Edison, the place she falls for the hunky Erik Thorvaldsen and is pressured to straddle two centuries and she or he goes forwards and backwards in time.

Calgary writer Lori Hahnel’s new e book Flicker. jpeg

So, sure, it’s a e book concerning the supernatural and time journey, however it’s additionally a romance that delves into social points and household dynamics.

“It’s a e book that has style components,” says Hahnel. “There’s time journey, there may be romance, there’s a little little bit of the supernatural however I don’t suppose any of these issues are dominant sufficient to make it a style novel. It’s a literary novel with style components.”

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Since a very good a part of the story takes place in 1900, it’s additionally a historic novel. To maintain it grounded, Hahnel launched historic figures, together with Edison himself and Lillian Russell, an American actress turned early feminist from the interval. Hahnel has employed this machine earlier than. In Vermin, she had tales that had real-life figures corresponding to Group of Seven predecessor Tom Thomson, filmmaker D.W. Griffith and jazz pianist Bix Beiderbecke. Hahnel has not too long ago completed a novel about Clara Schumann, a Nineteenth-century German pianist and composer.

A part of the enjoyable with Flicker is that we get to see this era via trendy eyes due to our time-travelling protagonist. In a single scene, Cass discusses how Edison’s laboratory pays girls considerably lower than males for doing the identical work with budding feminist Lillian Russell.

“I feel when persons are writing time journey, that’s a part of the attraction: You need to touch upon issues that occurred or historic occasions and doing it from a contemporary perspective,” Hahnel says. “So, yeah, that was a purposeful for certain.”

One other hallmark of Hahnel’s work is a Calgary setting. As with Love Minus Zero and sure tales in Vermin, readers of a sure classic will doubtless get a kick out of the Calgary references. Whereas Flicker has a personality who formally travels again in time, the novel additionally covers a number of completely different eras: the Nineteen Seventies, ’80s, ’90s and into 2014.

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There are enjoyable references to Calgary establishments. Cass and different characters go to Inglewood’s Dragon Pearl Restaurant, the King Eddy, The St. Louis Resort, Heritage Village and the Hose and Hound pub. Setting novels in her hometown appears pure, whatever the style.

“A part of it, after all, is that I stay right here and I’ve lived right here for a very long time and it’s the place I naturally take into consideration setting tales,” she says. “Once I began penning this, I thought of setting it some place else. A pal of mine stated ‘It doesn’t matter the place you set a e book, if it’s good writing, the story will simply carry it.’ Getting that recommendation, I believed, ‘You’re proper. Why shouldn’t I write about the place I stay?’ So it wasn’t even actually a choice, it was only a pure factor to write down concerning the place the place I stay.”

Lori Hahnel will probably be a part of a panel dialogue on publishing at Shelf Life Books on Nov. 15.

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