Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Ellie Beals and her thriller novel, Emergence.
It starts with Just Watching. But danger emerges when Just Watching ends.
When the “wild child” Xavier ¬ first encounters Cass Hardwood and her dogs in the woods of West Quebec, he is enthralled. Unknown to them, he Just Watches them in a lengthy ongoing surveillance, before ¬ finally staging a meeting. His motives are uncertain—even to him.
The intersection of the lives of Cass, a competitive dog handler; her dogs; her cousin Lori; and the complex and enigmatic Xavier leads them all into a spiral of danger. It starts when Just Watching ends—when Cass and her crew encounter tragedy in the bush. Xavier’s involvement in the tragedy, unknown to Cass, sets off a chain of potentially lethal events that begin in the dark woods of Lac Rouge, when hiking, skiing, hunting, trapping, marijuana grow-ops, and pedophilia collide. It matures in the suburbs of both Ottawa and Baltimore, and culminates back in Lac Rouge, when Lori’s spurned and abusive lover arrives uninvited at Cass’ isolated cabin in the woods. In the night. In the cold. In the heavily falling snow. His arrival is observed by Xavier, whose motives are again uncertain, but whose propensity for action is not.
Join Xavier, Lori, Cass, and the realistic and compelling dogs that are essential players in this dark drama as their fates converge in a deadly loop of revenge, fear, guilt, and hope.
A Sort of Well-Behaved Minor Character
In my books I usually have one minor character who insists on playing a larger role in the story. I’m always curious as to whether other authors experience this, so I asked Ellie Beals if she had such a character in her novel, Emergence? And if she didn’t, I wanted to know how she got the characters in her head to behave so well!
Here is her fascinating answer.
I have been a chronic over-planner and over-preparer all my life. I waited an obscenely long time to start work on a novel, because I so dreaded what I anticipated to be the long and grueling planning process required before I could actually WRITE. And then one day, I said: What if? What if I don’t do that? What if I just sit down and start writing?
And that’s what I did. My plan at the outset was this simple: I knew that:
the centre-piece of the book would be Xavier, one of my two protagonists. He is the adolescent “wildchild” who first surveils and eventually befriends my other protagonist, Cass Harwood – a middle-aged dog trainer and wilderness recreationist
dogs would be legitimate characters, helping to move the plot forward – but once again, they like Cass should never blur the focus on Xavier
there would be three dramatic and traumatic events and two Bad Guys associated with them, catalyzing the danger that eventually ensnares both of my protagonists.
Beyond that – everything was open to that strange magic that occurs during the act of writing. Knowing that it was really all about Xavier was my key to all of the other characters – I wanted to give them only enough oxygen to be realistic and believable, and to properly showcase the wildchild of Lac Rouge. It was this minimalist drive that resulted in the characters in my head “behaving so well”. I am a very disciplined human. I simply refused to listen when one of the other characters clamored for more attention.
And one of them most certainly did. Stefan is Xavier’s father. I needed to create context that would realistically explain how Xavier grew up in such profound isolation at Lac Rouge. So I made his father a declared anarchist with both intellectual and survivalist leanings. When I first conceived of him, I thought I would shape him to be at least mildly abusive. As the book took its own path, I abandoned that. There were already two bona-fide bad guys, and given that I wanted a realistic plot, I figured that was plenty. I also wanted there to be a reasonable explanation of Xavier’s many fine qualities. So Stefan became a more complex and nuanced character than I had originally envisaged. I endowed him with this background: a Franco-Ontarian distanced from his rural family by his love of learning, who moved to Quebec to work in the lumber camps. In Quebec he met Xavier’s french-speaking mother, who left him when Xavier was eight. Stefan also became partially disabled through a work accident. He home-schools Xavier, and does a remarkably good job of it, except when his recurrent backpain intrudes. That is the public face of Stefan.
But his presence injected a host of questions I had to decide whether or not to answer. For example: what really happened to Xavier’s mother? Why did she leave? Xavier mentions Stefan getting “mean” when he’s in pain, but he never describes that. How does this “meaness” manifest? And towards the end of Emergence, after Stefan tells Xavier that Cass has been questioned by the police, Xavier becomes quite concerned about an almost predatory alertness he sees in Stefan, that reminds him of the way Stefan is when they hunt. Xavvy is not sure about this — but there is a concern he expresses, without telling us why he is so concerned. What actions does he fear Stefan might take?
I wanted the reader to be subtly or even subliminally aware of these questions I planted about Stefan. One part of me played with expanding the book considerably, in order to explore them more fully. However, given my commitment to render Emergence primarily a story about Xavier – I resisted the temptation. But Stefan keeps nagging me. I have been urged to write a sequel, which I doubt that I’ll do. But again – one part of me plays with the idea of a parallel project that focuses on Stefan. I don’t think I will – life is short and I’d like to try other things. But Stefan does keep gnawing away at me. He is only superficially “well-behaved”. We shall see.
About the Author
Ellie Beals grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Canada when she was 20. She spent the majority of her professional career as a management consultant in Ottawa, Ontario. Plain language writing was one of her specialties.
Dogs have been a constant in Ellie’s life from the time she was a child. In the mid-1990s, she started to train and compete in Obedience with Golden Retrievers, with considerable success. In 2014, she had the highest-rated Canadian obedience dog (Fracas—upon whom Chuff is modelled), and her husband David Skinner had the second-rated dog. During a ten-year period, both Ellie and David were regularly ranked among Canada’s top ten Obedience competitors. They have an active obedience coaching practice in Ottawa, having retired from their previous professional careers in order to spend more time playing with their dogs and their students.
Like Cass and Noah Harwood, Ellie and David have a log cabin in the wilds of West Quebec, where Ellie is an avid wilderness recreationist, constantly accompanied by her dogs. As COVID-19 spread in March of 2020, she and David temporarily shut down their coaching practice and retreated to their cabin, where Emergence was written. Lac Rouge is not the real name of the lake on which they live. Everything else about the locale for Emergence is faithful to the character of the gentle Laurentian mountains of West Quebec.
Find the Author
FACEBOOK Ellie Beals – Author | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ThrillerEmergence
TWITTER Ellie Beals – Author (@BealsEllie) / Twitter https://twitter.com/BealsEllie
Buy the Book
INDIGO CHAPTERS https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/emergence/9780228843115-item.html
BARNES & NOBLE https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/emergence-ellie-beals/1138624466
BOOK DEPOSITORY https://www.bookdepository.com/Emergence-Ellie-Beals/9780228843092
APPLE BOOKS https://books.apple.com/us/book/emergence/id1549092590
Yes, there is a giveaway
The author will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.
My Favorite Excerpt
The dreams started as soon as they made that decision. Cass had been subject to sleep disturbances—nightmares, night terrors, and sleepwalking—throughout her childhood and early adult years. The older she got, the more infrequent they became. And when she met Noah, they just stopped. Secretly, Cass was embarrassed that it seemed that all she’d needed to get her psyche together was a good man. If that were true, it offended her feminist sensibilities. She never told anyone about these musings; this was another of those things too private to share.
[…] In the dream, she was kayaking at Lac Rouge through the twisting stream where herons had flown above her and Lori during the preceding summer. She heard the lovely sound of the paddles churning through the water. As she approached the only deep spot in the black water, the water briefly churned, and then out of the water rose a man’s bare hand and forearm—it was held aloft in a fist. No more water sounds. There was perfect stillness except for the steady drumbeat of a heart, at first slow and steady and then mounting in speed and volume until she was desperate to awaken herself, which she accomplished with a strangled scream.
Even as Noah shook her fully awake and soothed her, Cass was simultaneously shaken by the emotional impact of the dream, and acutely embarrassed by its lack of originality. Every fan of director John Boorman’s movie version of the James Dickie classic Deliverance would recognize that arm rising out of the water as a cinematic icon of guilt. And then, just to whip it up, her subconscious had fed in an imagined soundtrack from The Tell-Tale Heart.
Ellie Beals — we appreciate your sharing your book Emergence with us! Best of luck with sales, and with all of your future writing.