Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Ghosts (and Writing), with Maria da Silva and Andrew Hind

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On Ghosts (and Writing), with Maria da Silva and Andrew Hind

It's a little known fact that when the cottagers go home for the season and the leaves fall from the trees, the cottage country ghosts start to haunt. The long-dead Judge William C. Mahaffy still wanders Bracebridge's Inn at the Falls as if it were his own, and a ghost wagon pulled by phantom horses with an undead driver at the reins is occasionally seen on an old logging road near Dollar’s Lake. Some even say that the ghost of Marilyn Monroe herself haunts Chalet 15 at Yesterday’s Resort on the French River.

Don't believe us? Pick up Maria da Silva and Andrew Hind's new book Cottage Country Ghosts to find out for yourself. Here, they tell Open Book about their writing process and why they are so fascinated by the ghost stories of the north.

Open Book:

Tell us about your latest book, Cottage Country Ghosts.

Andrew Hind:

It’s a collection of 18 true ghost stories from across Muskoka, Parry Sound District and the Near North. It’s amazing how many ghost stories there are in this region…we ended up with dozens and had to narrow the list down to a number that would fit comfortably within a book.

Maria da Silva:

Everybody's experiences are unique, each one interesting, which made it enjoyable to write and we think an enjoyable read. We also included a lot of history with each tale to provide context and truly bring them to life.

OB:

What was your first publication?

MDS:

After doing numerous newspaper and magazine articles together, we decided to take on the challenge of writing a book. Our first book to be published was Strange Events of Ontario (Altitude Publishing), but prior to that we had begun researching Ghost Towns of Muskoka (Dundurn Press), a process which took three years to complete, so our first book begun became our second to be published.

OB:

How long have you been interested in things like ghosts and ghost towns?

MDS:

I’ve been interested in ghosts for as long as I can remember, and Andrew has been interested in history since his childhood. Combining the two passions seemed like a natural thing to do and seems to make for good stories. It was my suggestion to write ghost stories in the first place because I knew there was a lot of interest in the paranormal, but it’s been more successful for us than even I could have imagined. Our ghost books are our best sellers. The one frustration is that people often think our ghost town books are about the paranormal, when in fact they’re historical books about old communities, an important and fascinating subject even without spirits to liven them up.

OB:

Tell us about your research process

AH:

The manner in which we research depends on the type of project we’re working on. Typically, it begins with us deciding the angle or approach we’re considering…that helps focus our research. We then begin contacting as many sources of information as possible, preferring first person accounts over secondary sources. Whenever possible, we visit the locations ourselves to gain a personal connection with the subject. What follows is a lot of time in archives and libraries. After gathering all the information, we sift through it and decide what’s required for the project. It's very time consuming because we aim for accuracy and because the topics we pursue are rather obscure. The end result, we believe, is worth the effort.

OB:

Which Canadian authors inspire you? Why?

AH:

Andrew: We find inspiration in a lot of different places and in works published by many authors. Honestly, we don’t pay much attention to an author’s nationality. Whether he or she is Canadian, American, European, or what have you…it doesn’t really register with us. But there are a lot of books that have inspired us at various stages in our career.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

MDS:

We don’t get to read as much as we’d like because we’re constantly researching our own projects. It’s a shame, but it’s true. We’re reading a lot of material on Muskoka’s historic resorts right now, for example, because we’re currently working on a book called Muskoka Resorts: Then and Now.

OB:

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

MDS:

Persistence is important. When you have a dream — and this relates to anything in life — no matter how many people might try to stomp on that dream, just go for it. A few doors might be closed in your face, but all you need is that one open one to start a career.

AH:

Don’t be discouraged, because there are a lot reasons a publisher may say no that has no relation to your ability. Keep writing…the more you write the better you’ll become… and be passionate about what you’re writing.

OB:

Do you have any upcoming projects in mind?

AH:

A lot, actually….we always have a couple of projects in various stages of development. As we said earlier, we’re currently working on Muskoka Resorts: Then and Now, to be published by Dundurn in 2011. We’re planning sequels for some of our earlier books, including Ghosts of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Ghost Towns of Muskoka, and we’re really interested in doing a book on mining ghost towns of northern Ontario.

MDS:

Not only are we writers but we do ghost tours and historical tours as well. For example, on the weekend of November 10th we’re hosting Spirits Come alive at Inn at the Falls in Bracebridge. This is a ghost themed weekend at one of Muskoka’s most haunted locales. (See www.innatthefalls.net for more information).


Andrew Hind and Maria Da Silva are freelance writers who live in Bradford, ON, but they have long vacationed in Muskoka. Both contribute regularly to regional publications such as The Muskokan, Muskoka Magazine, Muskoka Sun and Muskoka Sideroads, and have written many travel articles on Muskoka resorts for newspapers and magazines both in Canada and abroad.

For more information about Cottage Country Ghosts please visit the Lone Pine Publishing website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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