(Be honest… do you know what a chesterfield is?)
Up until Half Blind, all of my written works were set in the United States. I love New York as a locale for the fantastic. It’s one of those cities where – for all we know – crazy supernatural stuff is going on behind the scenes all the time and never comes up because the population is so huge and vibrant that it can easily camouflage something that would otherwise stand out like a drag queen in a convent.
But with Half Blind, I wanted to do something closer to home. I’m passionately Canadian, and I decided that it was about time to move my setting north. My main character, Ashley Brandon, is an agent of the Canadian Supernatural Investigation Team and works out of Vancouver. I didn’t think it would be a big deal. Vancouver is safe. It’s reputation for being the ‘North Hollywood’ has given most people at least a peripheral awareness of its existence (if not, and you’re a fan of Supernatural, then this is the place where you can come and stalk Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki while they’re filming). So yeah, Vancouver.
What I failed to take into consideration was that basing a book in Canada would suddenly be accompanied by a hundred small tidbits I accidentally slipped into the story because they made sense in context. Like mentioning Tim Horton’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m at heart a Starbucks kind of girl, but there’s something about an early morning that demands Tim’s. And I took for granted that anyone who read Half Blind would understand the driving need for a Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich and a double-double (coffee: two cream, two sugar) that leads to people getting in line behind twenty cars in the drive thru for their morning fix. (What you don’t see in the picture is that the line up wraps around the other side of the building as well as the twelve cars behind me). Now, I know there are Tim Horton’s in the USA, but I’m not sure how far the coffee worship really extends.
I suddenly had to become aware of the lingo I was using, which quickly came to be referred to as my ‘Random Canadianisms’ while we were editing Half Blind. A ticket butt? Changed to a stub. A chesterfield? Changed to a couch. A parkade? Changed to a parking garage. I thought I’d been good when I’d managed to stop my characters from dropping the occasional ‘eh’ (this particular tic, by the way, is not an exaggeration… I use it all the time; it’s practically punctuation), but there were a ton of small adjustments that had to be made just for readability and to make sure the message I was trying to convey got across without confusing anyone.
Don’t even get me started on the spelling. Somehow, setting the book in Vancouver seemed to give me free rein to insert the letter u into far too many places and swap my rs and es. So that was fun fixing. Thank goodness for CTRL+H.
That being said, at the end of the day it felt good to set a story in Canada. And really, there weren’t a whole lot of huge differences. The story wasn’t really impacted. The romance felt just as real and genuine as it would have had I based it anywhere else. Sure, I mentioned Gas Town instead of Brooklyn, but the characters and feel remained essentially the same. Besides a few small quirks, Canadians and Americans (and really, everyone else in the world) aren’t all that different. Sure, we might have a disconnect when I try to describe the visceral pleasure of pressing a twoonie into the palm of a Tim Horton’s worker in exchange for my morning caffeine fix, but we can all understand how passionate arguments between two people can result in an equally passionate romance, and I think we all hope for the eventual happily ever after.
What do you think? If you’re one of the lucky residents of the ten States that have a Tim’s, is it the sort of religious experience (most) Canadians enjoy, or it is just another coffee joint? Tell you what, give me your best stories. Canadianisms vs. Americanisms. Your most random encounter with someone on the other side of the border (both Canadian and American). I’ll even send one commenter a bag of Tim’s Fine Grind so you can make your own decisions (if you live in America) or sleep in a little bit more on a weekend if you’re Canadian – come on, it’s not like I’d ask you to give up your drive thru fix on a weekday.
Half Blind comes out October 16, 2012.
Christine Price lives with her family Edmonton, AB. Her fascination with the written word began at a young age with a one-page story titled “My Mother is a Werewolf” and took off from there. In her spare time, she enjoys unfortunate puns, good books, borderline decent wine and making contingency plans for a zombie apocalypse. (Believe it or not, this used to be an unusual pastime!)
Christine loves hearing from her readers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org via email or on the Web at www.christinepricewrites.com.
You can also follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CPriceIsWrite. Sometimes, she’s interesting!