The North Vancouver City Library Local Author Series is presenting a reading and QA with writers Jackie Bateman and Nancy Lee, Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. in the program room on the third floor of the library. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for snacks, wine and conversation. Free, but registration required, visit nvcl.ca/read-watch-listen/author-series.
When she was in her 20s, North Vancouver writer Jackie Bateman lived in somewhat of a questionable area of Edinburgh, Scotland.
It wasn't "dodgy," per se, rather best-described as a "more decrepit side of town," she recalls.
Bateman was once forced to call the authorities due to the frightening sounds being emitted from another unit in her apartment complex.
"I remember something kicking off downstairs, and there was a fight and there was banging and swearing," she says, adding it sounded as if someone was being bashed against a wall due to the degree of screaming.
After police had sorted the violent situation out, they came to check on her. She recalls one officer asking, "'What are you doing living here?'" to which she replied, "'This is my flat! What do you mean?'" Bateman was shocked to learn how "horrific" not only her neighbours were but her neighbourhood in general.
"(The officer) said, 'If you knew who else lived on this street, you wouldn't live here.' It really resonated with me, that yeah, you don't know who's on your street. I think that's kind of terrifying," she says.
The attending officer's comment made a lasting impression and her resulting realization is a concept Bateman is continuing to explore in her works of fiction.
The married mother of two (she has a son aged nine and a daughter aged six) grew up in Africa, mainly Kenya and Nigeria, before moving to London and Edinburgh, and then Vancouver in 2003. She has released two literary thrillers so far. The first novel, Nondescript Rambunctious, was published in 2011 and won a national First Book Competition in Canada. Its follow, Savour, was released in October 2014 and is the middle book in the three-part The Lizzy Trilogy.
Bateman's series follows suspected serial killer Oliver, a nemesis to his longtime interest, Lizzy. The narrative follows Oliver's pull for Lizzy and his ongoing battle between a need to protect her and a desire to take her soul.
"It's not a straightforward psychopath killer. I wanted it to be quite emotional and complex," she says.
Bateman will offer insight into her writing Wednesday evening, Jan. 28, as part of the North Vancouver City Library's Local Author Series, which is intended to showcase North Shore as well as Lower Mainland writers, and is a partnership between the library, the North Vancouver City Library Friends of the Library, and the North Shore Writers' Association. The other featured author at Wednesday's event is Nancy Lee, author of Dead Girls and last year's The Age.
Last week, Bateman received yet another feather in her cap, she was awarded second place in the Vancouver Writers Fest 2014 Poetry Short Story Writing Contest for "The Corners Fade," a work of short fiction. The story focuses on a woman injured in a snowboarding accident who wakes up to find she suffers from quadriplegia.
"That stemmed from a horrible nightmare that I had a few years ago," says Bateman.
She was awarded $350 and "The Corners Fade" was published on the festival's website, writersfest.bc.ca/writingcontest. First place in the short fiction category and a $500 prize went to Kelowna's Ashley Little for her work, "Scorpion Tattoo."
"It was a really nice boost," says Bateman.
"I spend all day on my own, either at home or in the (City of North Vancouver Library) study area, and it is very solitary. It's lovely to get validation once in a while that what you're doing is actually kind of working. You can write for weeks and months and you're on your own, you don't necessarily have a lot of feedback," she adds.
Bateman is pleased to see her longheld passion finally coming to fruition, having always been a writer at heart, she says, going back to age seven.
"I've got the classic kind of (first) pancake manuscript still in a drawer, my firstever book that never saw the light of day, that I spent a few years on," she says. "I call that my practice novel. I don't think I'll even go back to it."
She's continued to write short stories over the years in addition to working on her novel projects, and pursuing some copywriting work.
"I absolutely love it. For me it's not really a discipline it's something that I just have to do," she says of writing.
Bateman didn't set out to pen a trilogy for her first novel project.
"Some people plan a trilogy and they have it all mapped out. I am not that person," she says.
She wrote Nondescript Rambunctious over the course of four years and initially thought that would be the end of it.
"I left it fairly open-ended. I don't like the happily-everafter endings," she says.
Bateman was surprised by the response from readers, a number of whom expressed their hope for a sequel.
"One day I sat down and I was ready to start a second book and I thought, 'I'm going to write something completely different' and then started writing.. .. and it just all started coming out and then it became the sequel. Then I had an idea of how it would all end finally."
Bateman is in the final throes of writing the third and final book, Straight Circles, and anticipates its release in 2016.
What separates her novels from classic thrillers, is that the stories tend to be more character-driven rather than plot. She find that once she's decided on the characters then the story comes from there, the characters really lead it, she says.
The first book in her series focuses on Lizzy's coming of age as she turns 13. This proves to be a further challenging period as it's combined with the disappearance of her mother and ostracism by her father.
"That period in your life when you become a teenager, if there's something else happening, if you're rejected, or someone disappears or you're left alone, it's a great period of anxiety and darkness," says Bateman.
When crafting the action of her thrillers, she says not much research is required, she only has to stay abreast of daily newspaper and television news headlines.
"It will tell you everything you need to know. Just heinous things happen the world over every day and it's almost like we've become desensitized to them in a way. And what I find quite interesting is, well, they're just the things that we hear about. A lot of killers, they almost purposefully leave clues behind.. .. they want that notoriety. They're the ones that get discovered, whereas what's underneath the surface? Where are all the people that don't have that narcissism or that feeling of notoriety? All those people, we don't hear about them. .. and I find that fascinating and horrific."
Main character Oliver is one such person, operating under the radar, his actions going unnoticed - a compelling possibility she was first introduced to through that fateful experience back in Edinburgh.
While darkness is a common theme in Bateman's work, it's in stark contrast to her own personality, which is incredibly positive and upbeat. Readers are often surprised by her bubbly demeanor and conversely, those who know her are, at times, shocked by her subject matter.
"It works both ways. It's just the imagination and the mind isn't it? It's just what comes out of your mind when you start writing. Nothing really to do with your own personality or your own life," she says.
Bateman asserts she is writing absolute fiction and will continue on in that vein with her next project, a historical novel set in 1970s Kenya that is already underway.