Cluculz Lake writer Joylene Butler stopped by at the Vanderhoof library on Thursday night to read from her successful novels Dead Witness and her most recent publication – Broken But Not Dead.
Published at the end of June by Theytus Books in Penticton, Broken But Not Dead has been in the works since 1999 …
“At that time I was menopausal and I was drawing a blank,” said Butler.
“I had just written three other books that weren’t published and I was kind of cranky and I thought – heck! What ever happened to good books about women my age? So I thought well maybe I should write one.”
And from there the novel was born. Broken But Not Dead is a psychological thriller about a metis woman Brendell Meshango who, at the beginning of the novel, resigns from her position as a English professor with the University of Northern British Columbia.
She goes back to her cabin at Cluculz Lake where she is the victim of a seemingly random home invasion. She struggles with the trauma of the incident until her attacker threatens her daughter Zoe as which point Meshango becomes empowered and uses all her resources to try and find her assailant.
“The premise of the story is – can a good person be forced to do something bad?” said Butler.
Her first book, suspenseful thriller – Dead Witness, was published in 2008 by Butler herself and has since been picked up for distribution across Canada by Sandhill Books. The central character Valerie McCormick is a wife and mother from Prince George and while visiting Seattle, she becomes the only witness to the brutal murder of two undercover FBI agents. When she runs to the police to report it she is kidnapped by the FBI and placed under the witness protection program to try and keep her alive – but she soon learns that she is still not safe …
The idea for the first novel came after a visit from Butlers brother who works as a private investigator…
“He was talking to his employers on the phone one day and I looked at him and I thought – if anything ever happened to me, I wonder if he would have the resources to find out if I was dead or alive,” said Butler.
Butler was born in Manitoba, grew up in Maple Ridge and raised five boys in Prince George. She and her husband built a home overlooking Cluculz Lake in 1992.
Her career in writing began in 1984 after the death of her father.
“I went to university and I took a major in english because I was going to teach creative writing – I thought I could never be a creative writer – I didn’t think I had it – and then my dad died when I was 30 and I had a hard time coping with that so I decided to write a story,” said Butler.
That first book took her seven years to write and Butler describes it as “a coming of age story.”
In 1991 she sent it off to a publishing house to see the reaction she got.
“I got a beautiful handwritten letter from the publisher saying we can’t accept this but please do not quit writing … and then I immediately started Dead Witness,” said Butler.
As well as reading from her two novels, Butler also talked about her latest project – Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries which is a sequel to Broken But Not Dead.
“It’s about the one of the mothers in Broken But Not Dead – her character wouldn’t leave me alone. Mrs. Warner is 62 – who knew she would turn out to be such a fascinating character,” said Butler.
Both of Butlers published novels Broken But Not Dead and Dead Witness are available to buy in town at the department store and at Brookside on Highway 16 east.