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What’s So Fishy?

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Author, Hilary MacLeod

Article by: Ashliegh Gehl

At the tail end of summer local author Hilary MacLeod returns to her winter cottage in Prince Edward County. It’s hunting season when MacLeod arrives. At dawn, gunshots echo across the lake. Picture perfect sunsets the shade of grenadine light the sky.

In preparation for the mercurial temperaments of winter MacLeod refills the woodpile, tends to a garden gone wild, and assesses the landscape. It is here, in a quaint Muscote Bay abode nestled in a thicket on top of Wicker Hill, that MacLeod will write the next ‘village noir’ in her mystery series.

“I really like to hunker down and write,” said MacLeod. “It just feels so motivating.”

For the last 23 years MacLeod has divided her time between the County and her summer homes on Prince Edward Island. This annual migration was put into play shortly after she started teaching Media Studies at Loyalist College in Belleville.

In 2007, during a sabbatical year on the island, MacLeod wrote Revenge of The Lobster Lover, the first in the series.

“I did, symbolically, take my first manuscript and post it at the post office where Lucy Maud Montgomery worked,” she said.

Revenge of the Lobster Lover was picked up by Acorn Press and published in 2010. The following year it was awarded a CBC Bookie for Best Mystery. Since then MacLeod has published Mind over Mussels, All Is Clam and her latest release, Something Fishy.

Montgomery’s inspiration for Anne of Green Gables came from the people, the ocean, and the island. MacLeod draws from the same veins of inspiration, narrowing in on the community of Sea View.

“From the place, from the location – it’s beautiful,” she said. “It is the ocean, which is an inspiration for me. It’s my place.”

With her shoes hanging by the hooks of her fingers MacLeod takes a daily stroll on the beach, sidestepping marooned jellyfish.

“If I want to generate my 1,000 words a day, all I have to do is go for a walk and fix on an idea,” she said.

She’ll occasionally stop to inspect unique rocks, seashells, and colourful bits of foam buoys broken at sea. Treasures from the ocean that decorate her home and the crevices of her car.

The details of the people in her books come from the hardworking, humourous islanders she’s come to know.

“They are my people,” she said. “They’re Scots and Irish and Welsh. But heavily Scots. They’re small, short people. I can look them in the eye.”

MacLeod was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1949.  She grew up in England, Quebec, and Mexico. She’s a graduate of Montreal’s Trafalgar School For Girls and studied English and language at McGill University.  In 1980s, when MacLeod was working for CHUM Ltd., she became the first female morning news announcer and news director in Montreal. She worked as a writer broadcaster for the CBC in New Brunswick and in P.E.I. Over the course of her career she’s interviewed esteemed Canadians such as Margaret Atwood, W.O. Mitchell, Timothy Findley, and Pierre Berton.

This winter MacLeod is cozied in her cottage in Prince Edward County, with mouse-hunting cats Gus and Sophie. With the woodstove crackling and the occasional snowstorm brewing outside, she’s at work on Bodies and Sole, the fifth Shores mystery.

To learn more about MacLeod, visit her website at www.hilarymacleod.ca.

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