Jim Creighton is interested in receiving feedback on his latest book, Mrs. Johnson and the Rabbit.
The former manager of Spirit Square drew on his experience living on a fly-in First Nations reserve in Northwestern Ontario, as well as a fascination with the Hudson Bay Company to write the historical fiction novel.
He discussed the tale at some length while sitting outside of a Campbell River coffee shop on a brisk fall morning.
Sporting a hand-knitted Cowichan hat upon his head, Creighton interrupted the interview to say hello to folks he knew, and start up conversations with small children passing by.
An interest in humanity pervades through much of what he says and does.
His last literary effort, eLKFallsbC, was a humorous collection of short stories based in a coastal town not dissimilar to Campbell River. It was nominated for a Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, and was quite well received locally.
Mrs. Johnson and the Rabbit was a little more difficult to write, and significantly more difficult to publish.
Creighton began assembling it five years ago, and it has been completed for two.
The story is made up of two scenes separated by 60 years in time. It tells of a family ripped apart and how – by chance – it finds itself woven back together.
A heartless practice, which Creighton said was common, starts the tale off.
After a factor, or operator, of a Hudson Bay Company fur trading outpost was finished his 20-year stint in a remote location, he would be sent home – often England or Scotland – with a pension.
Often times, the factors would be married to Indigenous women, who would not be invited to make the trip back to their parent country.
“The company allowed it until later years,” Creighton said, “Because the marriages were never considered ‘Christian.’”
The concept is something the author finds difficult to wrap his head around.
“Would you leave your own family?” he asked. “It’s shocking.”
A journey through time, another along a treacherous river, and one more through allegory lead the reader to what Creighton calls a “bang” of a conclusion.
Attempts to get a publisher on board were stymied by the stigma of a Caucasian Canadian writing what amounts to a First Nations tale.
“Regular publishers wouldn’t touch it,” Creighton said. “Once they got a hint of what it was, they weren’t interested in even reading it.”
While writing it, Creighton consulted with First Nations authors for tips on how to respectfully tell the tale.
“My respect for the Native culture is prominent,” Creighton said, noting he was very careful while writing the book.
“It’s a damn good novel,” he added. “And it deserves to be read.”
Since he believed in the quality in the work, the local writer decided to self-publish 500 copies of the book.
It will be available at Coho Books, as well as Save-On Foods in early November.