Many use retirement as a chance to pursue their passion and dreams, as is the case with lakecity author Graham Lowe who was pleased to publish his first book, The Reluctant Recruit, this June.
Lowe’s love for the Cariboo and Williams Lake runs deep, however, he was not born here as is evident the moment you hear his charming English accent. He grew up in and around London in England where, at the tender age of 18, he joined the police force, first as a traffic cop, then the Royal Parks Constabulary, the British Transport Police and finally the Ministry of Defence Police.
Lowie ended his last few years as a cop in the IT department before retiring early in 1996, though he still did contact work periodically for computer consultancy up until 2003. The stress of project after project eventually led to him needing a radical change of pace, so he left England to move to Canada. His brother was living in Salmon Arm at the time and Lowe had visited him a few times and fallen in love with the country.
“I see this beauty (in nature) and what we have, this lifestyle which is so different from a very confined lifestyle in Britain because it’s a small place. You could fit Britain in B.C. six times,” Lowe said.
While spending time with his brother Lowe met this “wonderful Canadian woman” whom he settled down with and married. After living near Salmon Arm for a while, Lowe and his wife, Diana, moved to Saskatchewan to run a small farm of 160 acres where they raised ducks, chickens, llamas, sheep and much more.
Eventually, they decided to retire from the farm and move back to B.C. and began searching for a place to settle down. While visiting Williams Lake, they fell in love with the surrounding environment and people and promptly chose to settle down and buy a house.
Writing, Lowe said, has always been with him throughout his life ever since he was a young child. As a student, he’d write poems and short stories both in and out of class as a way to express the innate creativity he feels we all enjoy as children. As an adult, however, Lowe was unable to explore it until recently, preferring to focus on family and work in the past.
The first drafts of The Reluctant Recruit were written in 1997, shortly after he retired from the force, however, life got in the way and Lowe stayed busy doing first contract work and then farming for many years after. In Williams Lake, however, Lowe has found the time to re-devote himself to his passion.
“For me writing is: there’s a story in there and it’s got to come out. It has to come out, I’ve got to write it,” Lowe said.
When he first began, Lowe’s end goal was not to publish it but to simply bring the story to life for the sake of bringing it to life. When his wife read it, however, and sent it to a friend, he began getting positive reviews which only increased as more people received the book. Lowe ended up sending the manuscript to 23 separate publishers and while he was told it was “rubbish” by several, eventually Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers LTD reached out and expressed interest in working with him.
After signing a contract with them, Lowe put in a year of hard work to rewrite, revise and edit the story to his and the publisher’s satisfaction.
The entire process was completely new to him, especially working with the marketing and graphics departments and became a “whole new life to learn” for Lowe.
“It was wonderful and I really enjoyed it but it was hard work. When the finished article came out I was absolutely amazed at the quality of the production work that went into it, the cover was exactly what I was thinking,” Lowe said.
The Reluctant Recruit itself was in part inspired by Lowe’s love for Canada. It follows the story of Sylvian Mountjoy, an English rope shed clerk who is press-ganged one night and taken aboard a naval ship bound for Canada, in those days made up of Upper and Lower Canada. To survive, he must rise to the challenge of life on the sea all while yearning to return home to his wife Mary.
As a work of historical fiction, one of the hardest parts of writing this book for Lowe was ensuring the dialogue was spoken in the language of the day and that the etiquette was accurate. Initially, Lowe did around three to fourth months of research for the book but when he restarted in Williams Lake he spent almost all of 2017 and half of 2018 immersing himself in history.
“What I wanted to do was have the reader actually enjoy going back in time and experience that through the words in the book,” Lowe said.
Finding out how big Montreal was at the time, how fur traders did business and which parts of the country were controlled by who were all important details Lowe used in building a story that feels authentic and is rooted in real history. To write about anything he felt he had to really understand it first before incorporating it into his story.
All these details, he hopes, will be able to allow readers to build their own picture of the world in their mind and let the book play out within them.
“The importance of writing, I think, is that it allows you to be creative as an individual, immerse yourself in a world of your own choosing and to actually become something else for that short period of time where your creativity flows to actually create something that’s never been created before,” Lowe said.
Lowe is already working on a sequel, which he completed the initial writing for over the winter this year and will be starting on the third in the near future. The Reluctant Recruit is available at The Open Book, on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters and Kindle.