Today Magazine - April 2012
Our April cover is graced by Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Day the Falls Stood Still which is a national bestseller. Inside the magazine you’ll find two articles that tackle the bullying problem and why girls are so mean to each other. New to Today Magazine is our wine writer, Angela Aiello. Each month she’ll provide a new take on everything wine. Enjoy our April issue!
A love affair divided by class and the early beginnings of environmentalism are matched with the majestic backdrop of 1915 Niagara Falls in Cathy Marie Buchanan’s best-selling novel. Her hometown was a natural choice for the setting of Buchanan’s debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still. The book takes place in the city among the early developments of hydroelectricity. Her heroine Bess leads a sheltered existence as the daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. By chance she meets Tom who has grown up in an entirely different world, not of privilege but with an innate instinct for survival. “It wasn’t an option to start with a different setting,” said Buchanan. “I started with this, not the plot or characters. I grew up with the lore of Niagara Falls; Annie Taylor and her barrel, Red Hill and his rescues, Adam Beck and his hydro. I knew I wanted to write a story set in my hometown.” With setting in mind the first thing Buchanan did was read a bunch of books that surveyed Niagara’s history. She was looking for a story that showcased the wonder that one feels when standing at the brink of the falls. In her research daredevil and local hero, Red Hill, kept surfacing. Reading an account of the ice bridge collapsing and Red Hill rescuing a teenage boy really ignited the lore Buchanan grew up with, and she became certain her main male character would be a river man loosely based on Red Hill. In the four years it took Buchanan to write The Day the Falls Stood Still the idea for her novel would change. She spent the first two years writing the first draft of the novel. In the following two years, she began to re-write with the help of writer friends, her agent, editors and publishers. “It changed quite a bit over the re-writing process,” said Buchanan. “At first I thought I would stick more closely to the Red Hill story. But then I realized, I didn’t want my character to be a daredevil. I wanted him to be a river man with a deep reverence for the Niagara.” The river man route would prove to be a perfect way to tie in what Buchanan calls her “natural environmentalist sensibility.” Once she’d decided to base her main male character on Red Hill, it set the timeframe for the book, and she realized that during this period hydroelectricity was being developed in a big way for the first time. It was “easy to see the natural conflict that would exist between my river man and the power companies who wanted to alter the river.” She admits that she didn’t intend to take an environmental outlook when approaching the concept for her book, though she said, “The environmental aspect evolved quite naturally for me.” She says that at the time of the book, the preservation of the falls was already in question with the power companies beginning to divert massive amounts of water away from the falls for the production of hydroelectricity. Fast forward to present day, with the development in and around the falls and the hydro tunnel coming online for 2013 (SEE BOX) and, says Buchanan, “There are eerily similar issues with preservation.” “With the new tunnel, total diversion capacity, from both the Canadian and the American power installations, will reach a whopping 186,000 cubic feet per second, enough to divert 93% of the river’s average natural flow. It’s worrisome,” admits Buchanan. City Council recently approved a zoning bylaw amendment that will permit high-rises to be built on the Loretto Academy property, a plan that Buchanan does not support. “The green space that surrounds Loretto provides a natural backdrop to the Horseshoe Falls. Imagine the dwarfing impact a 57-storey building will have on the falls. The high-rises will cast shadows on the falls and the surrounding parkland, too, and could increase the number of rain-like days at the falls by hindering the ability of the mist to clear, an effect that has already been demonstrated for the high-rise hotels that came with the casinos.” Buchanan grew up on Oxford St. in the north end of Niagara Falls. She attended A. N. Myer high school, and although she now resides in Toronto, she still comes to the area for frequent visits. In fact, she consulted tons of locals for facts on her book. Sister Caroline Dawson helped put together the details about Loretto, where the book opens, and Cathy Simpson, local history librarian at the Niagara Falls Public Library, was generous in sharing her expertise. She relied heavily on the work of local historians Sherman Zavitz and Scott Tufford, and calls the anthology put together by the local Kiwanis Club in celebration of our centennial in 1967 her “bible” while writing the book. “People were really helpful!” said Buchanan. “You’re tapping into someone’s expertise and most are very pleased that someone wants to understand this thing they know so much about.” Buchanan’s next effort hits shelves in spring of 2013. She dives deep into history again but this time her scene is set in Paris and the year is 1880. She got the idea for her still untitled novel from Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture titled, “Little Dancer Age 14”. She admits it’s a gritty tale of a poor girl whose father is dead and whose mother is a washerwoman. The girl ends up dancing with the Paris Opéra Ballet, where young girls were often preyed upon by the wealthy male season’s ticket holders, and as model to Edgar Degas. “I saw a documentary on the sculpture “Little Dancer Age 14” and was completely fascinated,” said Buchanan. “Writing about Niagara Falls in 1915 was a stretch but writing about Paris in 1880 was an even bigger stretch. It’s not my culture. I didn’t know the lay of the land. I just hope I managed it.” To learn more about Cathy Marie Buchanan visit cathymariebuchanan.com tm 43