Author Grant Lawrence’s new book, Return to Solitude, sequel to Adventures in Solitude, sheds light on his experiences of life out in and around Desolation Sound and the beloved characters who inhabit, or inhabited, the area.
There were a few big differences between first and second nonfiction novels, starting with changes within the writer during the 10 years between the releases.
“In the first book, I was kind of footloose and fancy-free,” said Lawrence. “My touring rock band [The Smugglers] had kind of wound down like an old dog, and I was able to grow up and rediscover the cabin of my youth, the Desolation Sound of my youth, all that stuff that I had sort of forsaken during my rebellion, teen years and rock’n roll years.”
He went from the carefree, swimming, beer-drinking partier to the self-proclaimed responsible adult he is now, and much too much like his father, he added.
“I really am a lot like him, and now I’m dragging the kids out of bed in the morning just like my dad did and getting them in the car, rushing them to the ferry and hoping to make the reservation,” he explained. “And just repeating everything my dad did when I was a kid; I absolutely hated it by the way.”
Another big change is that many characters revisited in the second book, such as Bernard the German, the Cougar Lady and Russell the Hermit, have since passed on.
“They’ve all met their demise in some way,” said Lawrence. “Usually, if you live larger than life, at least from what I’ve found, chances are the way you go out is also unconventional.”
In Return to Solitude, Lawrence chronicles these strange stories with the same depth and life-like detail as the first book.
Lawrence had a hard time publishing his first book. In being turned down by publisher after publisher, he was told no one had ever heard of Desolation Sound, Lund or Powell River, and no one would care about the book. But, with a bit of luck, he made a connection with Harbour Publishing, which took him on. It turns out, Adventures in Solitude was a surprise success, and the publisher wanted a sequel.
The thing with nonfiction, and in his case, is that the people and stories he had access to were somewhat finite, explained Lawrence.
“I spent years and years writing Adventures in Solitude; I couldn’t just come up with more material in a very short amount of time,” he added. “So, it took a decade to get enough material and really just see what would happen with me and with these people, some of them truly, extremely close to me, and where their lives would lead.”
Lawrence said reactions to his first book were mixed. But now, five books in, he said he knows a lot more about writing.
“When I was writing the first book, I would just have one person tell me a story and say, ‘oh, that’s a great story,’ and I put that story in the book,” he added. “And other people would come up to me and said, ‘hey, I saw the way it happened, this is the way it happened.’”
Lawrence said he took more of a journalistic approach this time around, gathering multiple perspectives or hiding identities of those who were uncomfortable talking about their experiences and carefully revisiting stories over making assumptions.
“To be honest with you, I do brace for it, but I get really nervous before a book comes out,” he added. “Not only do I hope people like it, enjoy it, I also hope it’s the right depiction of people, one that’s respectful.”
Before writing Adventures in Solitude and Return to Solitude, one of the things Lawrence studied, researched and wrote about was...solitude.
Solitude can be tricky, he said, adding that on the one hand, it’s great to be on your own and doing your own thing, but on the other hand, humans are social animals.
“That’s why it’s been really interesting for me to write about all these various people at Desolation Sound. We essentially went against human nature and wanted to escape, or wanted to disappear, or wanted to live off the grid, or wanted to live alone.”
But even those living on the fringes can’t last in solitude forever.
“I believe there’s some phrase like, ‘there’s joy and solitude, then there’s desperation, and loneliness,’ or something like that,” said Lawrence. “It’s a fine line, right?”
Return to Solitude was released on April 30 and is available for purchase at Pollen Sweaters in Lund, and Pocket Books and Sportzone in Powell River. Lawrence said he is looking forward to his qathet region launch on May 25 at the historic Patricia Theatre, the same place the Cougar Lady watched her first-ever film.
The show is called Grant Lawrence and Friends and runs from 7 to 9 pm, doors opening at 6:30 pm, and will include a mix of short stories and songs. He said it’s his west coast tribute to Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe.
Tickets are available at the Peak, Unit F, 4493 Marine Avenue, Nancy’s Bakery in Lund and the Patricia Theatre box office. Online tickets are available at eventbrite.ca.