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Elora author writes about change in 'Across the Great Divide'

'If you're going to change your life, you need courage,' says Elora resident and author Donna McCaw

In her first novel, Elora author Donna McCaw writes about characters getting second chances and having the courage to start over.

"If you're going to change your life, you need courage," said McCaw, author of Across the Great Divide, her first novel but her sixth book.

Across the Great Divide follows a former touring musician-turned-author looking to change his life. McCaw notes she had previously written two short stories involving the protagonist, who she describes as wanting to be like the musician Brian May of Queen.

"It's an easy rather fun read," McCaw said about the book. "There's some quirky characters in it and it's in a beautiful setting in Victoria B.C. 2016, so pre-Trump, pre-COVID, so we don't have to deal with that stuff."

During the first year of the pandemic, McCaw said she wasn't inspired to write due to her inability to concentrate on anything other than COVID.

"I couldn't even pick up a book," she said.

It wasn't until 2021, McCaw realized there was an opportunity to explore her favourite character further and began penning a new series of short stories a year ago. After rewriting the story twice, the novel was self-published in April 2022. 

"This is my first novel and it was completely by accident," said McCaw. "I started writing in March (2021), by the end of April I thought it was a novella, and by the end of June I realized it was a novel."

As many people have reexamined their lives during the pandemic, McCaw said this story is much about redoing things differently.

"I hope that people have that kernel of hope and understanding that happiness is possible, that positive changes can happen, but you do have to work at it for a bit," McCaw said about what she hopes readers learn from the book. "You have to figure out what you want in life and have the courage to go after it."

Prior to writing, McCaw was a teacher at Centre Wellington District High School. At times, she said she wanted to get back to what she wanted to do when she was younger, which was writing. 

"I used Sunday afternoons to start writing, and that's how I got my first two short stories," said McCaw, who has also written two poetry collections and a book about retirement. 

With the musical element to the story, McCaw is working with a musician to put together performances which will feature songs that fit the themes of the book. She said she likes to have fun with her books, and Across the Great Divide is no exception. 

“I love books and I love music, so it’s a great combination,” said McCaw, who anticipates the shows will kick off in the fall.

Across the Great Divide is available at Magic Pebble, Cordial Clove, The Bookery and The Bookshelf.