Interview With Cathy Marie Buchanan

I already reviewed The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan earlier in September for the Amazon Vine Program; click on the link for my full review. After posting my review, I discovered Buchanan was on a blog tour for her book.

I was happy to learn that she would answer a few questions and sponsor a book giveaway for my readers and its international. Please give Cathy Marie Buchanan a warm welcome.
1. Was the main character Bess modeled on the real wife of William “Red” Hill, whom the character of Tom Cole is based? Or is she based upon yourself or people you know?
(Please see the following photo provided by Cathy Marie Buchanan, courtesy of the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library): “Red Hill Junior moments before his fateful plunge”

In the very first bit of The Day the Falls Stood Still that I wrote−it’s long since been scrapped−Bess was an old woman, bitter and hateful of the river. I’d conjured her up from the little I knew of Red Hill’s wife, who was quoted as saying she hated the river, that she was afraid of it. 

In addition to being a hero, Red Hill was a daredevil. He risked his life shooting the Whirlpool Rapids in a barrel three times. In 1951 the eldest of the couple’s sons died attempting to go over the falls in a barrel constructed of inflated rubber tubes, canvas and fishing nets, and another son was killed in an accident in a hydroelectric diversion tunnel under the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. 

Clearly, she had cause to hate the river. She is where I started with Bess Heath, but once I decided not to incorporate the daredevil side of Red Hill into Tom Cole−that his reverence for the river would run too high for that−Bess evolved into the strong, intelligent, supportive woman I hope readers find in between the covers of the book.

2. What prompted the inclusion of the mock newspaper articles? Was that your idea or something the publisher wanted to include?

I have to give my clever U.S. editor, Sarah Landis, credit for the idea of incorporating the newspaper articles. After reading an earlier version of the manuscript, Sarah came back with the comment that she wanted to know more about Niagara’s fascinating lore and suggested that newspaper articles might be an interesting way of adding more of the stories.

3. For a debut novel, The Day The Falls Stood Still, is incredibly stunning. Niagara Falls is a great location for this emotionally charged story. Do you have plans to write additional books in this setting?

Born and bred in Niagara Falls, I grew up awash in an endless stream of local lore─the Maid of the Mist and her canoe, Sir Isaac Brock and the War of 1812, Blondin and his tightrope, Annie Taylor and her barrel, William “Red” Hill and his daring rescues, Sir Adam Beck and hydroelectricity, Roger Woodward and the miracle at Niagara.  

With such a storied past and the staggering beauty of the falls themselves, it’s tough to definitively say that I won’t write about the area again. Still, I think I’ve told the story I wanted to tell about Niagara Falls. I’m currently working on a story set in and around the Paris Opera in the 1880s.

4. Most writers are readers. Name five of the last books you read and enjoyed. 


I discovered Donna Morrissey this year, first reading What They Wanted. I loved it, and I loved Sylvanus Now, too. No one does the Newfoundlander voice like Morrissey. No one makes you feel the feral beauty of Newfoundland in quite the same way. Another favourite was Laura Moriarty’s While I’m Falling. I happened to be reading it when Elle came out with its September reader’s picks, books that were subsequently pitted against one another in a reader vote. 

I was thrilled to find The Day the Falls Stood Still included in the picks, particularly considering that the other two books on the list were new novels by former Grand Prix Book-of-the-Year winners. My book came in a very close second to While I’m Falling, the very book I was savouring. 

The most recent book to knock my socks off was Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, a collection of linked stories. In every story, she shows a remarkable understanding of human nature. Over the years I’ve read loads of books to my boys. The book that most stands out from the last year is John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I read it with my eleven-year-old, and I think we loved it equally.

Photo Credit: Nigel Dickson

5. You hold a BSc (Honours Biochemistry) and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. What was the turning point in your life that prompted you to write novels and short stories?

I spent my teenage years disgracing myself in English, often getting upwards of 20 percent deducted for spelling mistakes on high school English exams. When it came time to head off to university, I picked my courses using the criteria that I wouldn’t have to write−that is spell−a single thing. Hence, the BSc and MBA. 

I spent the bulk of my non-writing work life at IBM. By then spell-check had been invented, and I took a night school creative writing course, on a whim really. I was smitten, and soon enough I wanted more time to write than that tiny gap that existed between scrubbing my children clean and falling into bed myself. I quit my corporate job and have been writing five days a week while my boys are at school ever since.

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Cathy Marie Buchanan and learning about Niagara Falls.  Please check out the book trailer.

Also, check out the Sept. 30, 2009, teleseminar for the end of Cathy Marie Buchanan’s Virtual Book Tour:

  • What: Going Over the Falls: A Telephone Chat With Cathy Marie Buchanan
  • When: 3:00 pm EST on September 30th
  • Who: Anyone who is interested
  • How: Just dial telephone number 718-290-9983, and enter conference ID code 100925# when promted.  Free, except for normal long distance charges.
  • More info:  http://overthefalls.eventbrite.com/

***Here’s the audio clip link of the teleseminar.***

Hyperion Books and Cathy Marie Buchanan have offered 1 copy of The Day the Falls Stood Still to one lucky reader of my blog anywhere in the world.

To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this interview about what you found most interesting.
2.  Leave a comment on the book review and let me know on this post.
3.  Tweet, Blog, Facebook, or spread the word and leave me a link or comment on this post.

Deadline is October 9, 2009, 11:59PM EST.