Kelvington's Ruth Chorney released her second novel in the late summer of 2020, and is percolating ideas for her third.
And it really all started with a writing exercise.
"My first novel, Buried, is a murder mystery which was inspired by a 'challenge' (story starter) at a Tisdale Writers’ Group meeting: 'The prisons are filled with innocent people'," said Chorney. "I wrote a few paragraphs, a conversation between a reporter and a woman in prison for killing her husband. One of the group members commented, 'I want to hear the rest of that. I think you’ve just started a novel.'
"I started thinking about my character: Who was she? How did she end up in prison? Did she actually kill her husband? If so, why? How?"
And soon the short exercise grew into a debut novel.
"Suddenly, she had a name: Tera," said Chorney.
"And from then on she was inside my head.
"I live on a farm. As I worked in the garden, hauled bales, worked with cattle, rode my horses, and all the other things we farm wives do, Tera was with me. I sort of wrote Buried to get her out of my head.
"Of course, I also wrote this novel to illustrate the resilience of farm women, and the lack of supports, especially in rural areas, for victims of alienation and abuse. While the story is not true, the characters certainly could be people you meet at the local Co-op."
But the writing bug was not finished with Chorney after the debut novel.
Conspiracy was printed in August of 2020.
Also set in rural northeastern Saskatchewan, near the fictional town of Deer Creek, this is the story of Joel, a young man who always hoped to be a farmer.
"He has achieved that dream at long last, by marrying a farmer’s daughter, an Agrologist named Krissy," explained Chorney.
"However, the couple is not living happily ever after."
From an auction sale in April to a fall supper in October, the novel spans one summer in northeastern Saskatchewan.
"When Joel meets 80-year-old Grace picking mushrooms in the forest, they form an unlikely alliance, supporting each other through difficult times," explained Chorney. "They discuss, at first jokingly, that 'people can eat all mushrooms, some only once'."
While Joel and his wife Krissy realize they moved to the farm to pursue very different dreams, Grace is dealing with an aging husband suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and refusing to move off the farm.
"The question is, how far will Joel and Grace be pushed? Will they actually follow through with their 'conspiracy'?" said Chorney.
The latest book again draws from real life.
"The idea for this story came to me from the news regarding the 'conspiracy' case in Melfort a couple years ago, where two lovers conspired to get rid of their spouses," said Chorney. "I began thinking about all the rural characters in the area who may or may not be connected. As well, I wanted to recognize the many cross-generational friendships and mentorships that are important parts of farming culture. Relationships. and community are important themes."
Chorney said she also tried to highlight the area she lives in -- she was born in Wadena, raised on a farm near Nut Mountain, and graduated from Kelvington High School.
"Once again, the book celebrates the beauty and toughness of the area in which we live as well as the fortitude of the people farming the land," she said. "Very few people who are not farmers know anything about the challenges involved in feeding the world. I hope that besides being entertained by the story line, readers will absorb a bit about what farming entails."
Chorney also paid a little attention to calls from readers of her first book.
"Several of my fans wanted to know what happened to Tera from Buried and I took the opportunity to give her a cameo in this second Deer Creek novel.
"Now, they want to know when the third book in the series is coming out?"
In terms of writing, Chorney is methodical in her approach.
"The writing process: As Einstein said about any creative process: 10 per cent inspiration and 90 per cent perspiration," she said. "I write, edit, plan, reread, write, re-plan, edit as I go.
"It took me two years to complete each of my novels -- writing is not my only pastime.
"For each of them I did lots of research, both on-line and in-person.
"For Tera’s story, I needed a lot of background info on legalities and prisons.
"For Conspiracy I did research regarding agrology as well as harassing my husband for exact details on farm operations.
"The characters and their behaviours are based on my own many years of study and observation, but even with character, I research everything from the stages of grief to behaviours of twins, or anything else that comes up!
"Once I complete the first draft, I impose upon friends and family to read it and provide feedback. I am very fortunate to have in my life many generous folk, including my adult children, who are avid readers and excellent editors. I then consider all suggestions and integrate what I feel works."
When asked what she deems the best aspect of her books, Chorney turned to her reader's viewpoint.
"Based on feedback to-date, people appreciate the 'real' characters and the plot, which has been described as a 'page turner' with suspense held to the very end," she said. Many have commented on the rich descriptions of daily farm life and the natural environment, cited as 'powerful and enlightening'."
So overall Chorney is a happy writer.
"Am I satisfied with the overall story I’ve created? Yes. I was thrilled to hold it in my hand," she said. "I love the cover design. Re-reading it in book form was very satisfying."
Both novels are available from the author through her website (ruthchorney.ca), from SaskBooks and from McNally Robinson in Saskatoon.
An avid reader and a writer from an early age, Chorney experiments with all sorts of genres. She has a regular column in The Gardener magazine (quarterly since 2006) and since her retirement has published four children’s books, three in English, one in French. She has had poetry published in several journals, including the U of S Fieldstone Review.
She is currently working on a book of poetry for children, as well as editing work through 7Springs Books. Chorney enjoys reading, writing, horseback riding, gardening, learning new things, and interacting with people of all ages, especially her grandchildren.