Guest Post by Cathy Marie Buchanan author of The Day The Falls Stood Still

1:26 AM

I am so excited to have Cathy Marie Buchanan here today to talk about her debut novel The Day The Falls Stood Still, which made it's debut on the New York Times Bestseller List at #31! I absolutely loved this book and reviewed it a few days ago. You can read my review here.


Cathy, welcome to Marta's Meanderings. I'm so thrilled to have you here because I absolutely loved Falls and I know that my readers will too. Could you tell us a little of the inspiration behind this incredible novel?


The Day the Falls Still was inspired by the life of William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman. Tom Cole, the riverman central to the book’s plot, is loosely based o

n him. Growing up in Niagara Falls it was pretty difficult to escape the lore surrounding Red Hill’s heroics. There’s a rusted-out hull of an old barge still lodged in the rapids a short distance back from the falls. I grew up knowing that in 1918 Red Hill rescued the men marooned there. I’d see the plaque commemorating the ice bridge tragedy that took place in the winter of 1912, when dozens of people were blithely crossing the river and the ice suddenly broke up, and I’d know he’d risked his life to save one of them, a teenage boy. One of his sons was alive in my lifetime, and I’d open the newspaper and read a story about him carrying on the Hill tradition and rescuing a stranded tourist. All of these stories were percolating for years before I became a writer. When it came time to write my first novel, the lore of my hometown was a natural place to find inspiration.


I know this is what everyone asks, but what are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Laura Moriarty’s While I’m Falling. Elle magazine included The Day the Falls Stood Still in its September Readers’ Picks, pitting it against While I’m Falling and Sarah Dunant’s Sacred Hearts in a reader vote. I was bowled over that The Day the Falls Stood Still was considered worthy of competing

with works by two such noteworthy authors. And now that I’m reading While I’m Falling, I feel only pride in coming in second in the vote to such a wonderful book.


I have Sacred Hearts on my TBR pile and I'm hoping to get to it soon!


I was fascinated by all the history that you wove into Falls,could you tell us a little bit about researching The Day the Falls Stood Still. Did you do all the research first? Combine writing and research? How do you decide what historical events to include and what to fictionalize? How long did it take you to write it?


I researched for four months before putting pen to paper. At first I read books surveying Niagara’s history. I knew the novel would be set in Niagara Falls, and as I read, I was looking for a story that would best showcase Niagara’s wondrous and quirky history. Once I’d decided that a riverman would play a large role in the book and that a privileged young woman named Bess Heath would fall in love with him, I spent a lovely week in the archives of Loretto Academy, the boarding school she attended. After that I moved on to the local history collection of the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library, where I came across gems like a pamphlet, self published by Red Hill about his heroics on the river and sold to tourists for 25 cents. I wrote the first draft of The Day the Falls Stood Still in a year and a half and then rewrote for another two and a half years. Throughout the writing and rewriting, I was continually turning back to the history books.


Cathy, what surprised you most about your book and/or characters as you were writing? Did anything turn out radically different than you’d originally thought it would?


I think readers will find it interesting to know that originally Bess Heath was a very different character. In the very first bit of The Day the Falls Stood Still that I wrote (long since scrapped) she was an old woman, bitter and hateful of the river. I had conjured her up from real-life riverman Red Hill’s wife, who was quoted as saying that she hated the river, that she was afraid of it. Red Hill was a daredevil, risking his life by shooting the Whirlpool Rapids in a barrel three times. In 1951 the couple’s eldest son died attempting to go over the falls in a barrel and another son was killed in a hydroelectric accident. 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 my riverman, Tom Cole, Bess evolved as well and ended up being supportive and intelligent and strong.


While I was reading The Day the Falls Stood Still I kept visualizing the story as a movie and wondered who would you cast as your characters?


Movies are far from an area of expertise for me. A couple of friends have suggested that Rachel McAdams would make a wonderful Bess Heath. She is talented and young and Canadian. She is also drop-dead gorgeous, which isn’t how Bess appears in my mind, but we are talking about the silver screen…


What is the best writing advice you have ever received and in turn the best writing advice that you could give?


Write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration or a certain state of mind. It might never come.


If you could have dinner with any five people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?


My dad. He died while I was writing The Day the Falls Stood Still, and I miss him every day. He would have been bursting with pride to see my book hit the shelves. Could I just have five dinners with my dad and take a pass on the other four?


I can relate to that! I lost my dad 12 years ago and I still miss him like crazy!


What was it like when you first saw The Day the Falls Stood Still in a bookstore? I'd imagine it was pretty exciting!


I’ve been at our cottage for all of August and have yet to see The Day the Falls Stood Still in a store. A couple of friends have sent me pictures−my book stacked thirty high at Barnes & Noble, where it has been given special status as a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection. Even the pictures take my breath away.


Because I absolutely loved this book I have to ask if you are you currently working on anything new that you can tell us about?


I am working on a novel set in and around the Paris Opera in the 1880s.


Cathy, thank you so much for being willing to answer a few questions for me. I know my readers will love getting to know you and the background to your book a little better!

Official Biography

CATHY MARIE BUCHANAN’s stories have appeared in several of Canada’s most respected literary journals ─ The Antigonish Review, The Dalhousie Review, Descant and The New Quarterly. Buchanan holds a BSc (Honours Biochemistry) and an MBA from the University of Western Ontario. She has been awarded grants by both the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council. Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, she grew up amid the awe-inspiring scenery of the Niagara River and awash in the local lore. She now resides in Toronto.


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