For Merville author Harold Macy, he said the space between fiction and nonfiction is where his writing sits. Photo by Ali Roddam

For Merville author Harold Macy, he said the space between fiction and nonfiction is where his writing sits. Photo by Ali Roddam

Vancouver Island author not letting Parkinson’s take charge of his writing

Merville’s Harold Macy is releasing fictional stories based on something real

Jasper Myers Special to Black Press Media

Vancouver Island author Harold Macy has released a new book titled All the Bears Sing – a collection of short stories, which Macy describes as fictional stories based on something real.

This is Macy’s third book, following The Four Storey Forest in 2011 and San Josef in 2020.

Macy has lived in the Comox Valley, in the same house, for 40 years. He moved here when he was 26 years old and said a ’63 Chevrolet pickup is what brought him to Vancouver Island.

“I just saw this as a land of opportunity and forestry,” he said.

He spent many years studying and working in forestry, a lot of it here on the Island.

Macy has worked for the BC Forest Service Research Branch and at UBC Oyster River as the forester. At UBC he also taught online and weekend courses in small-scale forestry and agroforestry.

“Every time I would go into the woods I would learn something. Every day would be different,” Macy said. “And if you didn’t go into the woods with your eyes open… you’d miss something and you couldn’t go back the next day. It’s like the page was turned.”

This experience has influenced his writing, especially in this new book. The short stories range from recently written to stories he’s written over the years. He said he had about 56 stories and told the publisher to narrow it down for the book.

He can’t exactly choose which short story is his favourite, but points out Into the Silvethrone Caldera as a top pick. He noted that most of his stories have three storylines woven together, and this particular one has that same feature.

For Macy, he said the space between fiction and nonfiction is where his writing sits.

“There’s this interface between so many things… that’s the space that really interests me,” he said. “It’s called liminal space. Where the ocean meets the shore – there’s more life there than there is on either side of that ocean.”

“What I like to do is to tiptoe around that juncture of where facts meet fiction,” Macy said. “It’s just a matter of how you look at it. Life is a kaleidoscope.”

His first book, The Four Storey Forest, is based on his life growing up in a Quaker Mennonite family, he said.

His second book, San Josef, a book Macy said took 25 years to write, is based on the Danish colonization of North Vancouver Island. Macy said he released it right before COVID-19 shut down the world, which meant he couldn’t do in-person book tours – something he can do with his new book. The release event was held at the Laughing Oyster in November.

He said he’s been on an insect kick lately and learning all about them, and he wants to write a book about them.

“I want to write something on the social interaction of insects and me, but fictional,” said Macy. “I’m going to imbue each of these four insects with personalities and with conflict.”

Macy also lives with Parkinson’s and said he wants to get this book written before he can no longer do so.

“I want to get this last book out. I was thinking this is my last one but I love writing,” said Macy. “And I feel like I’ve been given a gift to write and I don’t feel hard done by at all.”

Despite the struggles that come with the disease, he hasn’t let it squash his spirit.

“I’ve got this beautiful piece of property here… I have a wonderful family, I have a great wife, and a great church community – the Mennonite Church in Black Creek,” he said. “So I feel really, really very fortunate. The fact that I’m 76 years old and have to use a walker – so what.”

One short story from his new book, The Beast Within, explains what it’s like to have the disease.

He said his energy is lower, it’s more difficult to use the computer, but his brain keeps developing ideas so he will write until he can’t anymore.

Macy said he’s had to get inventive due to his Parkinson’s. He needed to get around his property, so with the help of a friend they repurposed a ride-on lawn mower into an “electric go-kart.”

“It’s given me a whole new adventure and mobility,” he said.

The book is available at the Laughing Oyster in Courtenay.

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