The Ladysmith area is featured in a Vancouver Island writer’s debut novel — a coming of age story about dance, travel and ambition. Mary Spilsbury Ross released her historic mystery novel, No Intermission, in October. She currently lives in Victoria, but said she spent a lot of time in Ladysmith and North Oyster growing up which provided inspiration for part of the novel’s setting.
“So much of the book actually hangs around that area and I did it sort of on purpose because Ladysmith is part my mother’s side of the family and we spent every summer in Chemainus for years when I was young,” Spilsbury Ross said.
The story follows Margaret Alice Dinsdale, a fictional 19-year-old dancer, as she travels through Europe in the 1960s as a showgirl.
“She ends up in these weird and wonderful places dancing and throughout her journey, she learns that it isn’t everything to be ambitious, to be on stage, to be dancing in front of an audience when she looks around her and she sees the devastation of the second world war,” Spilsbury Ross said.
Spilsbury Ross said she visited all the countries she wrote about — she, like her character, lived a life full of dance and travel in the 1960s.
She danced professionally through eleven countries in Europe and the Middle East before returning to Canada where she taught ballet and modern jazz dance, before changing her focus to writing.
“It’s entertaining on many levels — if you like dancing, if you like traveling. They go everywhere and there are descriptions everywhere. The food, the poverty and the riches and the crazy life of the sixties,” she said.
Ladysmith is featured mostly in flashbacks, including a graduation scene at the Ladysmith high school after the main character leaves her home in North Oyster to pursue her dream of dancing with the Royal Ballet.
“She got royally turned down because she is too tall and not the right personality. She’s got flaming red hair, very tall and the leading ladies in all of them are very dark and ethereal and she was a bit of a crazy redhead,” Spilsbury Ross said.
Her goal originally was for No Intermission to be a movie — she said she took a course in screenwriting and purposefully wrote the novel in first person, with a lot of action in hopes it can one day be transferred to the screen.
“Anyone I know that knows anything about show business, I am making sure they get a copy,” she said.
Though this was her first novel, Spilsbury Ross published a successful cookbook called Frugal Feasts in 1996. She said she wrote it when her children went to college to help with simple, fast meals. She is working on a second cookbook called Dining with My Dog, after being widowed.
She began writing No Intermission in Sept. 2019 and finished in Nov. 2020, with her husband helping with much of the research. “I had really rushed the ending so that he could read the end,” she said.
The book is available on Amazon and she is working to get it into local book stores in the Ladysmith area.
The Chronicle has an extra copy of No Intermission to give away to a reader — watch our Facebook and Instagram for a chance to win.