After moving around the country for a good chunk of my childhood thanks to my dad’s career in the Canadian Armed Forces, we settled in Ottawa, Ontario in 1987. I’ve lived here ever since and there was no question when I wrote my first book where it would be set.
But I didn’t always love Ottawa. Up until we moved, I’d considered Edmonton, Alberta, my home—a town which is about as different from Ottawa as you can get. Edmonton sprawls across the Alberta plains, far away from the concerns of the Canadian federal government. Ottawa is crouched in a river valley, hemmed in by forests, and at first glance, boring. It doesn’t have the population of Toronto, or the stylishness of Montreal, or the history of Quebec City—just a bunch of stodgy politicians.
My viewpoint changed as the years marched on. I started to appreciate the green spaces Ottawa offered. Not only parks, but a stretch of land called the Greenbelt that circles around the city and offers recreational and nature trails. I started to see that there was this juxtaposition of identities here. It was a small town that sometimes forgot and tried to be a big city—and vice versa. It was an elegant establishment of Canadian government—that once used to be a rough and tumble logging town. It was boring—and it was home.
All of these things seemed to make it the perfect setting one last juxtaposition—magic against reality.
I’m not the first one to go there, either. Charles de Lint, a fellow Ottawan, wrote a number of urban fantasy books set in Ottawa. MOONHEART tells the story of a sprawling house in the historic Glebe district that bridges more than one dimension. JACK OF KINROWAN is about a giant killer who has to deal with the world of faerie appearing in modern-day Ottawa.
The Ottawa area has settings for many, many more stories of all sorts. I hope I’ll be able to explore it more in upcoming books!