Arts & Culture

Author launching first novel this month

By Lorraine Graves

Published 10:45 PST, Thu December 5, 2019

Last Updated: 2:35 PST, Tue January 7, 2020

After years of writing short stories and more educational materials than you can shake a stick at, the first boxes of Cindy Gauthier’s first novel, Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise, arrived from the printer’s this week. 

“It’s fantastic to have it out,” says the Steveston resident.

This example of historical fiction is first of all a good yarn, a story true-to-place, that is well told. 

“It’s a real girl power story,” Gauthier says. 

She says it has universal appeal.

“I wanted to hit the sweet spot in the story so it appeals to adults as well as young teens.”

While set in California, there are hints of Charlee’s family past in Canada when she speaks of a piece of beaded leather that had been her mother’s or her father’s origins in the Red River Valley. 

With a diverse cast of characters, Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise is set on a California ranch where Charlee and her father work as labourers, and later in gritty post 1849 gold rush San Francisco.

Hinting at the next book in the trilogy, that sits waiting for a final edit, Gauthier says, “The second one starts in San Francisco and then (goes to) the coast of Vancouver Island.”

Set in California in the 1800s, Gauthier says it has a historical setting and “shows history doesn’t have to be boring.”

Protagonist Charlee wants to be independent, Gauthier says. “She isn’t a bystander to adventure.”

The book follows Charlee for the year after she first turns 14. 

Describing Charlee, Gauthier says, “She overcomes a lot of stuff. It doesn’t break her. And she’s not rescued by romance or benefactors.” 

With little bits of history woven throughout the story, Gauthier cautions, “It’s not a history book. It’s a book written in a place and time. I try to reflect the time accurately.”

Saying she is not perpetuating the stereotypes that came through the written past, “A girl like Charlee, no one would have recorded her history.”

Gauthier says the kids and adults will see themselves in this book. “I wrote the book I would like to have found when I was a teen,” she said. 

Gauthier was long the innovative principal of the largest public distance education school in the province VLN, (Vancouver Learning Network) where students with a variety of barriers to education, from throughout the province, found success. (At one time, one in six Steveston-London students were enrolled for at least one class at VLN). 

“My whole theme in my whole career was hope. Even as a counsellor in the school system—kids would come in and apologize for their bad report cards. I would say this just tells me what you did some place and time. It doesn’t tell me what you can do or where you are going to go.”

Gauthier speaks of both her career as an educator and as an author.

“I’m in the business of hope. That comes through my writing as well.”

The book launch is Dec. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chinese Bunkhouse at the Britannia National Historic Site, 5180 Westwater Dr. (on the South Dyke, just west of Trites Road). This is a wheelchair accessible venue.

Published by Friesen press, Charlee LeBeau & The Gambler’s Promise is available through all the usual sources plus directly through Gauthier’s website and, she hopes, soon in local bookstores and libraries.

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