Iceland: the setting of my newest book


The Things Owen Wrote will be published by Groundwood this October, 2017. It is a middle-grade novel (for ages 9-12; grades 4-7) that is set in Iceland. In it, a grade nine boy from Alberta named Owen Sharpe asks:

What if covering up the biggest mistake of your life means travelling all the way to Iceland?

Excerpt 3:

They walk along the path beside the pond, towing their luggage until they reach the end and enter into the downtown streets of Reykjavik. They wheel their luggage inside the first café they come to.

 It is warm and colorful. The walls are a buttery yellow with gold trim around the windows. The chairs are bright orange with black legs. The polished wood counter where they sit down is resting on bookshelves jammed with travel guides and atlases arranged by continent, and the ceiling is plastered with maps of the world from which orange lamps hang down to match the chairs. Ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers are grouped together and spaced regularly along the counter. Owen fiddles with the ones closest to him.

“What is a typical Icelandic breakfast?” Neville asks the server when he comes by to take their order.

“We’re not known for lavish breakfasts. Mostly we look for something easy and piping hot to be scarfed down before braving whatever storm, volcanic eruption, earthquake or avalanche that might be waiting on our doorstep.”

Previous Excerpts

Book jacket blurb:

Owen has always done well, even without trying that hard. He gets As in school, is an avid photographer and knows he can count on his family’s support. But then Owen makes a mistake. A big one. And now he must face his fear of disappointing his entire family.

A last-minute trip to Iceland, just Owen and his granddad, seems like the perfect way out. For Owen’s granddad, the trip is about paying tribute to a friend with Icelandic roots.  But Owen has a more urgent reason for going: he must get back the notebook his granddad accidentally sent to the Iceland archive. He can’t let anyone read the things he wrote in it!

The pair gets on a plane, excited to leave their prairie town for a country of lava fields, glaciers and geysers. However, as they explore Iceland, the plan to recover Owen’s notebook starts to spiral out of control. Why does Owen’s granddad seem so confused and forgetful? And can Owen really hide the truth of what’s in his notebook?

Field notes from my research in Iceland:

An inconic Icelandic farmhouse provides inspiration for one of the scenes in the novel.
Never pass by an outdoor Icelandic hot tub. The one in Reykir became a perfect scene setting.
June 17 is Iceland's Independence Day. I wish I was back to enjoy their wonderful public concerts!
Icelandic geysers provided a dramatic backdrop for one of my novel's scenes.
A bumpy barren landscape in Northern Iceland. Great for my main character's interest in photography.
The Hvalfjörður tunnel, which reaches 165m (541ft) below sea level, made a perfect backdrop for one scene in this novel.
A geothermo heated beach in Iceland. Take that, Arctic Ocean!
After years of searching, I've finally found the gate where you go to find your long lost mitten! It's in Reykjavik!
The Laundromat Cafe in Reykjavik made a perfect backdrop for a scene in my new novel!
An Icelandic landscape while touring all the way around the Ring Road.
All six original volumes of Advökur (Wakeful Nights) are on display at Stephansson House.
An unexpected but poetic detail nailed to the dormer of Stephansson House by an Icelandic/Canadian poet.
Better weight than wisdom a traveller cannot carry.
A Viking saying printed on the Customs wall at the Reykjavik Airport
Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site, near Markerville, Alberta - a poet's homestead!
The Order of the Falcon hearkens back to the Vikings and is given by the Icelandic government to those dedicated to preserving Icelandic culture.
Icelandic language has barely changed since settlement times in the 9th century. This means Icelanders can easily read original medieval writing.