Winnipeg occupies big spot in the heart of vampire-novelist Michael Rowe
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon
On the surface of things, it may appear that Toronto-based writer and journalist Michael Rowe is coming to town to launch his new vampire novel, Enter, Night (ChiZine Publications).
But the true horror lies deeper: the event is also a high school reunion of sorts for Rowe, who attended St. John's Cathedral Boys' School in Selkirk from 1977 to 1981.
"I came to St. John's from a private school in Geneva, Switzerland," says Rowe, whose father was a diplomat. "My parents were a little concerned at the level of privilege I was growing up around in the mid-70s. I had a cousin who'd gone to St. John's, so it was a logical family choice. They thought St. John's would challenge me and toughen me up."
The school was renowned for its outdoor sports program, which included snowshoeing and canoeing.
"Over the four years I was at St. John's, I canoed something like 2,200 miles through the northern Ontario and Manitoba wilderness," says Rowe. "It made an impression. The Canadian hinterlands are really gothic if looked at just the right way. For a burgeoning horror writer, which I probably was even at 16, they're almost Canada's Transylvania - a wild, untamed part of the world where almost anything could happen."
It seems logical, then, that Rowe's first full-length work of fiction would be set in a northern Ontario mining town - as does his choice to name the fictional Parr's Landing after his SJC history teacher, Fred Parr.
"I love small towns," says Rowe. "I lived in a small town in Switzerland when my dad was at the UN. Selkirk was a small town. I lived in Milton, Ont., for six years in the late '80s and early '90s. It's largely a suburb now, but then it was a small town surrounded by farmland. Small towns are great places for writers with my interests to watch people."
Enter, Night represents something new for Rowe, who has also published three books of non-fiction and edited two anthologies of queer horror fiction.
"My work up till now, with a few exceptions, including a handful of short stories and a novella, has all been essays and journalism," says Rowe. "In many ways, although Enter, Night is tangentially about vampires, it's about a lot of the things I usually write about - for instance families, bullying, the corrosive effect of power on vulnerable people, and how human beings treat each other, especially in the face of a crisis."
"When I decided to write this novel, I'd anticipated a light supernatural romp, but in many ways it's the deepest, darkest, and most soul-scouring story I've ever written."
That darkness is probably what prompted Rowe's publisher, respected horror press ChiZine, to dub Enter, Night "the anti-Twilight."
"In many ways, I guess, Enter, Night is a very retro vampire novel," says Rowe. "The devastation that vampirism wreaks on the population it infects is significant in the book. In many ways, it mirrors the devastation that other parasitic elements in the story also wreak - anti-Indian prejudice, homophobia, tyrannical families, and carnivorous small towns.
"And underlying it, of course, is the fact that the vampire himself is a resurrected Catholic priest who came to Canada in the 17th century to colonize the Indians. The concept of colonialism is surely the ultimate vampirism - feeding off an indigenous population, consuming them, and making them like you."
Though Rowe is currently hard at work on his next book, a ghost story called Wild Fell, he is glad to have the chance to share Enter, Night with Winnipeg readers.
"I've always considered Winnipeg one of my 'homes,' one of the cities of my heart," says Rowe, who has since lived in Beirut, Havana and Paris. "In a very real sense, this is a homecoming. My book is part of what I have to show for my 32 years away, roaming the world."
Michael Rowe will launch Enter, Night at McNally Robinson Booksellers on Thursday at 7 p.m. He will be introduced by fellow horror writer Susie Moloney.
Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.
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This was a one-off article about former Manitoban writer Michael Rowe. It appeared on the same page as my regular Out of Town Authors interview with Will Ferguson.