Shelley Penner is a Port Alberni artist and writer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Port Alberni artist pens dystopian novel

Haven Hold by Shelley Penner is set to debut on August 25

Port Alberni’s Shelley Penner is an artist of many disciplines—drawing, painting and photography. This summer, she will be delving into the written word with her first published novel.

Penner’s futuristic novel, Haven Hold, is set to debut on Tuesday, Aug. 25 with Alberni Valley publisher RCN Media. The story is set 600 years after the collapse of civilization, in a future world where mutants are considered less than human, and fit only for slavery. With enhanced vision and hearing, protagonist Daniel has survived, despite a lifetime of rejection and betrayal. Hunted and driven into the northern wilderness, he finds security in a hidden valley where he lives a solitary life…until everything changes.

“It’s set in the future, after armageddon,” explains Penner of her novel. “It’s almost like a wild west kind of setting. But unlike most dystopian books that I’ve read, it’s more positive. It’s not this disheartening future where everything is bad.”

Haven Hold‘s protagonist, Daniel, is a mutant, but Penner says he is also an empath with the ability to understand what other people are feeling.

“He tries very hard to be an honourable person, even though he’s suffered a lot of betrayal,” she said.

Penner began writing Haven Hold 30 years ago while her husband was off work.

“We needed extra income, and I decided I would try to write a story,” said Penner. “I had no idea how many words it took to write a story,” she added with a laugh.

The story ended up being far too long to publish. But Penner enjoyed the experience so much that she continued writing. She now has 15 complete manuscripts, but throughout the years she kept returning to her original story, editing and rewriting.

When she connected with RCN Media, they made the decision to split the long manuscript into three parts—a trilogy. Haven Hold is the first book in this trilogy.

Some of Penner’s literary influences include science fiction and fantasy writers Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey. But Penner is also inspired by her day-to-day life.

“Just about everything that happens in my life—it all goes into this kind of melting pot in my head,” she laughed. “It will come to me in a dream, and the next day I’m writing. I tend to like stories about people finding their place in the world.”

Penner has had short stories published with RCN Media and Marigold Productions, but Haven Hold is her first novel. It will be available online on Amazon, Indigo and other book retailers, and is now available for pre-order. Visit www.rcn.media or www.shelleypenner.com for more information and an excerpt of Haven Hold.

Penner was hoping to hold some book signings in town prior to the Aug. 25 launch, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these will have to wait.

In the meantime, Penner will join Victoria poet Anne Hopkinson reading at the virtual Alberni Valley Words on Fire open mic spoken word event on Wednesday Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. Hopkinson is the chair of Planet Earth Poetry, one of the longest-running poetry events in Canada, and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. She was also shortlisted for the BC Federation of Writers Poetry Prize in 2019, and the FBCW BC and Yukon Short in 2020.

Attendees via Zoom will get to hear both Hopkinson and Penner read. Open mic speakers from the Alberni Valley and further afield can sign up prior to the event online at www.charslanding.com. There are usually a handful of spaces available before the event.

For additional information about Words on Fire, see www.charslanding.com.

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