Local author Darrell Duke asks if it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all in his latest passion project, Swept Away
There’s so much about writer Darrell Duke to admire. He’s passionate about nature, for one thing, and his friendship with a beluga this past fall made headlines here in The Herald and beyond.
Duke not only adores the sea, but also its history, and can be found puttering around bays and harbours near his Placentia hometown or his Clarenville home in one of many dories he’s restored, with love, on his own time and dime. Duke is a musician too and can be heard performing at White Hills near his home. He’s a writer as well, and his literary works can be historically captivating – like An Irish Tale of Leaving or The Garden Gate – or they can be fun family reads, like The Adventures of Crunch and Munch, a book Duke penned alongside his two daughters. Duke’s latest, Swept Away, follows along the (in parts) true-to-life-yarn spun in his book The Garden Gate, but there’s so much to this tale from the cover to the concept and inspiration that deserve to be shared.
Keeping it Local
The cover of Swept Away features MacKenzie Reading-Wakeham, 22, a young woman from Jerseyside, Placentia. “Keep it local,” Duke opened with a laugh. Duke also keeps things, quite touchingly so, in the family. The hand holding the photo image on the cover of Swept Away is Duke’s Uncle and friend, Jack Duke, 81.
“When Dad was dying, I was at the end of his bed, sketching. Jack came over and asked what I was drawing. I showed him a pencil sketch I was working on from memory – a coping mechanism, no doubt, to distract me from the current reality,” Duke shared. The image was of Duke’s fishing stage.
“He asked what kind of boat I had and I said ‘neither one yet.’ He asked, ‘what kind of a boat do you plan to get?’ I said ‘just something I can row, no motor, something old-fashioned.’”
10 months after his father’s death, Uncle Jack came calling. “He showed up in Clarenville – he’s from Southeast, Placentia Bay – with the most beautiful ‘flat’ I’ve ever seen. It was October, windy and bitterly cold, but it was the best day of my life. It began my total love of old rowboats and the sea. And, of course, he would not take a cent for it. So, to say he lent me a hand is quite the understatement,” Duke said of having his Uncle’s hand on the cover of his latest novel.
To have Loved and Lost
On the theme of Swept Away, is it really better to have loved and lost? Duke didn’t hesitate.
“I would say absolutely. This woman that’s lost, she was the best thing that’s ever happened to this young man. For anyone who’s read The Garden Gate, there’s historic facts (like burnt out homes) there, but this woman is swept overboard from (her beau’s) dory this day and he spends every moment out looking for her.”
Because Duke has spent so much time on the sea, just rowing, meant that he could become one with the main character of his latest novel. “The sound of a splash or the sound of movement as you adjust or my feet on the bottom of the boat. Sometimes you get up and you fall. How does that feel as you land?”
All those things he experienced, he shared. “I used to go out at night if the conditions were right. The Moon. You cannot get it out of your head once you see the moon literally painted there in strong contrast to the water. No matter where you go in that boat, you’re always in the moonlight and then stopping you hear something and it’s dark and you have no idea what that was.”
It’s just you and the sea, he added. “You have the feeling like there is just a lot of mystery in the ocean. You only know what you see on top and you don’t see very much in comparison to what’s on the bottom.” That experience, and the mystery, he brought to Swept Away. It’s long been said to write what you know, he added.
Duke went to sea “at all hours of the day as a form of research for this book,” he shared.
“I kept challenging myself and I went out in different weather conditions –safely and not far – just to see what it was like. I had to find out how hard it was to get out of certain situations or what it felt like to be at sea alone so I could write about it.”
Duke hopes Swept Away becomes a fast fan fav, and by the look of sales so far, that seems to be happening. It’s well deserved it seems.
“I put a lot into this one. I really lived what the character lived to the extent that I could, and I hope that shows.”
For a copy of Swept Away, visit amazon.ca