Interview content courtesy of Bud Robertson and The Brandon Sun, October 10, 2019
A Carberry-area writer is keeping her mother’s passion alive, publishing the late author’s last historical fiction novel.
Marnie Sluman Somers edited the novel, “The Amulet: A Novel of Early Canada,” the final draft manuscript which was written by her mother, Norma Sluman, before she died in 1993 at the age of 69.
“It was a very sentimental journey,” said Sluman Somers, as she and her partner Wilf Davis manned a booth at the recent Big One arts and crafts fair in Brandon.
A launch for the self-published book was held Oct. 3 at the Carberry North Cypress Library.
“Many times, when I was typing a phrase, I could hear my mother’s voice in the room,” she said. “It was bittersweet. I literally could hear her in the room. But it was happy memories.”
Sluman Somers said her mother had sent her the manuscript to retype in digital form submit to the publisher. “She didn’t even own a computer,” she said. “She did all her writing old school with no Internet and manual typewriter.”
An undated photo of Norma Sluman, who wrote “The Amulet: A Novel of Early Canada” before passing in 1993. Her daughter, Marnie Sluman Somers, has edited and published her mother’s last historical fiction novel. (Submitted)
A busy life got in the way, however, and the task was put on the back burner.
“I didn’t have it done by the time she passed,” Sluman Somers said. “It kind of sat on a shelf for a long time, silently nagging me from the shelf saying, ‘Hello, you were supposed to type me.’ It bothered me that I hadn’t done it for her.”
Approximately four years ago, Sluman Somers decided that in this age of self-publishing, “this is still doable, even if she wasn’t still around.”
She set about finding a publishing company and settled on FriesenPress, which has a whole division dedicated to self-publishing.
With the help of a local editor, Laurie MacNevin, Sluman Somers — herself a freelance writer and editor — went through the book, changing references that, in the minds of today’s readers, might be seen as perpetuating negative stereotypes, while maintaining the integrity of the story.
The historical fiction novel tells the story of the Frog Lake Massacre, which ignited the North-West Rebellion in 1885, through the eyes of the people who experienced it, white, Métis and Indigenous.
“We came to the conclusion that if we left the dialogue between the characters as it would have been in the 1880s, and we changed the dialogue in the narrative part … that if we brought that up-to-date, it would be the answer,” Sluman Somers said. “Once we did it, it works, and I’m really confident my mother would have wanted that and she would be pleased with the mother-daughter iteration that we’ve come up with.”
Norma Sluman was born and raised in Toronto. She became deeply interested in Canadian Aboriginal issues when she moved to Calgary with her husband Ken, who was a football player for both the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos.
She spent much of the time she lived in the three Prairie provinces studying writing, Canadian history and the Indigenous Peoples of the Prairies.
The mother of three children, Sluman published two historical fiction novels, “Blackfoot Crossing” (1959) and “Poundmaker” (1967). Both novels were published by Ryerson Press.
She also co-wrote “John Tootoosis: Biography of Cree Leader” with Jean Cuthand Goodwill, which was published by Golden Dog Press in 1982 and reprinted three times by Pemmican Publications.
Sluman Somers and MacNevin have also re-edited the first two novels, which are now available online in digital format.
She is currently seeking permission to republish the Tootoosis biography, as well.
“The Amulet” is available in digital format through online booksellers as well as hardcover and paperback.
Sluman Somers is planning a book tour at libraries around Manitoba to promote “The Amulet” and is in negotiations with Coles in Brandon.