CANMORE – A self-published author from Ottawa has put Canmore on the map.
The mountain town plays a large role in Josh Cybulski’s first published book, Second Story Work, a neo-noir crime novel. Cybulski explained the main love interest in the book is a character from Canmore named Many Aruda.
When he started writing the book he recalled a family trip to Canmore as a child and had to weave the mountain town into the story.
“I always had this nostalgia about the first time I visited Canmore," he said. "I love the mountain town. Being downtown and seeing the mountains surrounding you – it almost feels like you’re in a fishbowl of mountains and to me, it always seemed like the perfect backdrop for a story.”
When Cybulski first started writing the novel in 2009, he returned to Canmore to find many things had changed from his first visit. In 2017, he returned once more, to find the town had changed even more.
“The book starts off at this sort of seedy motel where the main characters are hiding out. When I was there in 2009, it was a little seedy, and when I went back three years ago it was really nice, I thought then I should keep the name out of the book,” said Cybulski while laughing.
While the motel may not be named, two well-known Canmore restaurants are mentioned by name – Thai Pagoda and Crazyweed. The main love interest in the novel lives on Riva Place in Three Sisters Mountain Village.
Cybulski said he sees Canmore as a serene and peaceful town, which is a stark contrast to the dark mood of the book. The majority of the novel takes place in Vancouver and follows four characters, Sarge, Messy, Hecky and R-Luv, as they move across the country to chase their dream in the film industry, but who turn to crime to survive.
Much of the book relies on personal experiences and the lives of others.
“I myself graduated from film school and moved to Vancouver in 2008 with a group of friends when the film industry was falling apart, so I have actually experienced that. Thankfully, I never fell into the criminal underworld like the characters in the book,” said Cybulski.
Inspiration for the plot of the novel came from a friend he met while in Vancouver, who lost his job and joined a gang. Cybulski said after that the two lost touch and he never heard from him again.
Writing about Vancouver’s criminal underworld, a subject Cybulski said he has zero experience with, he poured hours of research into the subject to make it authentic. He recalls reading through more than 15 years worth of work by Vancouver Sun journalist Kim Bolan about crime in Vancouver.
“She is incredibly brave and does a really good job at painting a picture of what the Vancouver criminal underworld is like," he said. "I read everything she had written.”
A sense of adventure is one major theme in the book, which mirrored Cybulski’s journey. He describes the characters as the adventurous types and those willing to take a chance into the unknown.
“It [adventure] is definitely a theme as they jump into the life of crime just because they are willing to take chances and risks. While there are other themes, this one is quite prevalent.”
While the book was being edited and sent out to beta readers, Cybulski said the feedback he received was that the book was comparable to Less Than Zero. He said he was extremely pleased to receive that feedback, as the Bret Easton Ellis novel is one of his personal favourites.
“I don’t think my writing is like Ellis. My dream is to write something that would be mentioned in the same breath as Cormac McCarthy,” who Cybulski said is a source of inspiration.
When Cybulski started writing the novel, it started as a way to keep himself busy. At the time he didn’t have a job, as the film industry was hit hard in the 2008 financial collapse.
“It was a way for me to amuse myself. It just grew from there and became a passion project and something I wanted to complete by the time I was 35 and I am 35 now. So I did get it done, I just took the maximum amount of time,” said Cybulski with a laugh.
The novel is currently available on amazon.ca for pre-sale on the Kindle and will be released for paperback on Sept. 28.
Visit Cybulski’s Facebook page for more information.