By Claire Wiles
Can you share a bit about your MacNeice series?
Published by House of Anansi Press, the MacNeice series follows the respected and tortured protagonist Detective Superintendent MacNeice of Dundurn Homicide. MacNeice has the finest record for cases solved in the city’s history, but for years following the death of his beloved wife, Kate, he’s plagued by nightmares about losing her. That’s when his love of Grappa began—mostly as a sleep aid, but, living alone in a stone cottage on the escarpment, he also indulges while watching the forest, and the creatures that inhabit it.
As the series progresses, the nightmares about Kate fade, but in their place, MacNeice begins having ‘conversations’ with her. Invented, but nonetheless soothing, they help him cope with his decades in homicide. It’s the department’s psychiatrist who, when learning about Mac’s relationship with Kate, realizes he’s created an effective way to manage his PTSD.
How did your upbringing in Hamilton inspire the series?
Hamilton holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, it was a place of adventure—hiking along the escarpment or hunting for turtles down at the bay. I moved around a lot, which was disruptive, but part of the adventure. The places I write about, are born of that somewhat nomadic experience. Like any child, you invent your own story.
After graduating from art college, I was unable to find work in Hamilton, so I went where the work was – Toronto. I ended up staying there, but I’ve always felt like a bit of a foreigner in Toronto. Such is the power of Hamilton!
When you return to Hamilton, where do you frequent?
I do the nostalgic tour, but mostly, for research purposes I go to the neighbourhood that I’m writing about. Dundurn, the fictional city where the MacNeice series takes place, is inspired by Hamilton. Many of the places mentioned in the series – street names, parks and landmarks, are based on factual sites in my old stomping ground. Including two of the houses where I grew up.
How did your first novel come to fruition?
Like MacNeice, my wife died of cancer at 42. Before she passed, she was the centre of our family. I remarried, but for years I had nightmares. I began writing them down, so I wouldn’t disturb Shirley, my wife. Shirley read them one day, and said, ‘this is a novel; you need to write it.’ One year later, Erasing Memory, my first novel, was complete. The dreams in that book were the ones I wrote down in the middle of the night, so many years ago.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not writing, I’m constantly researching, making notes, and thinking about my next story.
Thornley’s MacNeice collection includes Erasing Memory, The Ambitious City, Raw Bone, Vantage Point and Middlemen, hitting shelves in June.
Featured image – Scott Thornley and wife Shirley