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Montreal is more than just music festivals, street art and the St Laurence river. It also has a dark side.
Mark Leslie is a Canadian horror writer with a passion for haunted places and, today, we’re talking about his book, Macabre Montreal.
- On the old world feel of Montreal and it’s history
- The influence of the St. Lawrence river on Montreal’s feel
- Interesting places to look for history in Montreal, including the cemeteries
- Making connections to history through city ghost tours
- Recommendations for good books based in Montreal
- On the pleasure of walking through a new city
You can find Mark at www.MarkLeslie.ca and on Twitter @MarkLeslie
Joanna: Mark Leslie is a Canadian horror writer with a passion for haunted places and, today, we’re talking about his book, ‘Macabre Montreal.’ Hi, Mark.
Mark: Hey, Jo. How are you doing today?
Joanna: I’m good. Thanks for coming on.
Where are you in the world right now?
Mark: Right now, I am in Waterloo, Ontario and that’s in Canada. And for those people who aren’t familiar with where Waterloo, Ontario is, it’s about an hour and a half drive northwest of Toronto.
We are near the Great Lakes of North America, just north of Lake Ontario. Waterloo is relatively flat. I mean, there’s a local ski hill, but it’s not very big.
You have to drive a couple of hours to get to a really, really nice, big ski hill, Blue Mountain, or even many more hours, one of the best skiing in this part of Canada is near Montréal.
We’re near the Niagara Escarpment; Niagara Falls is about a two-hour drive away from here and the Niagara Escarpment is beautiful, so the hiking here is impeccable. Great trails for running and taking the dogs for a walk etc.
Joanna: Today, we’re talking about Montréal, so why are you writing about Montréal? Because I think people might not know about Québec. You’re not living there.
What fascinates you about the city and what is different?
Mark: Initially, my co-author for the book is Shayna Krishnasamy and we used to work together and Shayna knew that I had written ghost story books. This would be the sixth one I have either written or co-written.
She lives in Montréal and she said, ‘Hey, would you ever want to co-author a book together?’ and that’s how some of the projects come about. She says, ‘Well, I live in Montréal,’ so she could go on the ghost walks and take pictures and then, myself, I could do a lot of the research through reading and books and stuff like that.
Now, one of the beautiful things about Montréal is Québec City is probably the only city in Canada that has more of a European feel than Montréal. When you’re in Paris or you’re in Lille in France, you get that sense, this just beautiful, old architecture and the cobblestone streets and all of this beautiful history, and Montréal does have a beautiful sense of that history.
Québec, in Canada, has a very, very strong French culture. It’s probably more primarily French than any other place in Canada.
My actual last name is Lefebvre, if you want to try and give a bit of a French tang to it. I don’t speak French very, very well and most people can never spell or pronounce Lefebvre.
However, if you go to Montréal and you look at the phone book, whereas the phone book in Toronto might have 10 or 20 Lefebvres in it, and if you go to the Montréal phonebook, there’ll be 20 or 30 pages of Lefebvres because it is a common name. Well, not as common as Smith, but it’s like a French version of Smith.
Montréal has such a rich culture and history, and again, a lot of French. And a lot of the formation of Canada is embedded in this because Montréal is right on the St. Laurence Seaway. So, thinking about the main commerce routes, especially trading coming in from Europe and travelers and explorers. There’s just such a fascinating history to dig into and that, for a ghost story, is the best type of ghost story when you can rely on the history.
Joanna: Just on the language thing, do people in Québec primarily speak French? If you go to Montréal, would you expect the signs to be in French?
What is the dominance of French language in Québec?
Mark: In Québec City, there’s probably a lot more dominant because there are millions of people, probably, in Montréal that don’t speak French and only speak English. It is very multicultural, but French is very, very dominant.
The last time I had spent some time in Montréal, I was working there on a contract for a week and I was in a very highly-concentrated neighborhood at the Université de Montréal, University of Montréal, and I was training people on this technology that didn’t speak English.
So, I was using Google Translate to type in what I wanted to say in English, reading it, and then trying to say it in French and they were very forgiving and very generous to me. I didn’t have any English-speaking companions, so even when I went out for breakfast or dinner or I went out after work, I tried very, very hard to speak French because I wanted to speak it.
It was really great because I would speak French to the waiter and then the waiter would respond in English. It’s like, ‘It’s obvious you don’t do this very well.’
Joanna: Which is what’s so interesting, I think, because many people don’t even understand that Canada has this of French side to it.
I have been to Montréal. I also worked there. Not for very long, less than a couple of weeks, so I’ve walked around it. But the St. Lawrence River makes it a river city, doesn’t it?
What influence does the river have on the way the city is?
Mark: The river splits the city too. You have the north and the south part of the city.
I remember one of the early stories I heard was a vice principal from my high school growing up and I remember interviewing him when he was retiring. And it was fascinating because I’d never been to Montréal but he shared stories of growing up in Montréal and seeing war-related activities on the seaway where there was a sub with prisoners who were right there.
Halifax in Canada, which is on the East Coast, would have a very similar feel where you see the ships coming in and out. So, you’re seeing lots of people coming, maybe for the first time, to Canada.
Or you’re seeing activity, you’re seeing commerce, you’re seeing war-related activities. Because whenever you’re close to the edge, even though Montréal’s almost in the middle of Canada on the Eastern Canada, that leads to an export from the country or an import into the country very interestingly.
So, the dynamic of a river can take that edge, where Halifax is on the edge of Canada, and on the edge of the ocean, and it brings it inland so it’s both an inland community and a sea community.
Joanna: I always love river cities. I think they have a certain feel.
But just coming back to the French influence, I’ve certainly been to the Notre Dame Cathedral. I always think if you want to see something a bit macabre and a bit bloody, go to the local Catholic Church.
Mark: Oh, for sure.
Joanna: I think it’s 19th century. It’s not super old, that cathedral. If people want to see into the history, the French influence. Of course, the British killed people as well, the British always go around killing people.
Where might people visit to see that French history?
Mark: One of the best ways to see some of the French history is the cemetery. Mount Royal Cemetery is this spectacularly huge metropolis of a cemetery. And, what I found fascinating is, I expected to see a lot of French names, but then I found there was a Chinese section.
It’s almost like a Chinatown in the cemetery and then there was an Italian section and then there was a Polish section. And so, there’s this amazing cultural dichotomy in the cemetery that we find.
Liz and I, when we were there this past fall, in October, we were there exploring, and I think we spent three hours exploring the cemetery and just finding all of the different sections. There’s a huge Jewish population for Montréal as well. So, for me, the cemetery for sure.
But then you look at there’s the old Montréal downtown where you get a really great feel for some of the history and some of the legacy. But what I really like about it is, it’s such a large city. It’s the second largest city in Canada, so it has this really great sense. What you get in most really large cities is, you have the expansion of the city in the downtown, but then when you get into certain neighborhoods, you get this amazing flair of the local history and the local culture.
Every neighborhood has its own uniqueness to it that could almost be in almost any city, except for the fact that there’s a predominant French population and, even though Canada is an officially bilingual country, Québec and Montréal would be a place where you actually see bilingual signs.
You see ‘STOP/ARRÊT’ rather than just ‘ARRÊT’ or just ‘STOP.’ And in many places in Québec, you don’t see ‘Stop,’ you just see ‘ARRÊT,’ so, you don’t get as much of that.
In Ontario, where I live, there are certain communities, such as Sudbury, where I grew up, that does have a higher prominence of French people, but Toronto not as much. Toronto’s a lot more multicultural in nature, so it’s harder to find somebody who actually speaks French.
Joanna: So just back on that cemetery. Of course, both of us enjoy cemeteries and I’ve been to a lot in France. Obviously, Père Lachaise in Paris would be a famous cemetery where they were more the European-style of mausoleums. Which has little houses almost where the dead are placed. So is that the sense of Mount Royal?
Has it got a European mausoleum idea? Has it got some beautiful sculptures? What’s so cool about it?
Mark: The mausoleums alone are evidence and so, Liz, my partner, and I, when we were up there, she’s the one who pointed out, she said, ‘It’s amazing how people live beyond life the way they lived.’
You can imagine that maybe they lived in a giant mansion in a certain rich neighborhood in Montréal and, now, they’re in the rich neighborhood in the mausoleum. When you look at it and you think, ‘Wow, these dead people, their bodies are resting in a place that’s probably nicer than a lot of people live in, right now, who are alive.’ It’s amazing.
I love rituals around death and I love the way that we treat them, like how we go visit dead people and how we respect their lives and how we honor them. But these mausoleums are expensive. They look gorgeous. It’s like I could live here, this is so nice.
And just neighborhoods. It’s almost like when you go to a certain city and you wonder, ‘Well, how can somebody afford a house this big?’ And you’re thinking, ‘Well, I know what a tombstone costs.’ When you’re having buried family members. ‘I know what it costs just for a standard tombstone. I can’t imagine what a sculpture like this would cost.’
Joanna: We’d better start saving up now, Mark, for post-life sculptures.
Mark: No kidding.
Joanna: Talking about the darker side. You’ve written six ghostly haunted-place books.
I live in Bath in the UK, as you know, and there were ghost tours here. They’re popular throughout the world and before we get into the detail, what do you think draws people? So people arrive in a new city and they go on a ghost tour of the city, which some people would find that a little macabre, as we said.
What does it add to an experience of a place to go on a ghost tour?
Mark: I think it goes back to the reason why I enjoy writing these books. Because regardless of whether or not people believe in ghosts or they believe in life after death or what they believe, regardless of even their religion or whatever, there’s an opportunity, with ghosts, that people want to talk about it because it’s the unknown and everyone loves talking about the unknown.
Now, for myself, I was never good at history. The way history had been taught to me in school, it was the most boring subject I can ever imagine and you get the old tropes and you say, ‘Well, why is this important and it happened 100 years ago? How does it affect me today?’ I never had teachers that were able to drive it home.
The very first ghost walk I went on was in our nation’s capital in Ottawa and I remember going on the ghost walk because we thought, ‘Yeah, this would be interesting. I’d love to hear some ghost stories.’
That’s when I made the connection between history and ghosts because they were dressed in the Victorian robes and they had an old lantern and it felt like you were walking back in history. And they explained so much about the people and the places and you realize, all of a sudden, that the history of that city comes alive, when you start to talk about the people who walked here before us, the people who built the things, the people who lived and dreamed and died.
And, of course, that’s what leads to the stories of the hauntings and the ghosts.
When I go to a city, I think one of the most fascinating ways to learn about the city is not just walking through neighborhoods. But if there’s a local ghost walk, you’re usually going to get an amazing flavor for history. And, again, you can’t tell a good ghost story without digging into some of that rich history.
Every single book I’ve written, ‘Macabre Montreal’ included, I learned so much more about the city than I thought I would. I initially knew stuff about the city, but then when you start digging into the past, you went, ‘Wow, that’s fascinating. I didn’t know that about Montréal,’ or, ‘I didn’t know that about Ottawa,’ or one of the other cities and that, to me, is where the ghost stories come in really, really handy.
I think the other thing is, because people love to talk about it, word-of-mouth travels really, really fast. You’re at a restaurant afterwards and you’re raving to the waiter or the waitress about the tour you were just on, and then they tell other people. There’s this great opportunity for that to spread in an analog viral way.
Joanna: I know what you mean. I like that you’re saying it brings history alive and with story, it’s not just a historical thing. It kind of brings alive with a character because, often, you’re talking about someone who might have been murdered. I was interested in the mob chapters, the mob violence. That was quite unexpected, to read about that. You think about Chicago and the mob, but Montréal has a mob.
I am interested in your thoughts on ghosts because, again, you and I both write darker things, and I think I feel ghosts are like an imprint on the environment that has come from some kind of traumatic event. I don’t know how, maybe we have a sense that, some people have a sense where you pick up on something historically nasty, almost. I don’t believe in ghosts.
I wonder, after all these books, what are your thoughts on ghosts?
Mark: I believe it all, and none of it, at the same time. I’m an optimistic skeptic or an open-minded skeptic.
One of the theories I bounce around, is that a traumatic event or an important event left an impression on the time-space continuum, and what we’re seeing is like a reel, a history reel. Because it was such a strong impression, like an echo or a ripple on water. That what we’re seeing is the effect of that long ago.
But then, of course, then there’s also the interactive. And that would be a non-interactive ghost that just kind of goes through the ritual and you just see it again and again and again and again. But, then there are stories where the ghost is interactive where people talk about. And some of them are so touching and beautiful.
A grandchild was singing a song while their mother was there and walked in the room, heard them singing this and he said, ‘Well, what song are you singing?’ and she said, ‘Oh, the nice man sings it to me every night to go to sleep.’ She found a picture of the nice man a few days later and that was that woman’s father who had died before the baby was born.
That was the song that her father used to sing to her when she was asleep and she had never sung the song to her child. And, suddenly, her child knew this song because the nice man would sing it to her. So that’s an interactive ghost where is that the spirit of the deceased, or is there some other presence that’s bringing that love into the child’s life? And so that’s where I keep changing my perspective on what a ghost is, depending on the stories I hear and the details that surround it.
But again, that’s the fascinating thing about it is because you and I can both believe in the paranormal and the source isn’t as important as the effect that the story has on us. It gives us a chill, it makes us feel warm, it makes us feel cold, it makes us feel maybe a lovely tear to think about how touching it is that you can be connected.
I think it also relays to the way that humanity itself is connected in many, many ways. Probably we have more, even though our world is very divisive right now, especially, we have more in common with one another than we ever let on.
And, we have more in common with those people who lived here in Canada hundreds of years ago or thousands of years ago, where there is a richer history. We have more in common with those people than we believe and I think ghosts help us see that.
Joanna: I totally get that. At the end of the day, it’s all about emotion, isn’t it? With our fiction and also with things like these ghost tours, the thrill, the horror.
You write horror as your fiction, but these books, they’re the other side of horror, almost true horror, true crime.
If people go to Montréal and they get on one of those open top-buses and it’s going to take them around the sites, the main things, that’s kind of obvious, and we’ve mentioned Mount Royal Cemetery.
Are there other places that you would recommend visiting, either darker places or unusual places, less well-known, that people might be interested in visiting when they’re in Montréal?
Mark: Griffintown is a great neighborhood to visit, only because probably one of the most popular common ghosts is the ghost of Mary Gallagher, who was a lady of the evening. On June 24, 1879, she was murdered and beheaded and there’s an intriguing story about whether it was a friend of hers or a John or whatever.
But what is fascinating is, every seven years, she allegedly comes back looking for her head. I think because, in Canada, we have such a young history, that the fact that it was 1879 gives it a flavor that’s more Victorian and it makes it feel more European and more exciting for us than recent history, and that’s kind of a fascinating one.
Griffintown itself is great because when you look at an older neighborhood like that, which is closer to the water, you have a sense of history because the neighborhood itself has changed multiple times. Every few decades, it goes through a revolution.
Right now, Griffintown, when Liz and I were there, we went to visit a whole bunch of great breweries and some of the breweries are based on historical locations and buildings and stuff like that. And even, there was a brewery where the building’s there, but it was in competition with Molson and Labatt, which are two major Canadian breweries, which are no longer Canadian because, now, they’re owned by Adolph Coors and Budweiser, the non-Canadian entities, but there was an amazing brewery.
And then one of my fascinating stories was this brewery was actually number one in Québec and it was a major brewery and they did one little thing and there were some deaths involved and they suddenly disappeared overnight. And, that building’s still there and it’s a reminder of how culture and commerce can change, and then think about the people who were employed by this massive brewery.
The building still stands there as a ghostly reminder of what was there. Of course, there’s ghost stories about the building because it’s abandoned. But again, when you go through a neighborhood like that in Griffintown, there’s all these reminders of what’s there now and what used to be there.
Joanna: Here, in Bath, we have a lot of ghost signs; signs that might have been on a wall for 200 years, but now it’s a house or something. It’s just the side of a house that has a sign on and they’re all protected, so it’s quite interesting to see a glimpse into a past.
I love walking around cities. I love street art. Some people think there’s a fine line between graffiti and street art. But, it looks like Montréal is pretty up there with street art and murals.
Is that something that you like or have you seen any particularly cool ones there?
Mark: Yeah, there’s some great ones because Montréal also has a rich history of writers and Mordecai Richler is probably one of Canada’s well-known modern classic writers.
I remember there’s a great mural right outside one of the breweries we were at, and there was a picture of him, and some other legacy stuff from the city. And again, you don’t discover these on the main streets.
It’s when you go slightly off the beaten path that you find these fascinating things, these fascinating street art and murals. But again, you get that in any city. As long as you’re open to exploring.
Joanna: I love the pictures of those things. I often take pictures of street art and things when I’m going. Now, you talked about a brewery there and I think, very importantly, eating and drinking are always important when we travel.
What should we eat and/or drink, even if it’s just to try it when in Montréal?
Mark: Well, very Canadian and very Montréalish, if you’re in Canada or Montréal, you have to have the poutine. Poutine is French fries with cheese curds and hot gravy poured onto it, so the gravy melts the cheese curds into it. Now, I know poutine has expanded beyond the standard, but the best poutine comes from Montréal.
Joanna: It does sound like you should maybe eat that when you have been drinking something else.
Mark: Well, it really, really helps. And, yeah, getting poutine at one of the breweries is amazing.
The other thing I think, when I’m in Montréal, I have to go to a deli and get a smoked-meat sandwich, maybe even on a Montréal style bagel as opposed to a New York style bagel. They’re a chewier type of bagel and it comes from the Jewish heritage from Montréal. Going to a Montréal deli and getting a Reuben or some sort of brilliantly delicious smoked-meat sandwich is a must.
Joanna: And what about drinking? Is there any particular beer you would recommend or any Montréal special drink we should know about?
Mark: There are some amazing breweries in Montréal, including Unibroue, which is just south of Montréal. But they’re probably one of the ones that, it doesn’t matter where I go in the States, if they have a Canadian beer, it’s usually from them. And their beers are very highly potent, so it’s usually anywhere between 8% to 14%.
Joanna: Whoa, that’s like wine.
Mark: I like Maudite, which is a French swearword, that’s the name of one of them and I think it’s a 12% or 14% beer. But I think the style of beer that comes out of Montréal is very, very heavily influenced by Belgian and French beer. Very similar to the beers that I would have when I was in France and in that area of Europe.
A lot of them are the wheat-based beers. They do some excellent porters and stouts as well. But unlike other places in North America, where IPAs have been all the rage, where an IPA is one of the most common beers and then they have maybe one or two Belgian style. When Liz and I were there in the fall of 2018, we spent 3 days and I think we visited 9 different breweries, if not 10, and they all had an amazing, an absolutely amazing selection of different beers. A lot of them were very much based on the wheat-based beers, but I love those so. Well, I like all beers, what am I saying?
Joanna: And what about, with the French influence, is there a lot of Canadian wine?
Mark: It’s not as well known. Unlike the wine regions of France, in Canada, a lot of the wine comes from the Niagara region because the climate and the weather and the Niagara Escarpment helps protect some of the wines.
There are wineries in Québec. They’re not as probably well-known, but you can get some really, really good wines in Québec as well. And, of course, because it’s a major city, the nightclub and the nightlife and the drinks flow freely.
Joanna: And it’s quite famous for music and music festivals. A bit like New Orleans with jazz.
Mark: 100%, and so many great musicians have come out of Montréal. Of course, I’m going to draw a blank, but one of my favorite musicians, Canada’s queen of rock, Sass Jordan, that’s where she came from, Montréal, and so many other great bands have come from there.
Even Austin has a great music scene in Texas, New Orleans has a great music scene, Montréal definitely a great scene.
Joanna: I’ve only been to Toronto and Montréal, and I definitely felt very European and very, I guess, more relaxed in Montréal because Toronto feels like a real working city. Whereas Montréal, I just felt, it’s a bit more relaxed here, which was quite interesting.
Give us some books that you would recommend to give people a flavor of Montréal.
Apart from, obviously, your own, ‘Macabre Montreal,’ what else would you recommend?
Mark: The one that sticks out with me is a Canadian classic called ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz‘ and I believe it may have been made into a movie with Richard Dreyfus when he was younger.
It’s by Mordecai Richler. Like Margaret Atwood, he’s one of those legacy Canadian icons. And, it gives you such an amazing sense of neighborhood of this young, Jewish boy growing up in Montréal, and you just get a feeling like you’re walking down the streets with him.
It’s a coming-of-age story as he’s growing up and learning about the world, and so it’s this beautiful universal story. So that’s Mordecai Richler, ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.’ the book is fantastic, the movie’s pretty good as well. I’m pretty sure Richard Dreyfus is in it.
And then of course, one that may be more well-known outside of Canada, so Kathy Reichs who is a Canadian author who part-time lives in Montréal. The first book in the series, ‘Déjà Dead.’ This is the series that follows her forensic investigator was made into the television series, ‘Bones.’
You don’t get a huge sense of the neighborhoods of Montréal from the TV show, but from the books, you get a really great sense. And again, if you’re like me and like you and you like the thrillers and you like the tension and you like the murder and all the intrigue and the mystery.
Joanna: You’re saying ‘Déjà Dead’ was written about Montréal?
Mark: Yes. So again, you get some flavor for Montréal in those books. Not as rich as the neighborhoods, like the more historic ’50s, ’60s neighborhoods from Mordecai Richler.
And then another one which is interesting, and so the book translates into English, it’s by Dany LaFerrière and it’s 1970 and it’s called ‘How to Make Love to a Negro without Getting Tired‘ and it was translated from French into English. It was also made into a movie, and what I loved about that is it really explores the multicultural elements of Montréal from a black man’s perspective and this is a comedy.
This is a comedy that he wrote about being a black man in Montréal and, as you can tell, it’s dark humor and, obviously, using a word that’s probably not accepted in modern English, but that is the title that he gave.
He’s been compared to Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, or even has even a Jack Kerouac flavor to it. I remember studying that in university and always thinking of Montréal as just a French city, but now I was seeing it as a French black man and that was fascinating. So those are three different perspectives of different neighborhoods.
Joanna: Those are awesome.
Mark: I highly recommend them.
Joanna: Those are really different perspectives. Thank you for those. That’s amazing. Yeah, fantastic.
People listening to this love to travel and I know you travel a lot, so I want to just ask a broader question.
Why do you travel and what does travel bring to your writing and your life?
Mark: Oh, that’s a great question. I travel a lot, usually, because I have to go somewhere for a conference, but when it’s my choice, I like to pick a place where I can explore on foot. And there’s a great book, and I can’t remember the Canadian author, but it was a book on walking and the importance of walking and I go back and I read Henry David Thoreau’s essay on walking and the importance of sauntering. Like, I want to be a saunterer.
Joanna: It’s the flaneur, the wanderer.
Mark: Exactly. And so what I love about this, and even in the city, I know I’ve read some great novels based in Brooklyn, and so when we’ve gone to New York, what Liz and I very specifically do is we walk through neighborhoods.
San Diego as well, you can actually walk from the airport, downtown. It’s beautiful. When you can walk from the airport to a city core, I think that’s the richest experience you can have to really see the city.
You can do it in LA as well. I love that, because you really get a wonderful sense of the people rather than just, like, whizzing through in a taxi or whizzing by in a car or on a bus because, you stop and you interact with people and you connect with people.One of the things I love most about traveling is the universality of connecting with other human beings in their neighborhoods.Click To Tweet
There can be feelings of welcome, there can be feelings of pride.
Because, usually, when they know that you’re not from there, they want to share something with you about what makes their area special, what makes this special. I love traveling.
I prefer not to go to chain restaurants, for example. I’d rather find a mom-and-pop and I think we get that in our craft-beer explorations because when you’re doing craft beer, it is made right there, on the spot.
And so that, to me, is one of the richest experiences with traveling. It gets us in trouble sometimes because sometimes we go off the beaten path into neighborhoods we shouldn’t go into, but again, that gives us the real sense of the world and a real sense of what’s going on, as opposed to either that prejudiced or that perspective we have.
Perfect example would be my first visit to Oklahoma City in December, and I had this impression that Oklahoma City was going to be friendly because it’s the Deep South, or it has that Deep South feel, but I didn’t realize how friendly it was going to be. It felt like I was in a small Canadian city or a small Canadian town and it was just amazing.
I was not expecting the richness of culture and I think, when you go to a city, I love to challenge myself and think about what I thought it was going to be like and then compare that to what I actually experienced by being right in there. That, to me, is the pure pleasure of travel.
Now, of course, as a writer, and I know you do this as well, I’m walking down the street and sometimes I’m walking with one of my characters. And I’ll use, so ‘A Canadian Werewolf in New York’ was one of my fiction novels and it was inspired by walking through Midtown, New York and imagining my character, Michael Andrews, talking to me and I was seeing what he was seeing.
I wasn’t seeing it from my perspective, but I was able to see what he saw, smell what he smelled, heard what he heard, and I do that sometimes. And sometimes, I’m in a place and, suddenly, the character jumps out and says, ‘I’d like to be here. You’re here. Can I be here too?’ and then I go, ‘Really? What would it be like for you?’ And I have this conversation and people look at me strange. No, I usually do it in my head.
But I find that a really fascinating way. So not only do I get to experience the city, but I get to experience the city from the perspective of my character. Maybe he lives in that neighborhood or maybe he’s seeing it for the first time and that is gold for a writer.
Joanna: I certainly do the same thing and travel definitely ends up in all my books.
You mentioned one of your books there, but tell people a bit more about the books that you have and also where to find you online.
Mark: Thank you. You can find them online at markleslie.ca and there’s links to all my books.
I mentioned ‘A Canadian Werewolf in New York,’ so, again, it’s a fish-out-of-water story of a small-town country bumpkin living in one of the world’s largest cities and he happens to have lycanthropy, so he has to deal with that.
Some of my other stuff is ‘I, Death,’ which is really macabre, really horror. It gives you a real interesting sense of Sudbury, Ontario, which is where I grew up, a small town or small city.
I have Michael from my Canadian werewolf series. He has to go visit LA and that one’s going to be called, ‘Fear and Longing in Los Angeles.’ Again, two riffs on two different popular books/movies. But again, a lot of that is fun.
I am going to be writing for an amazing monster’s anthology. It’s called ‘Monster Road Trip,’ and that’s the theme. It’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have Michael go on a road trip now.’ I don’t know where he’s going yet, but probably in the next month or two, when I’m in the car driving somewhere, I’m going to go, ‘This is where Michael is going.’ And I’m sure that’s how you get inspired for stories too.
Mark: Thank you, Jo.
Joanna: Thanks so much, Mark. That was great.
Do you have any comments, questions or book suggestions about Montreal? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.
Another delightful episode, thank you. I love listening to the passion you and your guests have for your writing and how a place / travel inspires and informs. This podcast is ‘doing it’ for me as it’s so informative and wets my appetite for travel and visiting the places featured. Love it! The one thing I shall take away from this episode is to make certain I book on ghost tours. I always ‘do’ the walking tour in every city I visit, but I have never gone on a ghost tour. I will now!
I’m visiting Canada in September for the first time – not to Montreal but travelling between Calgary and Vancouver and fortunate to be incorporating the Rocky Mountaineer train!
Jo Frances Penn
So glad you like the show, Lyn!
Wonderful show! I’m a long time listener ( and fairly recent patron) of The Creative Penn podcast, so I had to come visit here (despite the fact that I’m not a big traveler – I will fly but prefer not to!). I started with this episode because I grew up in Montreal, so it was very fun to hear it being talked about. My grandparents are buried on Mont Royal (but not the fancy part!). I have lived in Ottawa for the last 22 years. If you ever visit I’d love to take you to lunch! We have lots of ghostly history here as Mark alluded to, including the summer residence of former PM William Lyon Mackenzie King, who chatted with and sought advice from his dead mother. He also found messages in his shaving cream and considered his dogs reactions to news and events (whether or not they wagged their tails) to be worth paying attention to. And he was our longest serving PM! Good luck with this new venture!
Jo Frances Penn
Thanks, Kim! Glad you enjoyed the show 🙂
It is very interesting to hear others’ perspective on the city where I live and my country! I really enjoyed it. I have to book that haunted tour I have been postponing !!! 😃
This episode made me want to plan a trip to Canada and Montreal and do a ghost tour. Also, I had no idea about Kathy Reichs, Montreal and Bones either! You learn something new everyday. This podcast really is a life saver at the moment when I can’t travel. I’m really enjoying the different places and books explored. Great work!