Fernie-based author Pepper Couëlle-Sterling has spent the last four years writing and working on her new novel, Secrets of the Painted Door. While the book is still mostly in its pre-order stage through companies like Amazon and Chapters, there are a few advanced copies available locally at Fernie’s Polar Peek Books and Treasures.
While Couëlle-Sterling considers Fernie her home, she spends half of the year off the coast of Vancouver Island or the Caribbean on her boat. When she’s back on the mainland, Couëlle-Sterling can be found teaching at the Fernie Academy. The students she has interacted with were one of the main inspirations for the book.
“I have an art camp in Fernie called Art Safari, I also teach art to the kids at the Fernie Academy and I have an Art Club within the Academy. The creativity, enjoyment and enthusiasm of the kids is infectious and I think it comes through in the book,” she said.
Along with her students, inspiration for Couëlle-Sterling came from her education as an art historian and her late father.
“My father is an artist, when I was growing up as a kid he had sort of a magical quality; that sort of came through in his art and his outlook in life,” she said.
Originally, Couëlle-Sterling had no intentions of having the book published. It started as a form of entertainment for her while she was away from Fernie.
“At first I started writing when I was away in the Caribbean on the boat. Then eventually it started writing itself. I was enjoying it enough that it pretty much finished itself,” she said. “At some point a friend of mine said ‘You should really try to get this published.’ And now I am glad I have. I have published it as a memorial to my father and also for the kids I teach.”
Being a teacher, Couëlle-Sterling has found a way to introduce curriculum that would be suitable for nine and 10 year olds into her novel, although she assures that it is not a dry read.
“It is juvenile fiction, so for grades four to seven. I decided that based on my experience with the school. It also has a lot of curriculum in it too. There is a bunch of history and art history that is suitable to the curriculum of that age group. Even though it is fiction it is grounded in history. It’s entertaining for adults too, it will remind you of some of the things you learned in school, yet there is a magical quality to it,” she said. “There is some real history of alchemy and alchemists, there is also some real art history, as well as science from scientist like Newton. There is even a chapter titled after Newton’s third law.”
The 200-page paperback is published by local publishing house, Oolichan Books. It was first released on June 30 and can be found at Polar Peek Books in Fernie.