Saturday 20 January 2024

The Story Behind the Story with Sheryl Doiron-Powers and Joe Powers of Maugerville, NB, Canada.


For all you fantastic visitors and readers – you are in for a treat today. Something different as we feature a husband/wife writing team. Each with their own thrilling stories. 

Joe has been a guest previously and if you missed it, please go HERE

This is Sheryl’s first visit so read on my friends.


Sheryl Doiron-Powers is a diverse Canadian writer who dabbles in many genres including horror, romance, young adult, science fiction, creative non-fiction, and everything in between. She currently lives in the small community of Maugerville, New Brunswick, with her horror writing husband, Joe Powers, and their assortment of pets.


Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer, a native of Fredericton, NB, and long-time fan of all things scary. From his introduction to the genre on a stormy Saturday night at the age of six - his first viewing of Bride of Frankenstein - he's been hooked. Hundreds, or maybe thousands, of horror movies later, that one still ranks among his favorites.

Among his many inspirations he lists Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Michael Crichton, Vincent Price, Peter Benchley and Richard Matheson. He enjoys introducing the reader to flawed, believable characters and leading them on dark journeys with an unexpected twist. He isn’t afraid to mix and match genres, fearlessly weaving horror into noir, western, or sci fi.

His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and collections, both at home and abroad, as well as two novels – the horror/western fusion Terror in High Water and paranormal thriller Seventeen Skulls – and his latest release, Old Bones, which is a collection of some of his own short stories.

In his spare time he's an avid hockey fan and dog lover, and still finds time to teach several classes at UNB's College of Extended Learning.

Joe currently lives in Maugerville with his wife and fellow author, Sheryl, and an ever-growing assortment of creatures.





Sheryl: The Maugerville Monster


Joe: Putting Down Roots




Tori and Travis Anderson’s move to the small community of Maugerville promised the young couple an idyllic setting to grow Tori’s furniture business and start their family. Short commutes for Travis combined with lower real estate costs and picturesque views of the Saint John river were the cherry on top that sealed the deal, and they moved out of their cramped Fredericton apartment into the large duplex outside the Maugerville flood line.

Maugerville has been known to get a little wet from time to time, but the community had a way of planning, of sticking together, and of making it through the rough times with a smile. Or it always used to before the flood of 2018. That flood brought something different. Something far more dangerous than the rush of the Saint John River, and nothing the Anderson’s or anyone else could have planned for.


Matt Bailey and his family have just relocated to the Maritimes from the west coast. It’s a beautiful house on a huge corner lot, at a price they couldn’t say no to. But there’s more to the idyllic property than meets the eye. A dark and deadly secret lurks at the far corner of the lot.

An ancient, twisted and gnarled tree stands ominously at the back of the house. Its sole purpose is to kill and consume anything that gets too close. It is patient, methodical, and emotionless.

The body count is rising, but Matt is as powerless to stop it as he is to convince his wife and kids of the dire peril lurking just outside their back door.

The deeper Matt digs into the situation, the more he realizes how much danger he and his family are in. He knows what his family is up against, but can he protect them? Can he stop the ancient evil before it destroys everything he loves?



The Story Behind the Story:


Sheryl: I really enjoy writing stories about locations in Canada, but especially love writing about New Brunswick. I tend to look for old mythological creatures and try to bring them into the modern world so they’re not forgotten. Sometimes my creature will be of Canadian origin, but I’ve also been known to go looking for one from somewhere else that suits a particular story setting.

I’m originally from Dalhousie, NB, but moved my way down the province and finally settled down with Joe in Maugerville. Serious snow accumulation and frigid weather were commonplace in my hometown, but I’d never experienced a Spring flood when all that snow melted. The Bay of Chaleur doesn’t really cause any major flooding like what happens here, so this was an entirely new experience for me. While talking about the flood of 2018 with Joe one day, I got the idea for The Maugerville Monster and brainstormed the idea with him, then set out to find the perfect creature for my story.


Joe: I, too, like placing my stories in Canadian locations, whether real or fictional. Some are based on real legends and stories, some I fabricate or alter to suit my own needs. But Putting Down Roots is entirely fictional, and while most of the places are real I’ve taken some liberties with the details. One day a few years ago I got the idea from a nonsensical conversation that, at one point, touched on the old Peanuts comics. Specifically, the kite-eating tree that tormented the kids. Some part of my brain whispered, “what if the tree ate the kids instead of their kites?” I kind of chuckled at that, but the seeds were planted. I wrote a short story about it, but it didn’t really do the idea justice. It has just grown from there.


Website: Sheryl - Go HERE.  Joe - Go HERE.



A couple questions before you go folks:


Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila? Neat or notes everywhere?

Sheryl: I tend to write more in the morning and early afternoons. My brain seems to go on standby mode the closer it gets to the end of the day, so writing anything later than about 4pm is just not going to happen. I usually write in my living room on the couch surrounded by animals, a cup of coffee, and creativity boosting music playing in the background. I could always write surrounded by chaos with toddlers and people talking around me while something blared in the next room, but I struggled to write at all for quite some time due to worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Now that I’ve been forced to retire early to focus on my well being, I’m getting more mobile both physically and mentally. Rheumatoid and fibromyalgia can cause issues with brain fog and concentration, and they’ve definitely affected mine at times over the years.

Now that the flare is subsiding, my brain is stretching its withered synapses, and I’ve managed to write a short story and start The Maugerville Monster. While it’s still early days, generally once the writing bug bites me, I take off like a dervish and knock out a manuscript in a short time frame. The stories are piling up in my head now, so I’ll hopefully be back to my regular speed in no time. I could have opted to finish a horror manuscript I had halfway finished, but decided it would be easier to start something new than to re-familiarize myself with an older piece when I haven’t been writing regularly.

As I’ve been struggling to write after an extended period of increased disability, I’ve now come to associate the living room with only leisure, so will be forcing myself to sit in my office, which I no longer use for work. The ergonomic setup probably isn’t a bad idea either, I suppose. A planned routine and dedicated space should help me get into the habit of writing frequently again. I tend to work best when I have a looming deadline, so I’m going to get Joe to give me word count deadlines to help me get back into the swing of things. We tend to do well when we’re pushing each other along towards the finish line.

I’m 100% pantser. The only notes I make are the ones to help me keep track of character and setting details for continuity after I’ve already written them into the story. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than a page of notes. I never have an outline, web, or handwritten notes scrawled on napkins. Well, that’s not true. I have a manuscript on the back burner that is quite complex and required a detailed plot outline for continuity and development of the plot, which has several story arcs. I’m so much of a pantser, that fantastic manuscript has been sitting in a folder for several years because I struggle to work from an outline. I write stories in order, as the details occur to me, and let the characters and plot carry me where they need to go. Joe thinks I’m crazy.



Joe: Historically, I’ve written anywhere and everywhere. When the mood strikes and inspiration hits, I just know I need to get it down on paper before it’s gone. I have a ton of old handwritten notes and story ideas scrawled on everything from notepads to the back of the program of a convention I was attending when my muse popped in for a visit. I tend to write my notes because I can write faster than I can type – a lot of it is barely legible, but it gives me something to work with and transcribe from!

As I always tell my students, story ideas are everywhere. Some are much stronger than others, granted, but there are always new ones coming along. Once I settle on one that I like, I work it through in my mind until I’m pretty sure there aren’t any glaring holes that would derail the story. If it seems workable, I’ll write out a loose outline, hit the highlights... I call it the ‘skeleton’ of the story. Once I have that in place, I’ll start adding ‘the meat’ and flesh the story out. During this part of the process I’ll spend some time on my characters and really get to know them. This is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it makes my characters more realistic and relatable, but on the other hand, as a result they often derail the story I had so meticulously plotted out. I realize I could save myself a lot of work by changing the order in which I work, but I’ve never been accused of doing things the easy way!

As far as my actual process goes, I do my best work when there’s nothing to distract me from my train of thought. I don’t always like to have music or other noise, but I will say that certain music sparks certain... types of creativity. Alice in Chains Unplugged, Heilung’s LIFA, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Skynyrd, Voiceplay... each sets the mood in its own way without being intrusive. With a longer work like a novel, I tend to jump around within the story a bit and write some of the “highlights” of the story. Then I’ll go back through and fill in the gaps, smooth over the rough edges. It sounds chaotic, and I guess it can be. On the other hand I’ve tried just writing from start to finish, and it did work out well – that’s how I wrote Terror in High Water, my first novel.



Scribbler: How do you decide on the titles for your novels? Do you have one when you start a new story or later?

Sheryl: I struggle with titles most of the time. I usually end up with a fantastic one right out of nowhere before I start writing, or I take longer to choose one than I did to write the manuscript. When I’m struggling to find one, I reread the story and look for some nugget that’ll work. If that fails, I send my manuscript to Joe and ask advice, then turn to my beta readers if we still haven’t come up with anything. I then overthink it for a bit and try to think of something better. I usually don’t and end up going with the original.

Joe: I hate to admit it, but I really have a tough time with novel names. Short stories? No problem, most of the time the title becomes really obvious by the time I’m finished with it. But novels? I’ll use a working title during the writing period, knowing full well it’s not what will appear on the finished product. Then, I’ll spend an inordinate amount of time searching for just the right fit. We joke that I spend more time writing the title than the book! Often, Sheryl and I will throw ideas back and forth in the hope something inspires me. Eventually the right title will reveal itself to me, and I’ll wonder why it wasn’t obvious the whole time.




An Excerpt from Putting Down Roots.   


Joe: This is a short snippet from what is still very much a work in progress, so it’s pretty rough. In this scene, the main character wants answers about the spooky (and, he suspects, deadly) tree in his back yard, so he seeks out the former owner of the house and pays her a visit. The woman matter-of-factly tells him the story of how she used the tree to kill her husband’s mistress, which confirms the MC’s worst fears and reveals what exactly he’s dealing with.


"So as I said, I pointed the gun at her. She wasn't smiling then. She wasn't upset, exactly, but maybe a little less sure of herself. I told her to walk out the back door onto the patio. She did, and I followed behind her. We got outside and she stopped and turned around to look at me. She asked me what now, and I said keep walking. Walking where, she asked. Over there, over by the tree, I told her. I may have waved the gun at her to get her moving. She gave me a funny look, but I think she saw I was serious, so she walked." 

"She kept talking, the entire time. Asking stupid questions, telling me my marriage was over, that my daughter would go and live with them, how pathetic I was. But I didn't say anything, and she kept walking." 

"Just before she got to the tree, she turned around and looked at me again. Right in the eye. She had this look on her face that made me want to shoot her right then. But I didn't do that, I waited and watched. She was in the middle of insulting me when her voice caught in her throat and she made a funny sound, almost like a cartoon character. She looked down at the ground, I looked down too, to see what got her attention. One of the tree's roots had broken up through the ground and had wrapped itself around her leg. Then a branch came down and... grabbed her, I guess you'd say... by the neck. She almost screamed, I think. But then that branch had her and she couldn't make any sound other than a whimpering moan. I'm not sure she really grasped what was happening to her. I can understand why. It's not the sort of thing you can really prepare for."

“What did it do to her?” Matt asked. “Did it pull her apart, or eat her, what?”

"To be honest, I can’t say for certain. I didn't stay to watch what happened. I'm not a violent person, Mr. Bailey. I don't care for scary books or movies, I'm generally a nice person. I knew something very bad was about to happen, and I didn't want to have nightmares over it. So I lowered the gun and went back inside." 

"I went back outside later that afternoon. Ashley was due home an hour or so later, so I wanted to see if there was anything I needed to clean up before she came home. But there was nothing. No sign of the woman, or that anyone had been in the yard at all that day. For a moment I was afraid she'd gotten away somehow. She'd escaped and was on her way to the police to have me arrested. I couldn't shake the feeling that it had gone wrong and that I would be in a lot of trouble."

"But nothing happened. Nobody came, she never showed up with the police in tow, not even a threatening phone call or email. She was gone, I was sure of it then."

"What happened then?"

"I had the strangest sensation of relief. I knew I’d just gotten away with murder. And because it was justified, I felt no remorse whatsoever. And that's when I decided to kill my husband next."


 What a teaser!


This has been fun and we thank you both for being our guests this week. We wish you continued success with your writing journeys.


And a HUMOUNGUS thank you to all our visitors and readers.


  1. I had the privilege of sitting next to Joe at the GMRD Book Fair in 2023. He shared his and Sheryl’s imaginations when writing. Reading this has deepened my knowledge of their art.
    Can’t wait to read more of their stories.

  2. Thanks for visiting and your comment, Suzanne.


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