Submitted by Christine Whelan
Aug 19th, 2021 VOL. 2 ISSUE 26
Aaron Blair from Guelph has written a novel for kids, about kids, inspired by his own kids, packed with fun, combining fantasy with reality — all taking place in Crystal Beach!
The journey began about 20 years ago.
“My wife and I had been vacationing in Crystal Beach since the early 2000s. I became fascinated with the local history.” Blair began by skimming the surface.
“I had taken a break from creative writing but then that whole vacation, that experience in 2014, was the one that said, ok, its time to getting writing again.” By that time, the author and his wife had had twins, a boy, and a girl. “We loved the story, the history, and the style. I thought, let’s see what we can do, bringing those all together.”
Aaron told his story about the days he and his family were vacationing in Crystal Beach when their kids were younger, seven years old. They were reading books by Judy Blume. He remembers watching them, “They were loving the books and laughing out loud. And that’s when I thought I’d love to be able to do that for them.”
Blair expanded on the writings of this author who inspired him. “Judy Blume was always able to integrate a lot of different things in a very accessible way. They were very serious topics but she always used humour and a frank way of dealing with things that I really loved.”
Aaron talked about how he couldn’t find a lot of new content for kids ages 7-10, experiencing life, and that encouraged him to start thinking about writing something himself to fill the gap. “If I can’t find it, I’ll write it”
About The Book – About the Park
“I can remember the commercials on television when I was a kid.” Aaron shared his recollections of when he first learned about Crystal Beach Amusement Park. “And that’s what drove the fascination of the history for me; of the park, the area, and the region.”
As he dug into the research and spoke with different people, he began to understand just how far-reaching the effect the park had on people’s lives was. He realized, it was more than just a vacation spot, more than just a place to visit. “It was bigger than that.”
The writer jumping on Facebook groups of the area to connect with people who might have a photo or two to donate to his book. He was grateful to find people coming forward, happy to contribute. He heard from Sue and Rudy Bonifacio, who shared a photo of the Jolly Roger which, as Aaron explained, is a tough photo to find but the Jolly Roger is in the novel so he was grateful for the contribution. Rudy was a member of the ownership group that last owned the park.
“A lot of the research was on the last years of the amusement park, what happened with the ownership and the people of the town.” William E. Kae’s book, Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams was a primary source of Blair’s research.
Aaron incorporated the history of Crystal Beach into the storyline. “In addressing those difficult topics that Judy Blume would tackle, I brought in those final days of the park, connecting the closing to innocence lost and coming of age.”
He further explained, “There are a lot of things I tried to weave into it, to make it as fun as possible. There’s a supernatural element to it, which is complete fantasy, while giving it the backdrop of something very real and accessible and traceable, hopefully sparking interest in the readers, encouraging them to find out more information. Asking questions like, what does it mean when something closes? What really did happen to the amusement park in Crystal Beach?”
Blair shared that he grew up in the 80s watching scary, supernatural movies which influenced his creative flow. “When you go into Crystal Beach, it doesn’t feel like a ghost town. It’s lively and vibrant. But you can still sense the ghosts of the park, the echoes of what once was. That’s why I chose to include a supernatural side.”
When talking about the genre, details, and demographics of the novel, “I wouldn’t call it historical fiction. I would say it’s more historical fantasy.” He added that he liked to intercept and combine the contrast of fantasy and reality.
Since his inspiration was the looks and laughter of his children when they read Judy Blume books, Mystic Of The Midway was written for that matching age group. “It’s targeted to the little grade audience, so 7-10 years old. It can be a little bit older. It can be a little bit younger. At that age, magic is still alive. So, you can have fun with it a little more. .”
Without pictures, the book is around 136 pages. “We have around ten pictures donated — four from a historian and six from the local community,” all receiving credit in the book.
Mystic Of The Midway will be available on September 28 by ordering on Amazon and Chapters Indigo websites.
Aaron has been in communications with local bookstores. This process was disrupted by the uncertainties of the pandemic, however, the writer hopes to re-connect to proceed.
We talked about the importance for this age group to read. “Creating a love of reading early is so important. This way they continue to read even when nowadays most of their free time is staring at a screen.”
About the Author
Aaron grew up in Toronto, moving to Guelph ten years ago to raise his family and work at Research In Motion.
“I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I used to write stories, even in grade three. I would share them with the class. I got in trouble with the teacher once. I was into scary movies in grade three. My stories were just too scary for the other kids and they got banned. I got banned!” We laughed.
“My stepfather has been a great influence. He was a creative writing professor at York University, retired now. He’s been a wonderful resource.”
Aaron described his own experiences in screenwriting and journalism. “When the kids came along, I took a break from creative writing. I spent my time blogging about topics such as digital health.”
The year then came when the kids discovered Judy Blume. That’s when he decided to start creative writing again. “This time, I thought, maybe I’d like to go back to the novel format because of that experience with the kids.”
More About Mystic Of The Midway
You can read about the story and the characters, as well as view photos of the park, and enter a giveaway to win a signed copy on the book’s website.
Just a peek, “Effie knew she wasn’t the same after her accident but didn’t realize how different she had become until her family vacation. When Effie begins to hear whispers and have visions things get really strange! Effie finds a love letter to her mother that isn’t from her father! A strange mystery girl seems to follow her wherever she goes but vanishes before Effie can confront her. Even the rides in the amusement park begin to speak to her! Effie wonders; is she going crazy? Are all the things that are happening trying to tell her something?”
The twins are now 14 years old. “I’m not sure the book will have the same reaction for them that initially motivated me, now that they are teenagers, but they know they were my inspiration and they were a part of the process.” And the smiles will come for different reasons.
To learn more about Mystic Of The Midway, you can check out the website: mysticofthemidway.com
Photos provided by Aaron Blair