Character Study – The Road to Atlantis

Guest post by Leo Brent Robillard

AtlantisFNLwebDiane Schoemperlen’s “How to Write a Serious Novel About Love” offers the following advice:

“Begin with a man and a woman. Many famous novels begin with this familiar combination. Although it may at first strike you as rather trite, in fact, once you get going, you will find that it presents a vast array of possibilities.”

Narrated with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, Schoemperlen’s account nonetheless provides readers – and burgeoning writers – with keen insight into the writing process. Even the tidbit above is more enlightening than one might first imagine: novels begin with characters.

Characters. Not plots. Not themes. Characters.

As a reader, I want someone in whom I can invest. I want someone sympathetic (and I do not mean likeable) upon whom I can depend to carry me through the next two, three, or four hundred pages. As a writer, I want to provide my readers with the same.

I find it difficult to pinpoint the exact moment a character is born. Like fossils, I think they lay in hibernation, fully formed and waiting for that moment when the earth in her stirring spits them up, ready to take on the world.

No I don’t. Not really. I’m not that esoteric.

My characters float past me like jetsam. I bump up against some of them only once and then they are gone. I travel alongside others for years, riding the same current. They are the people who populate my life. Sometimes they are stolen whole-heartedly from a single person. More often they are composites – the gestures of a girl I once taught, coupled with the verbal tick of a cousin, and the eyes of my mother.

People have recognized themselves in my books. Or at least they think that they have. Because ultimately my characters are fictional. They are crafted. They serve and dictate a story. A friend’s ill-temper and momentary pettiness may be recognizable to that same friend. Dare I say she might even find their inclusion in a novel offensive? But characters are the sum of carefully chosen traits. For that reason, they are exclusive and not entirely representative of the living being from whom they are inspired.

Novels – particularly my most recent, The Road To Atlantis – are hypothetical. They are the great “what if?” I plot the characters’ journeys meticulously from the outset, but they continue to surprise me. Even when they end up exactly where I wanted them to be, their methods of arrival can veer off in unexpected ways. Atlantis is as close to autobiography as I have ever come. By that I mean I have drawn heavily on myself and on members of my closest family – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And yet, beyond the opening chapter, the events of this book have never occurred to me.

I simply asked myself, “what if?” And the characters provided the answer.

Robillard,Brent_Caroline Bergeron3_2About Leo Brent Robillard

Leo Brent Robillard is an award-winning author and educator. His novels include Leaving Wyoming, which was listed in Bartley’s Top Five in the Globe and Mail for Best First Fiction; Houdini’s Shadow, which was translated into Spanish; and, most recently, Drift. In 2011, he received the Premier’s Award for Teacher of the Year. He lives in Eastern Ontario with his wife and two children.

About The Road to Atlantis

Following the coast on their summer vacation, the Henrys stop at the beach to break up the monotony of their road trip. Matty and Nat build castles in the sand as Anne and David take turns minding the children. A moment of distraction, a blink of the eye, and the life they know is swept away forever.

Like shipwrecks lost at sea, each member of the family sinks under the weight of their shared tragedy. All seems lost but life is long. There are many ways to heal a wound, there are many ways to form a family, and as the Henrys discover, there are many roads to Atlantis.

Episode 9: New year, new books!

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 8.27.00 PMHello lovely listeners!

Happy 2016 – I’m so happy to be back with more author interviews, book reviews, and other fun book things on the Literally, Katrina podcast! In today’s episode, I talk about some fantastic books I read over the holidays and I also review The Road to Atlantis, written by Canadian author Leo Brent Robillard.

Literally, Katrina is the first stop on a blog tour to get the word out about The Road to Atlantis, a powerful novel about family, tragedy, and what it means to rebuild after you lose everything. It’s so heartbreakingly good! Listen in for my review of the book, as well my interview with Turnstone Press’s associate publisher Jamis Paulson about the blog tour.

I am also giving away a copy of The Road to Atlantis to one lucky listener!! All you have to do is follow @LitKatrina on Instagram and like the Episode 9 post to enter. I’ll be announcing the winner in one week from today, on Monday, January 18th. Good luck!

Looking for some great reads to dig into this year? Here’s a list of what I read over the break:

throne of glass seriesThe Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. I binge-read the entire series over the holidays and I’m pretty smitten. The fourth instalment in the series, Queen of Shadows, won the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Young Adult Fantasy – well deserved!

25614833Pillars of Light, written by British author Jane Johnson, is a 12th century epic set during the Third Crusade. Chronicling the notorious Siege of Acre, this stunning adventure of a novel reveals both the brutality and beauty of humanity through the eyes of ordinary people. For fans of Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett, and reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven, this irresistible and humanizing epic is sure to delight. I loved this book! Catch my review of this novel in the Winnipeg Free Press in the coming weeks.

And speaking of the Winnipeg Free Press, my review of the award-winning novel Book of Sands by Karim Alrawi was out on Boxing Day. Missed it? Check it out here.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe to Literally, Katrina on iTunes (or the Apple Podcast App), like Literally, Katrina on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @LitKatrina, and add me on Insta @LitKatrina.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016 full of good books and good people!

Until next time, happy reading.

Wander far, wander often


Hello wanderers!

Happy 2016 – I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and are feeling refreshed and energized for the new year. I certainly took full advantage of the break and had the best time with family, friends, and a ton of good books!

Now, I’m not usually one for poetic new year’s resolutions (#newyearsameyou? All good! No judgement here!), but I did take the time to set some travel goals over the holidays and I can’t wait to chat about my plans here on Hopeless Wanderer over the coming months – get excited (I know I am!).

I’m also going to be trying a few new things on the blog this year, including some 24-hour city guides, more helpful posts dedicated to tips and tricks to make your adventures more fun, and much, much more. There’s even a contest coming your way next month. There’s so much to look forward to. 2016, let’s do this!

Here’s to many more adventures and a happy new year!

Until next week, stay well.

2015 in review

Hello lovely readers,

2015 was a great year for Literally, Katrina – thank you so much for reading my posts and listening to my podcast!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog – check it out!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 940 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Looking forward to 2016. Happy New Year, friends!


Episode 8: It’s literally a cozy christmas

Bookclub with Melinda
The book club ladies with author Melinda Friesen. From L-R: Beckie, Kaeri, Jessica, Melinda, Miranda, Katrina, Carla.

Hello listeners!

In today’s episode of the Literally, Katrina podcast, we listen in on a chat the It’s Literally a Book Club had with local author Melinda Friesen (see photo above!), and I also reveal the winner of the #cozychristmas Instagram contest. It’s quite exciting! Take a listen:

It was so great having Melinda join us! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to chat with her when her second book comes out in the new year! For more information about Enslavement, you can visit Melinda’s website at Enslavement is also available in-store here in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson, Chapters, and Kite & Kaboodle in the Johnston Terminal at The Forks.

christmastreeOkay, so now what you’ve all been waiting for! Here’s a recap of what’s in the #cozychristmas prize pack, which I’ve been revealing bit by bit on Instagram over the past month:

  • One spectacularly cozy handmade scarf by Pebble and Dime, made right here in Winnipeg by the lovely Vivian Sawatzky. It’ll keep you warm (especially now that we actually have snow) and it’s also adorable so you’ll look good, too.
  • One delightful Coal and Canary “All I Want Fir Xmas” candle, also made here in Winnipeg – if you haven’t heard of Coal and Canary, it is the local candle company taking Hollywood by storm – that’s right, last year, Coal and Canary candles were in celebrity gift bags at some major award shows, including the Grammy’s. “All I Want Fir Xmas” is a scent from the 2015 holiday collection and it smells like the perfect christmas tree – I love it so much!
  • A book by Giller Prize-winning author Marina Endicott, called Close to Hugh, which was also on the 2015 Giller Prize long list. Heartwarming, heart wrenching, and full of humour, this book gives us the chance to spend a week with some of the most interesting and infuriating characters – artists, actors, and prima donnas abound in this novel about love, loss, and life. And every chapter title is a witty play on words to do with Hugh, who is the loveable main character – for example, “nothing Hugh can do”, “I only want to be with Hugh”, and “can’t buy Hugh love”. Oh the puns. I really enjoyed this one.
  • And last but not least, A Whole Life, an international bestseller by Robert Seethaler. I reviewed this little gem of a book for the Winnipeg Free Press a little while back and really treasured the gentle and moving story Seethaler tells about Andreas Egger, a guy just making his way through life in the Austrian Alps. This book also features one of the most romantic wedding proposals ever, so there’s that.

Without further ado, the winner of the 2015 #cozychristmas contest is…..nadine.leila! Hooray! How exciting!

That wraps up 2015 for the Literally, Katrina podcast! I’ll be back in January with another book giveaway and much, much more. Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe to Literally, Katrina on iTunes (or the Apple Podcast App), like Literally, Katrina on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @LitKatrina, and add me on Insta @LitKatrina.

Until 2016, Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Episode 7: panel time!

panelbannerHello listeners!

On this week’s episode, I chat with an amazing group of fellow classmates about the writing process and what it’s like to be a first-time author. I also chat a little bit more about the #cozychristmas contest that’s going on right now. See below for how to enter – you will want this prize, it’s so awesome!

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.15.02 AM#cozychristmas contest details:
What is it? It is YOUR chance to win a fabulous prize pack, my christmas present to you. I’ve put together an amazing prize that includes a couple of books (obviously!), and then also items from local vendors that really capture the cozy vibe that I love about this season. How do you enter to win? All you have to do is follow @LitKatrina on Instagram and like all of the cozy christmas contest posts for multiple entries.

I’ll also be posting some pics of some of the prize pack items, so make sure to keep your eyes out for what you could win! There will only be one lucky winner, and I’ll be announcing the winner during Episode 8, which comes out just in time for Christmas, on December 21st. I’m actually so jealous of the winner, I want to keep all of the items for myself. They’re that good.

follow today’s guests:

Sean Perrun – follow The Fine Book of Nil on Twitter

Tannis Miller – follow A Book of Word Paintings on Instagram

Danielle Doiron – follow Mind Games on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Emily Janssens – follow Emily on Facebook to stay updated about her new book

Rachel Carlson – follow Rachel on Facebook to stay updated about her upcoming book

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of the Literally, Katrina podcast! Don’t forget to add @LitKatrina on Instagram for your chance to win the #cozychristmas contest. To stay up-to-date on all things Literally, Katrina and books, subscribe to the Literally, Katrina podcast on iTunes or the Apple podcast app, like the Literally, Katrina Facebook page and Pinterest board, and follow me on Twitter and Insta @LitKatrina.

Until next time, happy reading!

What not to do: when you arrive

blog collaborationHey wanderers!

In the final week of the Hopeless Wanderer + Wanderlust & Heart collaborative series on what not to do when traveling, I’m giving you two important tips on what not to do when arriving at your adventure destination.


Don’t go to bed unless it’s actually night time.

So this really comes back to my first post in this series about what not to do on a long flight, but we’re talking about jet lag here. It’s real and it sucks if you don’t actively prevent it. What I recommend is trying to regulate your internal clock starting a week before you leave just to help your body get ready for the time adjustment, take melatonin if you need to, and then try to go to bed at a normal time when you arrive – no napping!

I’ve learned this one the hard way – on my most recent trip (to Europe with my mom and younger cousin, Hayley, in 2014), my mom and cousin weren’t prepared for jet lag and decided to have a “short nap” when we first arrived in  Paris. My protests were drowned out by snores in only a couple of minutes – and I won’t lie, a nap was tempting for me, too! – and we all slept the day away. It made the next day much trickier, considering we weren’t tired when the rest of the world went to bed.

Moral of the story: no matter how tired you are or how much you want that nap, if you arrive at 10:30 in the morning and have a nap right away, you’ll sleep the day away and wake up at 2am wondering where the heck you are. The last thing you want to do is waste your first day either asleep or really groggy from a bad sleep!

imagesDon’t take an illegal taxi to your accommodations.

Another hard lesson learned – while on the same trip with my mom and Hayley, we took an illegal taxi upon arriving in Rome. I’m usually such an aware traveller, but I had a total lapse in vigilance and didn’t really notice anything amok until the cabbie duped us for cash. Such a rookie mistake. Please don’t let this happen to you! It’s frustrating and annoying. Luckily for us, nothing bad really happened other than the loss of some funds, but taking illegal taxis can also be dangerous. Be better than us and stay safe!

One way to avoid this: walk if your accommodations are close enough. If you can’t walk it, take the train, subway, or bus – you’ll probably be taking public transportation around the city while you’re there, so you might as well by your pass and get right to it. Learning the transportation system of a new city right off the hop is the best way to do it. And lastly, if you really do have to take a taxi, make sure you’re using a safe and trusted service. Uber is also great because you have more control.

And there you have it, friends. Basically, these are the only two tips you need for what not to do. Be safe, be rested…but be adventurous – go out and explore, because that’s what travelling is for!

That wraps up the Hopeless Wanderer + Wanderlust & Heart collaborative series on what not to do when traveling – thanks for following along! Make sure to check out Elizabeth’s post this week (and every week, because her blog is great!). In other news, I’m so excited to announce that Hopeless Wanderer was an honourable mention in The Uniter 30 poll’s Favourite Local Blog category – very, very cool! Thanks to everyone who voted!

Stay well,

What not to do: when travelling with someone

blog collaborationHi all!

It’s week three of the Wanderlust + Heart and Hopeless Wanderer blog series, and this week, Elizabeth is exploring what not to do when travelling with someone. Make sure to check out her post – she’s got some great tips on what not to do!

Solo travel can be super rewarding – it’s a great way to find out more about yourself, and also push your boundaries and try new things. There are also benefits to travelling with others – all of my favourite trips have been shared with friends or family (and sometimes, complete strangers!). I like having people to bounce ideas off of, and make memories with! It’s also great to have someone with you in case things go off course (missing flights, getting lost, losing luggage – it’s so much easier to deal with mishaps if you have a friend to help you out). It’s also more fun!

Chad, Kaeri, and I in Barcelona. I love this photo!
Chad, Kaeri, and I in Barcelona. I love this photo!

If you’re on the fence about travelling with a buddy or flying solo, take some time to think about what you want to get out of your trip and if going it alone is going to work better or make you lonely. Then, if you decide you want a buddy or a group to join you, choose those companions with care. While you won’t always get along 100% of the time,  if you choose people who know you well (and love you unconditionally, even when you’re being a total troll! It happens to the best of us!), you won’t encounter many situations where you won’t get along. Travel can certainly bring out the worst in you, especially when you’re tired and stressed out, but having great travel companions can make things a whole lot better.

Here are some snapshots of some of my favourite trips – from Spain to Germany to Disney World with my family, all of my best times have been shared with my favourite people.

Kaeri and I visiting our German Exchange Students, Sümi and Kathy, and some other friends, in Munich.
Kaeri and I visiting our German Exchange Students, Sümi and Kathy, and some other friends, in Munich.
Kaeri, Kathy, Ramona (another friend we made while on German Exchange), and I in Friedrichshafen.
Kaeri, Kathy, Ramona (another friend we made while on German Exchange), and I in Friedrichshafen.
Kaeri and I celebrating a birthday in India
Kaeri and I celebrating a birthday in India
Me and my fam in Florida! The biggest kids at Walt Disney World.
Me and my fam in Florida! The biggest kids at Walt Disney World.
Chad, Brayden, Kaeri, Jerras, and I at the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain.
Chad, Brayden, Kaeri, Jerras, and I at the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain.

Make sure to check out Elizabeth’s tips about what not to do when travelling with a buddy, and then start planning your next trip!

Next week, I’ll share some tips on what not to do when you arrive at your destination and adventure awaits. Get excited.

Until then, stay well!


Episode 6: #CozyChristmas

 Hello listeners,
Lindsy Boyd Dickenson's first novel in the Fortune Valley series, Love in Fortune Valley.
Lindsy Boyd Dickenson’s first novel in the Fortune Valley series, Love in Fortune Valley.

Episode 6 of the Literally, Katrina podcast is here – along with the snow! I personally love this time of year, and to honour the holiday season and the fact that Literally, Katrina is now on Instagram, I’m doing another book giveaway! Holla! Add @LitKatrina on Insta for your chance to win an amazing – and cozy – prize pack. I’ll be revealing parts of the prize pack throughout the month of December, so keep your eyes on Insta for #CozyChristmas posts and for details on how to enter to win. The winner will be announced on December 21st – it’s my Christmas present to you!

In today’s episode, I chat with local author Linda Dickenson, whose Fortune Valley series you can find on under Lindsy Boyd Dickenson. She has two books out in the series – Love in Fortune Valley and Return to Fortune Valley, Another Sunset, Linda’s third novel, will be out this winter.
 Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe to Literally, Katrina on iTunes (or the Apple Podcast App), like Literally, Katrina on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @LitKatrina, and add me on Insta @LitKatrina.
I’ll be back in two weeks with an exciting panel of newbie authors – you won’t want to miss it.
Until then, happy reading!
– Katrina


What not to do: on a long flight

What Not to Do on a Long Flight title page

Hi wanderers!

Continuing on with the Wanderlust + Heart and Hopeless Wanderer blog collab, this week I’m going to run through what not to do on a long flight. I’ve had a lot of experience with airplanes, airlines, and flights of all kinds (some provide the cutest mini wine bottles, it’s adorable), so I’ve got a lot of advice for you!

Winter has finally hit Winnipeg (comedian Kevin Hart landed in the middle of a blizzard!), and a lot of us are already dreaming of summer (if you’re really aching for some sunshine and beach time, check out this list of tropical vacation destinations!). If you’re thinking ahead to warmer days and flights to exotic destinations, these tips on what not to do on a long flight will be a big help.

  1. Do not forget to sleep
    • I’m not a nervous flier but I tend to get a little wired when I travel – it’s hard not to get excited when you know you’re embarking on an adventure! My best advice for flying, though, is to make sure that you rest. If you’re flying internationally, you may have several  flights, long layovers, and stressful connections, and you’ll want to be well rested to tackle those situations. Flying can also mess with your natural sleeping rhythm (jet lag is definitely a thing), so it’s important to rest up and use those flying hours as sleeping hours.
  2. Do not wear uncomfortable clothing
    • This is key. Not everyone can step off a plane à la Miranda Kerr – her off-duty style tops even my best days. If you’ve got a long flight ahead of you (or several!), I recommend going full comfort. Airport security isn’t high heel-friendly, and cold airplane air isn’t summer dress-friendly, so make sure you dress for the flight, not the destination. You can always change into a different outfit upon arrival (just pack it in your carry on!). Opt for a more cozy outfit (like Kendall Jenner) – you won’t regret it.
  3. Do not just sit there!
    • I learned this lesson the hard way. I had one 16-hour continuous flight from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Atlanta, Georgia, and I really didn’t anything but sleep and watch movies – really, what else is there to do but sit? I know airplanes are confined spaces and there isn’t much room to move around, but I highly recommend getting up at least once an hour – walk to the washroom, walk up and down the aisles, do a little stretch break between cabins. Just do something, no matter how silly you feel! Your legs will thank you – my legs were so swollen after that 16-hour flight that they were sore for almost two weeks.
  4. Do not be mean to the flight attendants
    • Flight attendants are your friends. Be friendly and kind, and they will return the favour! If you’re an easy passenger, they’ll make your experience much better.
  5. Do not be a crappy seat mate
    • Don’t be a grump. Don’t take up more space than you need to. Don’t make a mess with your food. Don’t turn your music up super loud. Basically, be a nice human. I have met such nice people while flying! If your seat mates are willing, chat with them and get to know them. You don’t have to become best friends, but you’ll want to be comfortable with them for 6+ hours you’re on a flight with them.
  6. Do not forget to drink water
    • Remember when my legs got really swollen on that 16-hour flight? Well, part of the reason for that was because I wasn’t moving around or stretching my legs – but the other part of that was not drinking enough water. Flying is extremely dehydrating – common side-effects of flying are dry skin, sore throat, and chapped lips for me! All signs of not consuming enough water. Airplane food is also notoriously salty – that salt, combined with dry/stale airplane air, makes for an unhappy body. Take care of yourself and drink water throughout the flight.
  7. Do not ignore your body clock
    • Similar to my advice about getting rest while you fly, make sure you also pay attention to your body clock and give it time to adjust to new time zones. A great way to prep for a new time zone and avoid jet lag is by taking along some melatonin – melatonin is a natural hormone that helps control sleep and wake cycles and can help fend off bad sleeping habits while travelling.
  8. Do not binge watch
    • Give your brain and your eyes a break! Bring alternative forms of entertainment when flying – I always pack a book, an iPod (great for music and games), a magazine, and a puzzle book (sudoku or crosswords are my go-to). If you’re travelling with a friend, chat with them! Play a game with them – no shame bringing a pack of cards. This will help prevent zombie-ism.
  9. Do not leave your headphones at home
    • And by headphones, I mean those of the noise-cancelling variety. You don’t realize how loud airplanes can be until you try a pair of these – they’ll save you some ear- and headaches (and save your hearing in the long run). These also come in handy when flying with crying babies (no offence, babies! I know you’re tired and yes, you’re very cute, but your screams are shattering my ear drums!). Trust me, get a pair of these and you won’t regret it!
  10. Do not be nervous!
    • Flying isn’t for everyone and that’s okay! You’re surrounded by strangers in a confined space, travelling at extremely high altitude at supersonic speed – it’s not natural and can be hard on your body. That being said, it can also be exciting. Relax and get comfy – your adventure is about to begin!

Not planning on flying anywhere anytime soon? No problem – Winnipeg was just named one of National Geographic Traveler’s top 20 travel destinations in 2016, the only Canadian city to make the cut!! If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is. It may be snowy here, but we have good people and lots of great things to do. I ❤ Winnipeg.

Make sure to check out Elizabeth’s post next week on Wanderlust + Heart as she explores what not to do when travelling with a buddy. I’ll be back with more fun tips, too!

Until then, stay well!