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Sask. author's haunted house inspires paranormal horror novel

Sask. author, Miguel A. Fenrich launches second novel.
Miguel Fenrich, pictured with fellow board member and president of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, David Schleich.

THE BATTLEFORDS — “What Lies in the Valley is a significantly more complicated novel than Blue, because, in this novel, I’m trying to pull together so many different threads,” Miguel A. Fenrich said at his book launch on Friday 13 in North Battleford. 

He detailed the paranormal horror, historical fiction, psychological elements, character, plot developments and timelines that all had to come together to make the novel flow smoothly.

“Weaving all of those together so that it actually looked like a book when I was done instead of just rambling was very, very difficult.” 

What finally pulled the many drafts together was his stumbling across an accidental first line that he fell in love with.

The first line in his book reads, 

“Somewhere in the wild, untamed wilderness north of the Foxtail Valley Creek, sits the ancestral home of the McMillian family.”

Originally, he planned for What Lies in the Valley to be his first novel, with the idea stemming from a walk in the pasture behind his house when he was 16 years old. He’d heard that an old homestead used to be on the property and began imagining the lives of the people who lived there, meshing with the real paranormal experiences that he experienced in his own home. 

“Our house is haunted. Several ghostly things that happen in my novel have been experienced by a family member or myself.”  

The first idea for What Lies in the Valley followed Klara as she kept a diary during her descent into madness as ghosts tormented her. Then, he considered a multi-pov novel reminiscent of Game of Thrones and wrote the first chapter from the perspective of Klara’s baby brother. He then considered writing the novel from the first-person perspective of a 90-year-old Klara in a nursing home as the ghosts she survived in her childhood return to haunt her. 

None of these ideas worked, and the drafts piled up.

He struggled to imagine that women in the 1920s prairies wore flapper dresses, pearls and peacock feathers. But he also found that there is a gap in photos from the late 1920s. 

"It felt like it jumped from 1922 to 1935 ... it drove me insane."

Then he began to research the trees in Saskatchewan and their absence when homesteaders first arrived in the prairies. 

“What really boggles me is the idea of Saskatchewan without trees.”

“I wanted it to have elements of historical fiction, but I realized that I had lost the paranormal, the psychological, and the horror as well. I basically just wrote a thesis instead of a novel … it was so boring; I wrote 16 pages describing a drought!” he said. 

He could never work all the threads together.

“It just felt impossible.”

Eventually, the idea came for Blue, and he wrote his first novel during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing him to return to his second novel with new skills and a fresh perspective on writing. Fenrich feels that if he continued to try and write What Lies in the Valley, he probably never would have finished a book. 

“I needed to do things, I'm not going to say wrong, but I needed to make mistakes in my writing process, and I needed to mess up character development; I needed to be able to work through a simpler book first before I could tackle a huge undertaking like this."

Now, he can’t believe he’s published the novel. 

“It’s wonderful. It’s a page-turner. Even I sat down and read it, despite reading it so many times, and I blink, and I’m at page 250. It’s insane.” 

The president of the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild, David Schleich, was in attendance at the book launch and offered a few comments.

“We have, in this moment, experienced a young man with a remarkable imagination, a fluency in his style, and it's quite surprising. My background is in literature, and I can tell you that this young man has a future ... you might make a note in your journals of Friday the 13th, January 2023, you heard Miguel Fenrich read from his books.” 

And although when asked how he finishes novels so quickly, and he thinks that morning pages, having novels percolate in his head for years, and a love of storytelling are all helpful, he has one piece of advice for any budding writer or author. 

“...I think what separates people who write from authors is that authors really write. You know what they say about grit, tenacity, or rigorous routines, well, they're right. You just have to write,” he said.

“Writers write.” 

His paranormal psychological horror novel, set in the prairies at the end of the 1920s, follows a German girl and her family as unseen forces attempt to evict them from their isolated home in the Canadian wilderness. 

The novel is available for purchase at or online at