LAMPMAN - From the acclaimed author of the Jessie Mac hockey series, including Power Plays, Face Off, Breakaway and Shootout, comes book one in a new young adult series.
Gabrielle and the Rebels, by Lampman’s Maureen Ulrich, was officially released on June 15.
In an interview with the Mercury, Ulrich said the idea of the book was born about 20 years ago, and after numerous transformations, drafts and re-writings, it finally came to completion this year.
"I self-published it, so I decided when to pull the trigger. But I really did feel for the last six months that I was never going to reach that point. Because every time I read it, supposedly to proofread it, I kept finding things I wanted to change. So it was really hard to let go up. But now I feel pretty good. I feel it's where I wanted to be," Ulrich shared.
The book tells the story of Gabrielle March, 16, who is accustomed to living in the shadow of her powerful father. However, after he is murdered and her older brother is arrested, Gabrielle finds herself alone in a dangerous and unfamiliar city. She soon discovers that she is her father's daughter – in more ways than she ever dreamed possible.
Ulrich commented, "I love fantasies that build worlds without relying heavily on magic. Gabrielle and the Rebels, which blends adventure, mystery, romance and STEAM, is set in a time sort of like the 17th century, in a place somewhat like Belgium. Supporters of my writing might be surprised to discover that there isn't a single hockey puck or baseball in this new series, but there are some pretty cool alternatives."
Ulrich said even though she's written several books set around sports, long before she loved sports, she loved history. And that love is where this book was born of. The book that's telling the story of a young adult, would be of interest to teenagers and adults alike. And while the plot is different from Ulrich's previous pieces, some ideas that worry the author keep developing in the new release.
"People who have read my other books would recognize the coming-of-age aspects and young people wrestling, maybe not with current issues, but wrestling with self-identity and who am I, that kind of thing. So, it should still sound kind of familiar," Ulrich said.
The book has many different interesting elements to it, yet Ulrich said it's easier to explain what it's not.
Although Gabrielle and the Rebels is a fantasy, the author doesn't use any magic, as people don't use magic to solve real-world problems. Instead, she uses technology. Ulrich said she's done a lot of research on inventions to make it fit naturally in the book. And that part of the writing appeared to be very engaging.
"When I looked at the history of, say, the microscope, it was invented by … a wool merchant, who wanted to look more closely at fabrics to tell how good of a quality the thread was. It didn't come about [because of a need to look closer at germs], because people didn't even know about germs at the time, but there was an economic impetus for it. And I found that fascinating. I've incorporated that into my manuscript, so what hopefully a young person would do is read how I have used these inventions, and then go back and look at the actual history of them," Ulrich said.
While Gabrielle and the Rebels is set in historic decorations, and Ulrich has done a lot of research into topography, climate, education and environment, it's not strictly a history book, but one of its goals is to inspire young people through the ages.
"I think that teenage girls, high-school-aged girls, in particular, might find Gabrielle and the Rebels very empowering. Because I talk about a school for girls in which they are fostered to use their minds and they create some fabulous inventions. So I give a different or alternative history to things like the microscope and the telescope, and the printing press, wheellock pistols, etc.," Ulrich explained.
The author created a new world, and she gave new names to cities and countries, but that world correlates with Belgium, just the history takes a different direction there. Ulrich calls it alternative history.
"Initially, I was just writing it as a world and not setting it anywhere on a map. But I wanted it to feel real and to feel familiar. So then once I have said, Okay, this is going to be set in a coastal city. And I knew what kind of climate I wanted to have. And I knew what kind of economy I wanted to have. So I actually picked Antwerp. And I wanted it to be close to England because historically, there was a conflict between England and France, and the Holy Roman Empire. So those kinds of things are still happening, but I just don't call it that, I don't call it the Holy Roman Empire, so I can create my own history for those places," Ulrich explained.
Even though the plot is set around a murder, it's not a murder mystery either, as it's clear from the beginning who is responsible for Gabrielle's father's death. What worries the author and the readers, is what the character will do about it.
"She's 16. She's alone. She's totally unfamiliar with the city in which she's in, and she doesn't have many resources. She does find people who are helpful, but they're also determined to protect her from doing anything, keeping her safe. So it would be pretty easy for her to sit back and let them do all the heavy lifting but she is her father's daughter and she's not about to let them," Ulrich noted.
The original manuscripts were very different from the final book, which was born during Ulrich's writer in residency at the Estevan Public Library in 2017. The action is compressed into 10 days, and the book is pretty fast-paced.
Now that it is released, Ulrich plans to do some promoting. She will be at the Lampman Public Library on June 28 at 7 p.m. for an in-person reading/book signing. (Those planning to attend are asked to bring a lawn chair if the weather looks inviting.) She also was invited to attend the Lampman Farmers’ Market on July 6 for a book signing and plans to do some more promotion in the fall. In the meantime, she is working on the second book in the series.
Gabrielle and the Rebels is currently available at Henders Drugs in Estevan, Amazon.ca (eBook and print) or Kindle, and can be purchased by contacting Ulrich directly at email@example.com. The printed copy is $19.99, and eBook is $9.99.