A master’s thesis in fiction

Audrey Pfitzenmaier holds her recently published book, Cheating Fate.   - EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER
Audrey Pfitzenmaier holds her recently published book, Cheating Fate.
— image credit: EVAN SEAL / THE LEADER

Audrey Pfitzenmaier says it started as one of those “what if, what if” conversations with a friend.

“What would you do if you knew who you would be with when you die, but you wouldn’t know when?”

Would you try to cheat death by avoiding that person?

What if you loved them?

A few years later, the Delta resident has turned that exercise in speculation into a novel.

“Cheating Fate” tells the story of four young people confronted by that exact dilemma.

They survive a serious snowmobile accident only to discover that they share disturbing memories of their brush with death and learn they will die together at some unknown time in the future.

Pfitzenmaier wrote the novel for her Master’s degree in Arts and Children’s Literature at UBC.

As part of a writing exercise for the course, she’d written a short scene of dialogue between two young men, friends who realized they were fated to die together, but didn’t know when.

People who read it wanted to know what happened next.

“I don’t know,” she would reply. “It just started.”

Her instructor suggested making it her thesis. It took about a year to tell the story in full.

In the process, the two young friends became three young men and a young woman.

The story starts with a near-fatal accident in a small B.C. community roughly modeled on 100 Mile House, then shifts to the Lower Mainland, including Surrey.

The four friends; Sukhvinder, Kyle, Jeremy and Cassidy (the girl) try to cheat death by splitting up, but avoiding their fate turns out to be more complicated than that.

The goal was to to create a compelling reading experience, fast-paced and hard to put down.

“It was written for the reluctant reader,” Pfitzenmaier says.

That includes her three grown sons, who are not “big readers” and have yet to open Mom’s book.

“They said once it’s published they will read it.”

The new author is a self-described avid reader who loved it when she worked as a school librarian and read stories to rapt audiences of children.

As a married mother who also works as a literacy support teacher in the Delta school district, finding time to write was a challenge sometimes.

“All of a sudden, someone will come into the room and ask, ‘Mom, what’s for dinner?”

So she would occasionally get away from her family to concentrate on writing, going off to a family cabin, a borrowed vacation condo in Maui and even renting a hotel room on one occasion to have some uninterrupted writing time.

The completed novel got a 98 per cent grade from the thesis committee which also provided Pfitzenmaier with a list of publishers to whom they thought it ought to be submitted.

She drafted a query letter and submitted samples.

Thistledown Press, a well-established Saskatchewan-based publisher of fiction for young adults, bought it.

Two weeks ago, the post office delivered a small brown box to Pfitzenmaier’s Ladner home.

She came home for lunch to find author’s copies of her first novel on the doorstop.

Her sons now have no excuses.

“Cheating Fate” will officially launch in a North Delta school library on April 3, a Thursday which happens to be the same date as the near-death experience the four friends suffered.

Pfitzenmaier is now working on her next novel, which she describes as “90 per cent complete.”

There are plans to build a new family cabin, one that will have a writing room.

Excerpt from Cheating Fate:

Ken looked back to see if the boy had stalled the machine, but the lead snowmobile was gone. He quickly scanned the lake, squinting and raising his hand to shield the sun from his eyes. Nowhere! The two riders on the second machine, now in closer view, seemed to be trying to change direction and sweep to the right of where Ken remembered seeing the first one. But it was slowing down, probably hitting slush and bogging in the water. He could hear the motor revving harder, but watched the machine move more and more slowly.

It was bogging down, all right, but instead of coming to a stop, it disappeared.

“Oh my God!” screamed Erika. “They’ve gone through the ice!”

Cheating Fate

Audrey Pfitzenmaier

Thistledown Press

Trade Paperback $12.95

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