When you work in a B.C. sawmill, you are bound to meet a few colourful characters.
Barry Porter has met his fair share of most while employed for 30 years at a Canfor sawmill in Chetwynd. That experience is the basis for his debut novel, Sawmillers.
“After all those many years in the sawmill, you meet a lot of interesting people and see a lot of interesting things happen. Some are shocking, some are tragic but there’s a lot of humour so I decided to write a fictional novel about it,” said Porter, who now lives in 108 Mile Ranch.
“I wanted to tell a story about the kind of people you might work with. None are exactly like any I knew but you met some interesting people in the days I was there.”
Although based on his own experiences, the characters in his story are all fictional. This allowed Porter to write an “action-adventure story with a little bit of romance and a little bit of knowledge about how sawmills work.”
Sawmillers follows Rob, a young millwright apprentice, on his first week on the job. Most of the book takes place in the Peace River area but Porter also included a few chapters set in 100 Mile House when Rob visits his parents.
The story takes place in 2000 because “I didn’t want it to be completely current but I didn’t want it to be ancient either,” Porter said. The tale revolves around Rob’s interactions with an eclectic group of people – from retired sawmill manager Jim, who stops for a visit and stays longer than expected to know-it-all electrician Biff, pot-selling Len and retired company owner Mel.
Add a romance, sabotage, a serious accident, a heart attack and some frightening moments in a hydraulics room, and the 330-page novel comes to life.
Porter said one of his greatest challenges in writing Sawmillers was maintaining narrative consistency. There were so many subplots he had to keep straight, along with little details like the characters’ hair colours.
“The results, to some degree, surprised me. Once I really got going in some cases it was like the book was sort of writing itself. The romance part I didn’t plan on at all but it just sort of happened,” he said. “After spending enough time on it almost seemed like I was living it through some of the characters.”
Porter said he had thought about writing Sawmillers for the better part of the last decade but he didn’t get to it until COVID-19 came along.
Before this, he only wrote for work and compiled a few children’s books for his grandchildren. His wife Debbie helped proofread and edit the novel.
Porter self-published the book through Amazon, following the lead of his fellow 108 Mile novelist Gordon Smith. He’s already considering writing and publishing a sequel, depending on how the book is received.
Sawmillers is available to purchase on amazon.ca in both e-book and paperback. It’s available in the Cariboo at the 108 Mile Post Office and at Nuthatch Books.
“I’m hoping people enjoy it. I’ve had feedback from a few people who have read it right through and they like it so that makes me feel good,” Porter said. “Certainly I’m not a polished author but in the end, I think I got it pretty close.”