St. John’s, NL - St. John’s novelist Chad Pelley sweats goals. In his 20s he became determined to get a novel published before he hit 30. But, he says, “it wasn’t a goal so much as a declaration against rejection.”
He never had to quit trying because his debut novel, Away from Everywhere, was released by Breakwater Books a few days before Pelley’s 30th, and has since received critical acclaim and multiple prizes, been taught in university and is being pursued by several filmmakers.
The moment the book was out, Pelley set new goals. “I realized that getting a book published was only half the battle,” he says. “Having people know and care about my book was the other, and with 10,000 books coming out a year, that was a slim chance.”
Pelley’s desire to have his book find lit fans everywhere enmeshed with his gratitude to the regional talent that had shaped his writing. Their lovechild was Salty Ink, a blog about what he calls the greatest writers on the planet. “There is not a spotlight big enough for the talent here,” he says now.
Salty Ink has become a nationally recognized voice on Atlantic Can lit and Pelley is frequently quoted in national print and radio media. The goal was primarily to promote others, but Pelley’s blogging prowess gave his own work a new, subtle platform.
It’s a double-edged sword though. “To some people I’m ‘Salty Ink Guy,’ and they’ve got no idea I’ve written fiction.” It’s a tough double identity to balance, author/fanboy, but no one knows Atlantic Canadian books better than Atlantic Canadian authors. Who better to hype them?
The national critics---the pros---aren’t doing the job. “Too many critics who’ve never been here have a strange, archaic view of the place,” Pelley notes, “and expect us to write in dialects and the days gone by, and want something cute and wacky or whimsical, yet Joel Hynes’s St. John’s is pretty accurate.”
Pelley’s insider knowledge has indeed helped raise the profile of writers like Lisa Moore, Jessica Grant and George Murray. But after two years of unpaid labour, Pelley merged Salty Ink with the popular Bookmadam blog out of Toronto. “It seemed like taking it to another level. I might like to make it an open community for Atlantic Canadian writers to contribute to.”
But the goals keep rolling. Pelley’s latest website is On the Line Magazine , “a quickly presented, low-text suggestion box” from artists to artists. He has also completed a second novel that he hopes will be published before his 33rd birthday.