Windsorite Releases Debut Fiction Novel Exploring Guilt
Story by Michael Seguin
Guilt is an emotion. An emotion with teeth. It has a certain spectral quality, lingering in the shadows. Haunting, never quite abating. Waiting for the perfect moment to drag you back to your most vulnerable moments.
This is something Dean and Ren, the heroes of Ava Droski’s debut novel, Photos of a Wren understand all too well.
Ava Droski is a Windsorite, born and raised. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Music, she opened her own studio in Walkerville, called Featherstone Music and Performing Arts Company.
“Music was my first passion,” Ava explains. “But writing has also always been a huge part of my life. I guess it comes with being musical.”
But Ava’s life was not always filled with music. In fact, she took a bit of a circuitous route towards reaching her dreams.
Ava started writing young, penning numerous short stories. However, for many years she was reluctant to pursue writing as a career path.
“It was just one of those things I never thought I could do,” Ava states. “The arts is one of those things that’s not really encouraged. It can be frowned upon. I always enjoyed writing, but that path seemed thorny to me.”
As with many aspiring artists, Ava put her passion to the side. Instead, she obtained a four-year Nursing degree at St. Clair College and the University of Windsor.
“I wanted to help people,” Ava explains. “And the sciences are always encouraged!”
Unfortunately, Eva discovered that her heart was not in the work.
“I was doing a placement at a retirement home,” Ava recalls. “And there was a piano in the lobby. I asked one of the nurses if they ever had any entertainment come in. And she said no, not often. So, one day, I happened to sit down and start playing.”
The reaction was electric.
“Some residents were visiting with their families,” Ava explains. “Everyone was clapping their hands at tapping their feet. They were all so happy! That was my aha moment. I realized that I could still help people and bring joy to their lives in the arts.”
Ava then dropped out of Nursing, taking a year off before re-enrolling in the Music program.
It was during this time that she began working on the early stages of Photos of a Wren.
“I had this idea,” Ava states. “I was drawing from personal experience. The uncertainty of discontinuing with the Nursing program and choosing the arts.”
Photos of a Wren tells the story of Dean, a young firefighter on the East Coast, who, in an attempt to seek refuge from his traumatic past, escapes to Sun Row Harbour—a small fishing town in Nova Scotia. Although seemingly mundane, Dean soon discovers that the town is not quite what it seems and meets Ren Kyett, the girl who survived two fatal accidents.
As Dean learns more about Ren, her family and the suspicious tragedies that stalk her, he realizes that she may not be who she seems. Her presence ignites a spark within him, causing his past to return to torture him.
“The novel follows two characters that are coping with guilt,” Ava explains. “Some of it is self-inflicted guilt, some of it is blame towards others. And their stories connected in mysterious ways. The book is all about the emotional journey of these two characters as they discover how to live with their grief.”
Ava admits there are some parallels between herself, an almost-nurse and Dean, a haunted first responder.
“That background is something that I did draw from,” Ava states. “My brother and my sister-in-law are also paramedics here in Windsor. But mainly, I had a lot of guilt within myself. I felt guilty for not pursuing nursing and for switching to the arts. I felt like it was a mistake at first.”
It took 10 years to complete Photos of a Wren—or the entirety of her twenties.
“At first, when I was writing it, I didn’t have any intentions of publishing,” Ava explains. “I just wanted to prove to myself, I guess, that I could do this. That I could write a book. That I could put these ideas on paper and make a story out of it.”
For Ava, the biggest hurdle in the writing process was what to do once she finished it.
“I remember saying to my husband, ‘I just wrote a book.’” Ava states. “And he said, ‘Well, what are you going to do with it? Are you just going to leave it on a USB?’ At that moment, I decided to publish it and send it out into the world. Deciding on which publishing avenue to take was the hardest part.”
In the end, Ava settled on self-publishing. “I attended a workshop here in Windsor run by Lynn McLaughlin, a best-selling and award-winning local author,” Ava explains. “I found out about her workshop for aspiring writers just after I finished my book. She gave us information on the different pathways that were available.”
Self-publishing appealed to Ava, because of the amount of control she would have over the entire process.
“If you go the traditional route, you have to submit query letters and sometimes spend years trying to find an agent,” Ava states. “Then they sell it to these publishers. So, you don’t really own your own work. I just wanted to maintain a lot of that control. Especially if my first work.”
And thus far, reactions to Photos of a Wren have been overwhelmingly positive.
“All the reviews have been positive since the book’s publication in March,” Ava explains. “It’s fantastic! I am really overwhelmed by all the positive reception it’s received. It’s been such a wild and crazy journey so far. It’s actually quite nerve-racking, knowing that it’s out in the world and that strangers are actually reading it.”
And the book truly is out in the world. It is even breached international shores.
“Someone actually sent me a picture of them reading my book from England!” Ava reports. “It means the world to me that people are actually reading it and enjoying it.”
And while Ava is still reeling from these past few months, she is already hard at work on her next project.
“I’m currently working on my second novel,” Ava states. “It’s not in any way related to Photos of a Wren. I can’t reveal anything just yet, but I am dipping my toes into historical fiction.”
Photos of a Wren is currently available on Amazon.