I am a graduate of Humber College's Journalism program (2003) and Creative Writing (2004). I had such wonderful professors, Carey French and Antanas Sileika among them. I also completed my Health and Fitness Leadership certification through Humber College (2003). And during my time in the Humber School for Writers, I had the privilege of working through my manuscript with the incomparable Karen Connelly. Thanks to the program and her invaluable input (as well as that of Antanas), my first novel, Eight Pointed Cross, a historical epic set in sixteenth-century Europe, was published in 2011.
Before COVID-19 derailed the world's collective plans, I was preparing for the release of my second novel, Falcon's Shadow, and planning launch events both locally and overseas in Malta, where the novels are set. About three weeks into the shutdown, I was struck by a sense of uselessness. I’m not a frontline worker. I’m not out there risking my safety. I’m not providing an essential service. All I could do was abide by the guidelines and offer some free online tutoring to students (and parents) struggling with distance learning.
After a while, people started posting about their boredom and stir-craziness. I tried to think of something I could do to offer support to those suffering from feelings of isolation and a sense of being trapped. There’s such beauty in the strength and tenacity of the human spirit, and during the COVID-19 shutdown, I found time to reflect and connect with the grace that I love in the world. The sanctuary of art and the rhythm of life contained within it beckoned and reminded me of the wisdom and peace that can be found in literature and the escape it provides. I wondered if perhaps I could help by providing a little affordable—and legal—escape… So, I dropped the price of the digital version of my first novel, Eight Pointed Cross, across all Amazon marketplaces to 99c as a thank-you to those doing their part to flatten the curve.
My hope was to provide an inexpensive and much-needed diversion to those staying home. Then, I noticed the jump in my book's ranking on the Amazon Bestseller List to 52. To say I was overjoyed would be a gross understatement. A few hours later, my book reached number five. I cry-laughed and spun in circles. Then four. Then three! It skipped two. Went to ONE! I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt drunk and hungover at the same time. In gratitude, I donated proceeds from this surge in sales to Conquer COVID-19 charities.
On June 16, Falcon’s Shadow, the second novel in my Siege of Malta series, became available for pre-order. The momentum carried Falcon’s Shadow straight to number one within mere hours of its release. With proceeds from this second climb to number one, my husband and I ordered boxes of nitrile gloves and donated them to the incredible frontline staff at Southlake Hospital in Newmarket. On July 7, I managed to host a book launch--this one of the Facebook Live variety. The virtual event allowed for a much wider audience than had it been held at an event centre.
I am eternally grateful to Humber College for instilling in me the skills, confidence, and courage I needed to succeed. Thank you for upholding the values and reputation of this wonderful institution. My dream is to one day mentor writers through the Humber School for Writers and provide them with the same guidance and inspiration that was provided to me.
Learn more about Marthese Fenech.