White Rock’s Spencer McLean

Novel explores notion of sacrifice

Spencer McLean celebrates debut publication

In most Hollywood scripts involving a force that threatens someone’s life – or, on a larger scale, humanity – a hero steps up and risks all to save others.

It’s a sacrifice that’s been repeatedly played out but hasn’t always been questioned. Which is what prompted Spencer McLean to ponder such a decision, and delve further into one’s reasons and motives for making it.

The result? His first and newly released self-published novel, Evan.

“I think sacrifice is an interesting concept,” the White Rock author said. “Why aren’t people just totally self interested? Why do we make sacrifices for anyone else?”

The book is centred around a troubling question: If you had to die in order for everyone else to live, what would you do?

The story’s main character, Evan, is described as a young woman who is forced to answer this question when her ordinary life is overturned by the arrival of an “otherworldly threat that intends to alter the very reality of her world.”

The book was released just a couple months ago after nine years of work – all of which McLean did without a computer monitor.

The 30-year-old has been blind since he was around eight or nine, and uses a speech program that verbally relays everything being done on his computer.

The loss of his sight was one of the effects of Kniest, a rare condition characterized by mutation of the collagen gene and the body’s limited ability to manufacture cartilage. As well as his retinas, McLean’s joints have been effected, resulting in his having to use a wheelchair.

Technology has allowed him to explore his interests in writing and reading – which he does by downloading or scanning books and listening to the audio on his computer.

McLean said he has always been drawn to literature. After graduating from Semiahmoo Secondary, he attended Kwantlen Polytechnic University to learn more.

“I took all the English classes I could get my hands on.”

He left in 2002 to focus on Evan, a project he likened to building a house from scratch without any carpentry experience.

“You think you know what your voice is going to be like and you think you know what you want to say… turns out, it’s not as easy as you think it’s going to be.”

But after three rewrites, McLean said he now has a better understanding of the writing process and refining his art.

“Once you get that figured out, you don’t lose it, “ he said, noting his second book, Gnaritas, is proving much easier to write and could be published by the end of the year.

Even so, McLean said he could’ve continually tweaked Evan.

“I don’t think anything you ever really write is finished. It’s more that you have to say goodbye to it at some point.”

McLean described the work to be a contemporary piece of fiction that touches on philosophy and is largely influenced by some classic works, including Genesis and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

The latter – in which Eve eats the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – is a story that never sat well with McLean.

“It always really bugged me a little bit,” he said. “If people believe the story, there are consequences to that… people have judged women because of that story.

“I really wanted to write something that was an answer to that.”

Rather than a woman “tearing down the world,” Evan is an Eve-like figure who saves it, McLean said.

He hopes readers will also take away from the relationship between two of the book’s characters – best friends whose constant arguing has signficant ramifications.

“I think, especially in the States but here, too, we’re becoming a society where you have to have a position on everything and you have to be right. It seems like being right is more important than it ever used to be,” he said, noting the benefits of hearing other people’s opinions and learning why they think the way they do. “Debating things is a really healthy part of our society. We’ve made it less pleasant to have those discussions because (everyone) just wants to be right all the time.”

Evan raises a number of issues, McLean said, which he hopes generates discussion.

“I like it when people think about issues in our society and I think it’s good when people talk about them,” he said. “I like ideas so I want to get them out there. Fiction is really just the delivery system for the idea.”

Those interested in Evan are invited to meet with McLean at a book launch tomorrow (June 4) at 6:30 p.m. The event is being held at one of his favourite restaurants, Iguana’s Beach Grill, 14985 Marine Dr.

“I’ve been going for 10 years now,” he said. “There’s a bar that plays a prominent role in the book. I call it Iguana’s as an homage to that.”

Copies of Evan will be available for sale at the launch. It can also be purchased in Kindle and paperback formats on amazon.com

For more info, visit spencermclean.com

Surrey North Delta Leader

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