Writer Colin Brezicki has a unique analogy for his creative process — he says that we carry stories inside us like embryos surrounded by amniotic fluid.
“The fluid is made up of your reading, your experiences, your friends, people you’ve met, incidents that have happened,” he told The Lake Report. “Everything just goes in there and disappears and when you’re writing, you draw from it without even realizing.”
Brezicki, a Niagara-on-the-Lake resident and former educator, is the mind behind “Nothing to Die For,” a collection of 19 short stories he has written over the years — several of which have won awards.
The Oxford University graduate and former head of the English department at Ridley College, previously published two novels, “A Case for Dr. Palindrome” and “All That Remains.”
When writing his anthology over the last decade, Brezicki called upon incidents and influences from his entire life.
Of all 19 stories in the book, he recalls only one that was directly inspired by a specific incident.
He described the short story “Original Sin,” which focuses on a father and daughter who slip on black ice while driving to the grocery store, resulting in a crash that leaves them trapped in the car.
In the real-life version of the story, Brezicki said he made a snap decision and got away unharmed, but in “Original Sin,” “a snap decision is made and it’s the wrong one.”
While none of the tales in the anthology are connected, they do centre around a common theme: distress.
All of the stories have different narrators of different ages, Brezicki explained, some are men and some are women. They are all self-determining and simply experiencing life without “cushions or buffers.”
“They’re not victims of anything besides their own misjudgment,” he said.
Brezicki cited Jonathan Swift, the Irish author and satirist, who said that good fiction is like a vaccine, in that “for it to work, you have to have a tincture of the plague in the vaccine,” he said.
“And that’s where the stories usually end up.”
Prominent landscape artist Duane Nickerson perfectly encapsulates the essence of the stories in “Nothing to Die For” with a melancholic book cover.
Director of arts at Ridley College, Nickerson is a former colleague of Brezicki’s.
“I told him, ‘I want somebody female, male, androgynous, it’s the expression that matters more. I want the expression to capture the mood of many of the stories,’ ” Brezicki said.
The cover character’s faint smile captures the undertow of humour that is prevalent even in the darkest of stories.
“(Nickerson) calls it reticence and I think that pretty well captures it,” he said.
Those interested in picking up a copy of “Nothing to Die For” can stop by RiverBrink on Saturday, March 2 at 2 p.m. for the book’s launch or find the book online at https://www.amazon.ca/dp/180094683X?geniuslink=true.