I first met Ed Hill when he was lecturing onboard a cruise ship in Alaska, dressed in his Royal Canadian Mounted Police red dress uniform with the high polished brown boots, leather belt and dress hat. With his gray hair, trim build and ramrod straight posture, he struck an imposing figure.
There were 200 or more of us gathered to hear a story from this masterful storyteller and everyone in the audience was spellbound. That was how our friendship began. I am proud to count Ed amongst my closest friends now, though we regrettably live more than 3,000 miles apart.
Ed Hill: Cop, Artist and Author
What prompts this blog is Ed’s new book, Busted. The master storyteller has penned a terrific memoir in short story format that recounts his adventures and misadventures as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police office for more than 30 years.
Friends or not, I can honestly say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable read, filled with Ed’s humor, life experiences and wisdom. Busted sits on my bedside table and I savor it every time I pick it up to read a chapter. It is unpretentious human interest at its finest, written by a man who has a unique perspective on people. He has never lost his enthusiasm or positivity.
Ed is also a well-known and highly respected Canadian fine artist, as you can see if you go to his art website. I was floored when I first saw his paintings. I think you will be, too.
I thought you readers would be interested in what Ed has to say about writing Busted and also his take on the writing life.
You are a respected artist and a retired RCMP. What inspired you to write Busted?
When my father died, so too his stories died with him, gone forever. He served for Canada in the Second World War, returned, got married and lived and supported a family of four kids. He had stories, believe me he had stories. However, he always refused or avoided writing them down or allowed them to be recorded in any way. At his death I felt a pang of anger or frustration in that fact. Three generations from now Francis Theodore Hill, my father, will be nothing more than a name on a genealogical chart. I promised myself I wouldn’t do that to my family and that year I started writing stories about my life, my work and our family adventures and experiences. In 2013 I had an opportunity to take just a few of those stories and incorporate them into a book called ‘BUSTED’.
How has writing ‘Busted’ affected your everyday life?
I am also a professional artist. I paint and reproduce my works in print editions, cards, etc. In writing this book I basically had to take the winter off from painting. That said, the artist within was still very much alive and active. The same artist that paints also writes. It’s just a different form of artistic expression. Now, instead of showing my work hung on walls, I attend readings and enjoy meeting the people who have read the short stories of my life.
Do you write from an outline? Describe your writing modus.
By the very nature of the book, I write from a base of memory. I write only true stories and frequently a memory or story of a time long ago will come to me. In a relatively urgent fashion I compile the story in my computer as best my memory can put it together. Then, I contact those who can help verify my memories of that particular incident or happening. Once that’s done, and I’m confident I’ve got all the detail available to me, I rework the initial story. I’ll rework the story time and again until I feel it’s done. That process is not unlike a painting that I’m working on. Somehow, and it only takes one final brush stroke, I just know when it’s done. Once completed I’ll quite often send the story I’ve written to those who I’d consulted. I’ll have them read and verify the story one final time and with their endorsement the story is filed into my family book. Many of my stories are the proverbial “stranger than fiction” so for me it’s important to verify the facts as a final process.
How long did it take you to write ‘Busted’?
With the above process as consideration, in effect the book “busted” was started in 1997 and finished in 2013 so it’s just about 16 years.
Who are your favorite authors today?
I read a variance of books and 95% if them are non-fiction. I read a lot of Canadian history, personal adventures and achievement. As such, I find I’m not focused on any one author. I suppose the only author that I’ve read a bit of in terms of more than one book was the Canadian author Farley Mowat. Before that, and the only time I’ve read any fiction to speak of, it was Joseph Wambaugh and his collection of American police stories.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
My advice to those who want to write is probably much the same as the advice I give to those who feel they want to paint. Have your tools out and ready. They have to be easily accessible as and when the urge comes. For painters I tell them to “Get your brushes wet!” For those wanting to write “Type a sentence! Type a paragraph!” Those small steps should serve to prime the pumps as it were. If you are meant to write, that one paragraph will be the start. You just won’t be able to leave it sitting there on the page screaming at you.
Any other information you’d like to share with my readers?
We all have personal stories. Whether you know it or not, you have stories that are significant, funny, spiritual or tragic. Your family, if nobody else, would appreciate knowing them. I gave no better gift in my lifetime than in 1998 when under the Christmas tree for my son and daughter there was a book, a collection of my stories with a promise. The promise was that I’d keep writing these stories as they came to me or as they happened. So too, if either of them had a family story they wanted me to write I would. That book since 1998 has grown. Each year there are more and more chapters added. Now, I have grandchildren who when visiting ask me to sit and read a chapter to them before bed. The only problem there is that I have to be careful which chapter I read. Some of my stories aren’t meant for young imaginations.