Secrets of magic revealed in author’s latest book

Author James Southern displays a copy of his book Once Upon Once Again. Photo by Peter Mallett

Author James Southern displays a copy of his book Once Upon Once Again. Photo by Peter Mallett

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A civilian employee from the base is at it again, telling his stories and fairy tales in his second book.

James Southern, 76, a power engineer for CFB Esquimalt’s central heating plant, has self-published his latest book Once Again Once Upon, a vividly descriptive tangled web of tales that involves spiders, aphids, ants, and a sprinkling of fairies.

He describes it as bedtime stories geared towards teenagers and young adults “inducing a minimum of nightmares.” 

His latest literary offering is more comedic than frightening and includes a reworking of the 18 stories told in his first self-published offering Once Upon: Fairly Tall Fairy Tales, and 12 new stories.

“I do my writing to escape the stress of my daily routine. For me, it is quite satisfying to finish one of my stories. There is no sense in keeping it to myself if others will enjoy it.”

He gears his stories to young people who lead fast-paced lives and have limited time or attention span to read novels.

“I have a more vivid imagination than most people, so every story I tell is different,” says Southern. “I tell short stories because I have too many thoughts racing through my mind at any one time to stick to a long and drawn-out plot.”

His influence is legendary Danish author and playwright Hans Christian Andersen. Similar to Andersen, Southern begins his fairy tales with the phrase Once upon a time. Most stories are set in Scandinavia in the late medieval period.

He developed his love for writing during a time of loss, war, and a transcontinental move for him and his family. He never knew his father, Kenneth Southern, a Lieutenant Colonel who fought for Canada in the Second World War and was killed on the battlefield in Italy. He was two years old and living in Port Arthur, Ontario, when his father died.

At the end of the war, his mother Beryl moved the family back to England, albeit briefly. In England she met an Englishman who owned a sheep ranch in Chile. For the next few years James and his family resided on that ranch located on the southern tip of the continent, in scenic Patagonia. Foreseeing the political upheaval to come, his stepfather sold the ranch and moved to Canada in the early 1950s.

“On the farm in Scandia in southern Alberta we had no television and only one radio, so what do you do to entertain yourself and the family? I chose to make up fairy tales and other stories to tell my younger brother while doing the chores or when we were bored.”

Southern is married, lives in Victoria, and has a teenage son who inspired him to keep making up stories and get them into print. Copies of Once Again Once Upon are available online through his website or his Facebook page entitled Southern Fantasies. His book will soon be in stock at local bookstores Munro’s Books, Bolen Books and Coles Books at the Tillicum Centre.

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