Writers Esi Edugyan and Steven Price at the dining room table in their Colwood home. The map at back, an antique map of London, England, was a gift from Esi to Steven when he was writing his novel By Gaslight, which was set in London. Don Denton photograph

Writers Esi Edugyan and Steven Price at the dining room table in their Colwood home. The map at back, an antique map of London, England, was a gift from Esi to Steven when he was writing his novel By Gaslight, which was set in London. Don Denton photograph

At Home with Writers Esi Edugyan and Steven Price

Award winning Canadian authors enjoy Vancouver Island lifestyle

  • Sep. 6, 2018 1:55 p.m.

Esi Edugyan still recalls visiting her partner Steven Price when the young couple started dating nearly two decades ago.

As a 20-something student enrolled in the University of Victoria’s creative writing program, Esi lived in Victoria’s Cook Street village. She didn’t own a car. Travelling to see Steven on the West Shore was always a major expedition.

“I had to take three buses and then, at the end of the last ride, I had to hike up a steep hill,” she says.

Twenty years have brought plenty of changes.

The couple began their lives together downtown but eventually settled in Colwood and started a family, all while crafting impressive literary careers.

Esi Edugyan and Steve Price at their kitchen table. Don Denton photograph.

Esi is the author of three novels. She emerged onto Canada’s literary stage with the release of The Second Life of Samuel Tyne in 2004. The ominous and moving portrayal of life in rural Alberta was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. Half-Blood Blues, a story about politics, race, music and relationships in Nazi Germany won Canada’s Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for English language fiction, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the United Kingdom’s prestigious Man Booker Prize. In 2012, the book received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Her latest book, Washington Black, has just been released.

Steven has earned numerous honours for his poetry, including the Gerald Lampert Award in 2006 for Anatomy of Keys, which was also named a Globe & Mail Book of the Year.

In 2011, he completed Into That Darkness, a thriller set in modern-day Victoria. Having secured a coveted international book deal, Price then produced what may arguably be his most ambitious work to date. By Gaslight, recently released in paperback format, is an intriguing tale of globe-spanning mystery set largely in Victorian-era London.

The work is loosely inspired by a Price family tale about Steven’s great-grandfather, who fled England after a “spot of bother” with the law. At the end of his westward journey across the continent, A.E. Price settled on southern Vancouver Island, where he started a locksmith business. Price’s Alarms has since grown to become Canada’s oldest private security firm. The prevalence of decals emblazoned with the trademark red, upper-case “P” on storefront windows and residences in Victoria and across Western Canada speaks to the venture’s success through successive generations.

It’s those deep roots and family ties that encouraged Steven, Esi and the couple’s two young children — both under six years of age — to call Colwood home.

They agree life on the West Shore offers a good balance of the rural and urban. A walk along the Esquimalt Lagoon Bird Sanctuary, where Emily Carr used to camp out and paint landscapes of a wild coast, or a trip to downtown are only a short ride away. Esi, who was born and raised across the mountains in Calgary, has warmed to her new home.

“Even eight years ago, when I first moved here, it felt very far,” she says. “I don’t have that feeling any more.”

Now in their early forties, Esi and Steven are writers of international renown, their books translated into multiple languages, and yet their lives follow a routine familiar to many young families. They embark on weekend family excursions to the Saanich Peninsula or points up the island, spend lots of time at the library and take regular trips to the Royal Bay Bakery for inspiration.

Following our interview at a snug neighbourhood coffee shop, they were off to collect the kids from school.

Picking up the children is a welcome reprieve from their respective writing routines. Both spend up to six hours a day researching projects, trying out ideas, developing characters and unraveling storylines. Esi describes home-office life as providing flexibility but not necessarily the degree of freedom that many office workers might idealize.

First order of business for Esi is digging into a good book, something to get her in the right frame of mind to begin churning out her own narrative voice. Steven jokes that he still has his original writing shirt, its fibres so worn out that he’s had to begin wearing a second one over top just to hold everything together. Neither place much credence in writing talismans, but be careful about grabbing their cherished coffee mugs while you’re paying them a visit!

There are often multiple ideas on the go, only some of which ever live to see a final chapter.

Esi Edugyan and Steve Price at home. Don Denton photograph.

When the kids are home from school, the family adheres to an open-door policy. There is no downtime. No hiding at your desk.

“Right from the beginning we’ve had this open door policy,” he says. “We found that when they felt they could come in and talk with us they didn’t feel the need all of the time.

“A closed door is an invitation.”

The advantage of having a fellow writer under the same roof to help work through problems, fuel inspiration and offer advice speaks for itself. Each has grown to welcome the chance to act as sounding board, test reader and advice counsellor. It can happen over dinner, on a Sunday drive or in the middle of the night.

“It’s extremely helpful,” Esi says. “Steven is a great editor as well as a great writer, so it’s amazing to be able to pass him stuff. I can’t believe I have this calibre of an editor right at home.”

Coming out of the trance-like space caused by extended periods of creative work, they credit the children for easing their transition back to normalcy.

“It sounds crazy when you don’t have kids of your own, but it’s a wonderful thing that these are your best friends in the world and you’re spending time with them,” Steven adds.

As their family life and careers have evolved so too has the city they call home. Steven recalls a childhood of dirt biking with pals in Colwood’s scrubby vacant lots. His neighbourhood had a gritty, rough-around-the-edges reputation. Not so anymore, as new housing projects and commercial developments reshape the landscape. The City of Colwood doesn’t feel so far away these days.

“It was such a different place back then,” Steven says. “Being somebody who was born and raised here, I think it would be perfectly natural to be disgruntled about all these people coming, but I don’t feel that at all. I feel great optimism.”

-Story by Sean McIntyre

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

authorBritish ColumbiaBy GaslightCanadianCoupleEsi EdugyanHalf Blood BluesliteraryLiteratureNovelNovelistPoetReading,Steven PricevancouverislandWashington BlackWriter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read