Vancouver-based writing group
March 27th, 2017 by SPiN

The Conjoined launches into the bright, sparkly world

September 16, 2016 was the launch party for The Conjoined, an event I was calling The Side Jobs Cabaret, and it was so fun, I was overcome with emotion at the end and collapsed on the floor of the stage. We had beautiful, funny and emotional performances from Chelene Knight, Jillian Christmas, Leah Horlick, Dina Del Bucchia and Daniel Zomparelli, and Stephen Quinn, that rascal, was our emcee. The Emerald (once, I believe, an iconic Chinatown restaurant with a mahjong room at the back) was the perfect spot. So perfect, in fact, my mother seemed quite pleased.

The Conjoined, as I’ve been saying to many people, has been the book that has straddled the biggest changes of my personal and professional lives, and I am so grateful that, when I launched a new book into the world, people still cared.  And now, photos! All photographs are courtesy of Skot Nelson.

Dina Del Bucchia being regal at the launch of The ConjoinedOpening remarks at the launch of The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong LeeLeah Horlick reads at the launch of The Conjoined

Jen telling the room about online datingStephen Quinn reading his only spoken word poemDaniel Zomparelli making us all play gamesJen is overcome with emotion









July 20th, 2016 by SPiN

Meet Two-Gun & Sun, a steampunk western with a print culture and operatic finish

 It has been one smoking-hot summer on the e-range with the Literary Press Group’s All Lit Up. Their team has chosen Two-Gun & Sun to launch ALU’s inaugural Summer Book Club and they’ve kicked things off with this impressive mock-up of protagonist Lila Sinclair’s newspaper, The Black Mountain Bullet.

Check out the links below to see what they said, listen in to some recorded sessions of their discussions, and read my answers to their questions.

Meet June Hutton’s Two-Gun & Sun, a steampunk western with a print culture and operatic finish

Team ALU discusses Two-Gun & Sun  included in this link are discussion questions you might want to download for your own reading group

June Hutton explains herself following gritty, in-depth questions fired at her by The Team

What is All Lit Up all about? Have a look here.


February 14th, 2016 by SPiN

The Dirty Dozen, with June Hutton

When Lila Sinclair arrives in a rough frontier mining town in 1922, the wild events that welcome her beg to be reported. The trouble is that Lila’s dead uncle’s newspaper has shut down and the only person who can help her revive it lives in neighbouring (and forbidden) settlement of Lousetown. Determined to get the paper running again, Lila braves danger, stigma, tough business negotiations and more to see her dream realized.

Inspired by real historical figures, June Hutton‘s Two Gun & Sun (Caitlin Press) is part history, part Western and part story of a woman finding herself (and love) in a tough, unpredictable environment.

OPEN BOOK TORONTO talks to June today as part of our Dirty Dozen series, which invites writers to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. She not only shares funny and interesting stories, but also a series of her own original sketches and a surprising fan letter.

June tells us about how sketching helps her writing process, sneaking incognito bodice-ripping scenes into her work and the trick to a great gin and tonic.


    1. When I was a young child I almost drowned after I fell over what was then a sheer drop-off at the north end of Vancouver’s Trout Lake. I recall the ethereal green light and what I thought were black weeds snaking out from the underwater dirt cliff. I stopped struggling, mesmerized. My grandfather saw them too and seized them, pulling me out by my hair.
    1. While building the otherworldly setting of my novel Two-Gun & Sun, sometimes words failed me. I found myself filling a notebook with strange sketches until I got the image right in my head, then I hit the keyboard again.
    2. Spectral themes emerged in my first novel, too. Underground’s protagonist Al Fraser walked through time, zombie-like, shrapnel moving under his skin like bugs.
    3. The way to succeed, I’ve been told, is to stop with all that literary stuff and write commercial fiction. Like what, I want to know, a bodice-ripper? So I purposely sneak quirky bodice-ripper scenes into my writing. Just because. There’s one each in both of my novels. Go see.
    1. In journalism school we planned a front page for returning students with the headline “Welcome Back”. Somehow, ongoing discussions determined that the accompanying image should be a back, then a bare back, and finally a bare backside. My friend Terri and I were talked into the jobs of model and photog. I won’t say who did what. And nope, lost the photo long ago.
    2. After months on the midnight shift at Canadian Press, I leapt at the chance to become a reporter for The Whitehorse Star in the Yukon. I returned to the north several years later to motor along the Teslin and Yukon rivers in a 2-crew boat as research for Underground.
    3. I rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle through the streets of Shanghai as research for Two-Gun & Sun.
    4. The best fan mail I have ever received was an enthusiastic two pages long, hand-written, from a prisoner named William from the Thunder Bay Jail. Underground had touched him because it reminded him of his grandfather’s experiences in the B.C. interior. I love that.
  1. My aunt, Patricia Stevens Barker, is one of Vancouver’s unsolved murder cases. I still miss her, and turned my grief into a short story called “Next of Kin”.
  2. I was released from my temporary job at the Province newspaper for accidentally flopping two lines of type in a one-paragraph story. The big deal? The lines contained the judge’s and the accused’s names. Oops.
  3. While I’m not much of a cook, I make a great Gin and Tonic. The trick is to keep everything icy cold. Fill a glass sleeve to the top with ice, add a wedge of lime, squeezed, an ounce or two of gin — from a bottle kept in the freezer — and fill with chilled tonic water. Voila!
  4. My advice for every writer who has suffered from stage fright and dry mouth, which is most of us: Since you can’t bring your G&T onto the stage (can you?) and not all venues supply water, try tucking a sliver of candy-coated gum between your cheek and teeth. You’ll salivate like crazy. Just try not to chew.


Source: The Dirty Dozen, with June Hutton

February 4th, 2016 by SPiN

Valentine’s Day & San Miguel Writers’ Conference 2016

San Miguel Writers’ Conference

February is shaping up to be an enjoyable month. Éditions Hurtubise is hosting a Valentine’s Day promotion for the French e-book/pdf of Muse for the very attractive price of $9.00. As they say, «Pour la Saint-Valentin, offrez-vous une histoire d’amour!»

Guess where I’m going to be spending Valentine’s Day? In Mexico!

In a few days, I’ll escape rainy Vancouver on a jet to León, then board a shuttle to San Miguel de Allende, a town with a fantastic reputation. I’ve been hearing good things about it from friends and fellow writers for years. Yes, it’s full of expats, but I’ve read that whereas Canadians and Americans move to Florida to retire, they re-locate in San Miguel to re-invent themselves. It’s bursting with talented people—writers, artists, musicians, weavers, craftsmen—as well as interesting architecture, restaurants, coffee shops, and natural sights. But best of all, every February brings the San Miguel International Writers’ Conference. With about 350 conference-goers, the festival is small enough to be very friendly, yet large enough to attract international authors, who mingle with the readers and eager emerging writers. I’ve been invited to participate in several events this year and I’m really looking forward to it. Since I’ve never been to Mexico and don’t speak Spanish, I’m counting on Duolingo!

November 1st, 2015 by SPiN

History Twistery

Writers of historical fiction are often asked how they strike a balance between imagination and history. The subject came up at several events at the Vancouver Writers Fest last month. Some writers leaned more toward sticking to the truth, others, toward making it up, but most seemed to agree that consistency, staying faithful to the world you have created, is what’s important.

I thought I had it all figured out when I began my research into the historical figure Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen, who claimed to have met Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China, right here in Canada. All I had to do was set the scene, imagine the emotions, invent the dialogue. What a marvelous story it would be. What an absolute gem I had stumbled upon. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Oh, yes you could. As it turns out, Cohen was a compulsive maker-upper, stretcher of truths, exaggerator of the facts.

A pickpocket from a young age in London, England, he was sent to Canada by his family to mend his ways. Think about it. They sent him to the Wild West. It goes without saying he got into even more trouble here. When Sun Yat-sen was conducting his famous tour of Canada, Morris Cohen was doing time in a jail cell in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Damn. There went my story. I’m not sure how long I moped. I hadn’t yet shredded any copy or set fire to my notebooks, so it must have been a short time. But in one of those lightning-bolt moments I thought: Hey wait a minute! That IS a story.

Because Cohen really did meet Sun Yat-sen . . . a dozen years later, and in China. He led a marvelous life and told marvelous tales that were published in newspapers as the truth because they were that tantalizing tangle of real and imagined. Once printed, they became a part of recorded history, of public record.

And if Cohen could twist the truth, so could I. Afterall, I’m a novelist, not a historian. I’m supposed to make things up. How much I do so is up to me. As long as I’m consistent.

Since newspapers had spread his stories, I decided it would be appropriate to have a newspaperwoman as my narrator. I knew how much she’d want to get it right, even if the facts, often by way of the conniving Cohen, seemed to go against her.

When I was done writing I had a novel called Two-Gun & Sun. It doesn’t try to separate real from imagined but, in the true spirit of fiction, consistently revels in the snarls — and adds a few more twists in the process.


This originally appeared as a guest blog by June at www.gailanderson-dargatz.ca

April 19th, 2015 by SPiN

The dusty, inky, papery smell of CanLit

For those of us who grew up in southeast Vancouver, the local bookseller was the corner drugstore. You entered the front door of MacKenzie Drugs at 49th and Knight and had to edge past the pharmacy and between the surrounding shelves of bottles of medicine and packages of pills, and then wind your way around the racks of chocolate bars and candy, until you descended several steps to a lower room that Mr. MacKenzie had stocked with rows of magazines and paperbacks. It emitted the dusty, inky, papery smells that are perfume to the budding reader.

It was there I discovered Mordecai Richler. First it was The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, then Hunting Tigers Under Glass, and then Cocksure, with a wonderfully nasty scene with a dish cloth that etched itself onto my teenaged brain. Wow.  What an introduction to CanLit.

I bought them all.

Eventually I was heading downtown to Duthie’s, looking for more books. By then I was taking English 100 courses at night school, and I made a bee-line to the orange spines to learn more about the authors I was hearing about in class, Lawrence and Maugham and Hemingway, among others.

Over the years I’ve shopped at many bookstores. I’ve always been struck by the dedication of staff, their willingness to hunt down the right title, to come up with suggestions when I am stuck for ideas, myself. But it is those first two booksellers I can thank for launching my love of books. Both enterprises are gone now, the disappearance of Duthie Books a sad example of the struggle of independent booksellers to survive, but their impact on me remains.

Now that I’m an author I appreciate even more the influence that booksellers can have on readers. That’s why I’m taking part in Authors for Indies. It’s my chance to give back. I’ll be out there on May 2 in an independent bookstore, ready to greet readers and recommend books to them. I might even be talking up an old favorite, Mordecai Richler.


On Saturday May 2, the Book Warehouse store at 4118 Main Street, Vancouver, will be hosting June Hutton.

June Hutton, colour -- 088_web

June Hutton | Photo: Pink Monkey Studios

April 14th, 2015 by SPiN

Authors for Indies Day, May 2, 2015

On May 2, 2015, authors across Canada will be volunteering in independent bookshops to meet customers and hand-sell books. This initiative, called Authors for Indies, has been organized by author Janie Chang of Vancouver to help bookstores build sales and attract new customers. The list of participating bookstores and authors can be found at www.authorsforindies.com  Over 120 bookstores and 500 authors have signed up and the day promises to be exciting and busy. I’ll be volunteering at one of my favourite bookshops, Kidsbooks in the Village, 3040 Edgemont Boulevard, North Vancouver, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and look forward to meeting parents and children in need of new reading material. Edgemont has two bookstores and three fine coffee shops, so please drop by to enjoy the village! June Hutton’s photo appears on the Authors for Indies rotating banner and on May 2 she will be at Book Warehouse on Main, 4118 Main Street, Vancouver, where–should you be super lucky!–you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Jen Sookfong Lee.

Why an Authors for Indies day? Ann-Marie Macdonald reminds us that things are tough for independent bookstores. “Year after year they support [authors]. They stock our books, invite us for readings, and put our titles on their ‘staff picks’ shelf. Let’s do something to support them back.” Janie Chang, who will be in Edgemont Village on May 2 at 32 Books, believes that Authors for Indies day will bring “traffic into the bookstores, and hopefully that means the stores will sell more books. I really hope it raises awareness of how important independent bookstores are in the community . . . .  [Customers will] be able to walk into their local independent bookstore and get book recommendations from an author, and talk about books.”

February 24th, 2015 by SPiN

Novel Nights at The Book Warehouse on Main


If you live in Vancouver, you know about The Book Warehouse, which has been going strong at Broadway and Ash since 1980. In 2012, they were rescued from looming closure by Cathy and Mel Jesson of Black Bond Books, and I had the pleasure of appearing there, with Roberta Rich, in 2013 (see photo). A year ago, Book Warehouse on Main opened at 4118 Main Street (and King Edward) and has been buzzing with author events ever since. This is no surprise given the enthusiastic in-house talent, Mary-Ann Yazedijian and James Tyler Irvine, who are well known about town as amazingly supportive of Vancouver writers. Their new brain-child is Novel Nights, a series of readings that features books by local authors. So far they’ve had Steven Galloway, Janie Chang, Caroline Adderson, and Timothy Taylor. Given those luminaries, you can guess how pleased I am to be the featured author on March 18, from 7 to 8:15 pm. Everybody is welcome! Come and chat me up, ask questions about my novel Muse, and meet the energetic James and Mary-Ann.

December 11th, 2014 by SPiN

The French translation of Muse

Merry Christmas to all! How exciting to get my first glimpse of the cover for the French translation of Muse! Also titled Muse, it will be published by Éditions Hurtubise February 26 and distributed in France by Librairie du Québec. The award-winning translators, Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné, have done a wonderful job and I feel very fortunate that Hurtubise has put so much care and effort into this edition. What a lovely Christmas gift. Merci beaucoup, Hurtubise!

July 7th, 2014 by SPiN

The Blog Hop: A Writer’s Brainwaves

Today, I’m participating in a blog tour at the invitation of writer Karen Dodd, who also lives on what Vancouverites call the North Shore. This usually means that we have to drive over to Vancouver to visit friends, who are reluctant to travel to our side of town. Karen lives even further west than I do, in Lions Bay, where she often sees dolphins frolicking in Howe Sound. Maybe that’s why she’s written such a thrilling debut novel, Deadly Switch. Karen has passed on four questions for me to answer.

What am I working on? 

I’m fascinated by walled cities like London and Avignon. Although London’s wall has been destroyed, except for a few traces, Avignon’s still encircles the historic city. After I finished writing Muse, I started thinking about London again. I picked up after the Great Fire of 1666, where Conceit ended, and began reading into the next century . . . read more