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Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt February 8, 2015
"THE MOST POWERFUL OBEAH is love," says
first-time author, Margaret Jack-Van-Hanegin.
She's backing it up with her new collection of local
love stories, The Most Powerful Obeah: Love,
which she is launching this Friday, 13th February,
at the Tunapuna Library from 3:00 p.m.
The book is written under the pen name Ms. Fire,
which at first glance may seem to be a coy, wink-
ing pun, but she is actually known around her Tu-
napuna neighbourhood as Ms. Fire. "My husband
used to run competitively," she explains. "And they
used to call him Mr. Fire, so everyone started call-
ing me Ms. Fire."
The stories have a distinctly local feel, some al-
most of novella length, others just a few pages
long. They're the literary equivalent of salty, spicy
peanuts: not long enough to fill you up, but you
just keep nibbling at them one after the other.
And oh, there is a sly humour that permeates the
sincere romance vibe.
Like many romance writers, she got hooked on
the romance bug from very early, devouring ro-
mance novels from the age of 11 or 12. "After that,
there was no turning back." Why romance? "I love
the happy ever after. I like to see people struggle
and overcome obstacles, and hang in there."
She herself has some obstacles to speak of. At
age 9 she became paralysed by rheumatic fever,
and was hospitalised for months. Upon her re-
lease she was sent to a children's convalescence
home for a year. For a child on complete bed rest,
the only escape was her books. "That cemented
my love of reading. I needed the distraction, and
my family brought a lot of books for me to read."
Her stories were born out of her natural curiosity
and her habit of constantly asking...what if? "My
husband does my (dread) locks for me. One day,
we were sitting on the steps while he did my hair,
and I saw my neighbours walking in. The gentle-
man is quite a bit older than the lady, and I started
wondering what brought them together." The re-
sult? A story.
Even the strangest quirks she encounters are
translated into hilarious anecdotes in her book.
Her overweight heroine, Ornella, in her struggle to
lose weight, takes the unusual step of wrapping
garbage bags around her midsection while she
runs. This was directly stolen from Jack-Van-
Hanegin's sister, who told her about the weight-
And speaking of her overweight heroine, she ex-
plains why her literary ladies don't follow the
stereotype of being rail-thin and gorgeous. "Very
often in romance, the heroine is perfect and
skinny. I think romance should be as realistic as
possible; we're in a world filled with imperfect peo-
As a matter of fact, her hero, Sam, can't under-
stand why Ornella can't see herself as desirable.
"Why do you think it's so hard for me to love you?"
At the moment, the new author is finding her feet
at home first, trying to find booksellers to carry
her book. "When I look at bookstores, I can't not
go inside. But local authors have a lot of chal-
lenges; to produce a book costs a lot of money.
Look at that store...." She waves an arm at a book-
store directly across from where we are sitting.
"Where do you see a local author's books standing
out? I can go to the store and get a Mills and
Boon, but will I get a local author? It's only after a
few local authors started to raise their concerns
that a few sellers have been featuring them."
She therefore plans to take her fate into her own
hands by selling her books at local markets like
the Green Market and UpMarket. She has also
won the support of the Greater Tunapuna Cham-
ber of Commerce, and would like to give a copy of
her book to graduating secondary school students
who have studied literature as a subject.
She also keeps busy working on her writing
through a writer's group called Crafter's Agenda,
which meets regularly at members' homes, and
has even performed one of her short stories at
Queen's Hall during the Best Village short story
competition. Now retired, she plans on writing
several more books.
Margaret Jack-Van-Hanegin can be found on
By Roslyn Carrington
The stories have a distinctly local
feel, some almost of novella
length, others just a few pages
long. They're the literary equiva-
lent of salty, spicy peanuts: not
long enough to fill you up, but
you just keep nibbling at them
one after the other.
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