Journalist and first-time author, Cecily Ross sat down with Zoomer to talk about the inspiration for her first novel, The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie, and offered up a few life lessons while she was at it.

Believe me, I have drawers full of short stories and unfinished novels,” says journalist and author Cecily Ross, 65. This spring, her first novel, The Lost Diaries of Susanna Moodie, was published. As for those drawers, those earlier efforts didn’t go to waste. “Writing them was a necessary learning experience that has culminated in this book, the fictional diary of a Canadian pioneer whom I have been fascinated with for more than 40 years.”

You could say Moodie, a British-born writer who moved to Canada in 1832 and wrote about life in the “bush,” was also a pioneer for women writers like Ross. The author worked as an editor and writer at the Globe and Mail and has contributed to Maclean’s, the Toronto Star and this magazine.

Adds Ross, “As a mother, sister, wife and daughter, as a woman, I am humbled by what she endured and by her determination to write.” No longer the Ontario wilderness, Ross and Basil, her second husband of 20 years, live quietly in Creemore with their little dog, Banjo.

What advice do you wish you’d given your 25-year-old self?

Brace yourself. You’ll never be a dancer. Keep writing.

What advice would you give your 80-year-old self?

Brace yourself. You’ll never be a dancer but you wrote a novel, finally.

What do you know for sure?

Nothing. Oh, except that you get way more chances in life than you might think. That money ruins people. That the more you practise, the better you get. That a room of your own is essential. That all you need is love.

What have you learned?

That I should talk less and listen more.

What will you never learn?

To keep my mouth shut.

Best piece of advice?

From my mother: “Don’t drown the gin.”

Did it work?

Oh, yes.

What inspires you?

I think there is great beauty and truth in sadness. We are born to die and yet we go on. In the words of Walter Benjamin, “It is the images of melancholy that kindle the spirit most brightly.”

The moment that changed everything?

When my daughter Leah was born. And then again the birth of her sister Meghan.

Happiness is …

My life with Basil. Three little grandsons. Perfectly poached eggs on toast. The song of the northern cardinal. Writing fiction.

A version of this article appeared in the June 2017 issue with the headline, “An Author’s Take,” p. 12.