St-Bernardin author’s life experiences inspire popular children’s book series

It’s been a busy year for new author Lorna Ann Gauthier. The St. Bernardine recently published her second children’s book – just months after her first attempt, The Adventures of Annabel Teacup.

Gauthier’s fantasy work, released earlier this year, has found a home with young readers across multiple outlets including Barnes and Noble, Etsy, Google, Chapters and Amazon Canada. Gauthier continues the story in her second book in the series The Adventures of Annabel Teacup – The Magic Begins, which was released at the end of September. A third font, subtitled Butterflies are freehas also been completed and should appear before Christmas.

The three books are inspired by the author’s life experiences – both tragedy and success – and all the lessons she has learned over the years. But it took a pandemic to finally allow her to complete it.

“When COVID came, like everyone else, I had nothing to do, so I started writing,” recalls Gauthier, who until recently was better known as an artist creating vibrant acrylic paintings.

An arm injury left her unable to paint and the COVID-19 pandemic dragged on. Gauthier was bored. To fill the time, she decided to revisit a story that had bothered her for decades.

The result is a fantasy tale for young readers that features characters drawn from their own life stories, including a main character inspired by her young son Matthew, who died of leukemia as an infant.

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“He had an imaginary friend who he called Bebble,” Matthew’s mother recalls. “He’s in the books, but I didn’t want to do the whole story on Bebble because it’s too limiting.”

Instead, Gauthier’s writings tell the story of Annabel Teacup, a farmer who learned to produce medicinal herbs for her community in her rural town of St-Amour. With the help of fairies and other magical creatures she encounters on her journey, Annabel learns more than she could have imagined. One of these magical creatures is Bebble – portrayed as a little honey bee rescued by Annabel – who becomes a trusted companion on her journey.

A life full of experiences

Lorna Ann Belle-Isle was born in Hawkesbury, Ontario and attended what was then Hawkesbury District High School while her parents ran the local business Jacques Belle-Isle Wholesale in the town.

Gauthier’s life experiences include modeling and membership with the Ottawa Rough Riders “Silver Machine” in the late 1970s. “We came out in fur coats and silver lamé jumpsuits and leather boots and we danced,” laughs Gauthier, pictured left in the Silver Machine magazine ad above.

While living in Ottawa in the late 1970s and working as a legal secretary, she also performed on the side as a model and as a member of the “Silver Machine” for the Ottawa Rough Riders football club. At the time, the Rough Riders had both an on-court cheerleading team and the “Silver Machine” team, which performed on a platform above the court.

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“I don’t know why we had two groups, but we would (travel) in these silver voyageur buses,” Gauthier smiles, rolling his eyes. “We came out in fur coats and silver lamé overalls and leather boots and danced.”

After marriage, she and her husband moved to his hometown of St-Bernardin – a place where she still lives today and whose residents provided fodder for her children’s books. Gauthier’s writing draws on many of her local acquaintances as inspiration for various characters.

“The characters are all locals, friends and stuff – I changed their names,” says the author, whose name Annabel is a combination of her middle name and the first three letters of her maiden name.

The Adventures of Anabel Teacup is primarily intended to offer both reading fun and a spiritual learning experience for children.

“It’s fun,” explains the author, who studied medicine and is a Reiki Master (Hands on Healer). “She has these adventures and she also teaches children spiritual things – things that they won’t learn in school.”

The author’s teachings also include herbalism and crystal healing.

“I put all of that into my book,” she says.

Self-publishing offered more instruction

The publication of three books in 2022 was something Gauthier did not anticipate or even imagine possible when she began work The Adventures of Annabel Teacup a little over a year ago.

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“I started writing and it was slow — it wasn’t like I had it all planned out,” says the author. “It just started flowing.”

The writing journey offered Gauthier more life lessons, including one in the new art of self-publishing as she worked with US-based company Xlibris on the finished product.

“I didn’t know it was that intense. You go through all these stages and all these people,” she says. “It’s crazy. I never thought I would learn so much.”

While all of the illustrations in her first publication were added by the publisher, Gauthier – who has since recovered from her arm injury – created her own illustrations for the second and third books. Again it was a learning experience for artists. Instead of working in her usual medium of acrylic, Gauthier created all the illustrations for The magic begins and Butterflies are free digital – an art form she had never worked in before.

“I didn’t know I would love it so much,” she says while showing an illustration for The magic begins. “If I had tried to paint this myself, it would have taken me months. One day I made it with digital.”

Not necessarily the end

When Butterflies are free Released in December, Gauthier says the current storyline is coming to an end.

“In the end everything fits together.”

But the inspiration goes on and there’s a good chance young readers haven’t last seen Annabel Teacup.

“I’m not sure if I’ll stop at three books because I’m starting to feel like I could write another one,” laughs the now veteran children’s book author. “We will see.”

An accomplished artist, Gauthier began creating her own digital illustrations for the second and third books in her Adventures of Annabel Teacup series, including this image from The Magic Begins, released this month. Submitted photo

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