Deborah Ranchuk doesn’t seek out the books she publishes. They find her.
Since 1992, Ranchuk has published 240 titles under White Mountain Publications from her shop in New Liskeard, which specializes in non-fiction, poetry, and books about the Baha'i faith. Although a concentration of authors over the last decade has hailed from Northern Ontario, her mandate isn’t restricted by geography.
“I want good books; I want well-done books,” Ranchuk said. “We’ve got a lot pickier and we’ve done well. I’m proud of the books that we’ve done.”
Originally from Windsor, Ranchuk published her first few titles while living in St. Catharines. But it wasn’t long before her prospector husband was eager to move the family north to be closer to his mining claims.
Ranchuk, who had been active in the Canadian Authors Association, opened White Mountain in New Liskeard in 1982 and started publishing her own titles a decade later.
The publishing process is intensive, said Ranchuk, who views each of her books as her children, for which she wants to find good homes. Just when she gets sick of looking at a project — a signal that the process is almost complete — she gets the proofs.
“Proofing is like Christmas because you get new books and you forget about all the pain — and you don’t have to wait nine months for another kid,” she laughed.
Ranchuk’s always been a little ahead of her time, offering e-books since 2003 and doing the bulk of her business through online sales since the 1990s. Customers hail from Iceland, Belgium, South America, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. She likes to say she has customers on “four continents, maybe five, but I can’t confirm Antarctica.”
This summer, with space at her New Liskeard shop at a premium, Ranchuk decided to move the whole operation to downtown Cobalt, taking up residence in the former Coniagas headframe building. Though she remains primarily a book publisher and printer, her new space will be open seven days a week for retail customers.
With very little marketing, customers began flowing into the new location before it had even officially opened its doors.
“The word is out there’s a new bookstore in Cobalt and they’re missing the Highway Bookshop like you would not believe,” she said.
The closure of that much-loved Temiskaming landmark in 2011 left a gaping hole in the community — in both its available reading material and its social fabric. Worried that local titles would be lost and forgotten, Ranchuk salvaged 21 titles, which she now makes available through her own website. She also retains the reprint rights for several of those titles.
But that’s where the similarities between White Mountain and the Highway Bookshop end.
“I know there are going to be the inevitable comparisons, but this is not trying to be the same thing,” Ranchuk said. “Mostly, I wanted to sell more of our new titles, and then all the used books just started coming in from everywhere.”
White Mountain continues to publish works from a variety of authors, along with the annul Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar. Now in its 13th year, the calendar is an assemblage of all the annual writing contests and book awards across Canada.
She also hosts the Northern Ontario Poetry Competition, open to any authors with a postal code beginning in ‘P’, through it discovering new Northern poets every year.
Upcoming publications from local authors include Mud, Muskeg and Mosquitoes, an autobiography of pioneer Dollie Bélanger written by her granddaughter, and a 1,200-page chronicle of the veterans whose names appear on the New Liskeard cenotaph.
“A good idea is a good idea, and if I don’t do it someone will. But we try to make sure that the ones that we’ve considered are worthy and have interest,” Ranchuk said. “If they interest me, they’re going to interest somebody.”