Skip to main content

Raven's End Books creating a hub for Winnipeg horror readers


A St. James bookstore is creating a new chapter for fans of the macabre in part from an owner who has a serious passion for reading.

“I’ve been a bookworm since I was a kid,” said Chelsea McKee-Trenchard, owner of Raven’s End Books.

“I was that kid at recess who would sit and read versus running and doing any sort of physical activity. It’s still the same case.”

McKee-Trenchard opened Raven’s End Books at the beginning of January. After a change in careers, she wanted to pursue a goal she had dreamed of for years.

“I’m a big horror fan and I would always get frustrated of not being able to find what I wanted at the library, at other stores and I wanted to kind of create a community hub for people that also liked the thrilling kind of scary books,” McKee-Trenchard said.

With a certain inspiration in mind, McKee-Trenchard only sells books, merchandise and board games that fit within the horror and suspense genre.

“Anything that’s a little unnerving, chilling, so dark fantasy, dark sci-fi, anything where it kind of gives someone that scary release,” McKee-Trenchard said.

She has a rule not to feature mainstream authors like Stephen King or R.L. Stine but instead, support harder-to-find writers in the genre. American authors like Grady Hendrix, Adam Nevill and Christina Henry are some of her favourites.

The store is also currently the only Canadian retailer of Crystal Lake Publishing according to McKee-Trenchard. After a few months of running the business, she is still discovering new things about the genre that she is able to share with customers.

“I think one of them is just the fun aspect of it,” McKee-Trenchard said.

“That kind of heart racing, don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s like you’re on a safe adventure. It is a book, you know you can stop it anytime but I also love that it’s this really great medium for ostracized or other voices.”

She said the horror writing community is providing an opportunity to hear stories you wouldn’t necessarily hear in other genres.

“There are a lot of great examples of stories where maybe they talk about abusive relationships, poverty, queerness in ways that it’s easier to relate to, it’s easier to digest as a horror fan,” McKee-Trenchard said.

“We have a book where someone is moving in with their in-laws and just trying to navigate those expectations and the weird relationships. Obviously, there (isn't) the heightened element of horror in there but it’s still horror. It can really be anything that unnerves someone and that’s different for each person.”

McKee-Trenchard also features a number of local authors’ works in store including Chadwick Ginther who specializes in writing in mythic fiction.

Ginther, who grew up in Morden, describes mythic fiction as any sort of fiction that relies heavily on mythology and folklore for its writing with the use of magical elements.

“I love the world-building element and bringing magic to our world,” Ginther said.

“That’s probably my most known stylistic trait. Bringing magic and the fantastic to Winnipeg and prairie Canada.”

The Manitoba writer has written six books and over 30 short stories in his career. Ginther said he didn’t realize writing could be a possible vocation until much later in life.

He said having two great uncles who lived on the Canadian prairies through the twentieth century gave him a great understanding of some of the hardships, stories and lived experiences people became accustomed to years ago.

“They also loved pulp adventure stories like The Lone Ranger and Tarzan,” Ginther said.

“Right from the beginning there was this mashup for me of the fantastic and the very real of where I was. Then I discovered Dungeons and Dragons and I started making stories of my own.”

In addition, Ginther’s love of Greek and Norse mythology inspired ideas to turn to write, in particular, one title known as 'D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths' by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.

“I checked it out so many times the librarian actually asked me to stop,” Ginther said as he laughed.

“She’s like maybe another little boy wants to read about Norse mythology.”

While working for McNally Robinson, Ginther realized the vocation could be fruitful for his many ideas and sources of inspiration.

“I saw local writers from Winnipeg and rural Manitoba launching books almost every day, it became real,” Ginther said.

When he’s not writing books inspired by Norse mythology, Ginther is developing a series called 'Graveyard Mind' which is currently available at Raven’s End.

“Graveyard Mind is a story set in a very haunted Winnipeg full of necromancers and vampires and skeletons in suits where every funeral home is on the take for this shadowy organization that sort of runs the underworld,” Ginther said.

“You ask anybody on the street to name a haunted building in Winnipeg and most of them can. It feels like it’s a part of the city. The Hotel Fort Garry and all of these places, I wanted to play with that.”

While he typically doesn’t write strictly horror works, Ginther loves reading books in the genre and said the store is creating a great opportunity for other Manitoba writers.

“I just think it’s fantastic, you can’t become what you can’t see in the world,” Ginther said.

“To see the breadth of the horror selection, I think a lot of writers locally will be inspired by that. The amount of small-press and micro-press fiction that Chelsea has brought in for the store is astounding. You won’t find that on the shelf pretty much anywhere.”

Ian Russell who goes by his author name I.D. Russell, combines pop culture references, action and comedy when he writes horror fiction.

One of his titles featured at Raven’s End 'The Killing Death', is about a serial killer making a pizza out of body parts in a location alluding to Winnipeg as River City.

“It’s a comedy, it’s gory but it’s funny,” Russell said.

“It started life as a movie, that I made locally for no money and then I just turned it into a book because with no money you can’t make the movie you want to make so the book is what I would’ve done if I had the money.”

To this date, Russell has written 37 books and has published 11 of them for readers. Growing up in the 1980s serves as a key source of inspiration for him when it comes time to write.

“I still watch things like 'The Monster Squad', and 'Gremlins' and 'Ghostbusters' so it’s pieces of those movies that have probably bled into my psyche in weird ways,” Russell said.

“You just take parts of your life but then you mash it up in weird ways. I’ve probably seen way too many movies and inadvertently taken pieces from different movies too.”

Since Raven’s End has opened, he too has enjoyed having the visibility to share his fictional works with new customers and readers.

“Other stores, when you're on a shelf, you're usually in local interest. So if someone is a horror fan they don't necessarily go to local interest to look for horror, they go to the horror section and if you're not in there, they don't know you exist,” Russell said.

McKee-Trenchard said it has been enticing to see regular customers coming in each week to see new titles added to the store and social media has created further interest in reading a physical copy of their favourite author.

“It’s like I shouted into the void and there was a really strong echo back and it was really cool,” McKee-Trenchard said.

“People are colour coordinating their bookshelves, not for me, clearly, but it’s become an art piece for them where it’s kind of a souvenir for what they’ve done and I think that’s why people still really love the act of going and picking out their physical books.”

Raven’s End Books has the unique distinction of being one of the first bookstores dedicated to the horror genre outside of Toronto’s Little Ghosts which opened in 2022.

McKee-Trenchard spoke to one of the co-owners of the Toronto store who has served as a mentor for developing her business.

“I don’t know if I had direct feelings about owning this space except for excitement that I kind of got to physically manifest a part of myself, ‘like I love books, I love horror,’ here it is,” McKee-Trenchard said.

“It is incredibly cool to kind of be breaking new ground in western Canada.” Top Stories

Stay Connected