Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I Know It's Over is narrated by a male character, and One Lonely Degree by a female. Is one perspective harder to write than another? Do you have a preference, or is it the character that matters?
I don’t have a preference or find one perspective more difficult than another. I like to alternate. I really think of gender as a social construct (rather than something innate) that we’re all taught the rules about beginning the moment we’re born. It’s a shock to me that we’re in the twenty-first century and society is still circulating the idea that being a guy means being aggressive and otherwise unemotional and being a girl means being nurturing and naturally better behaved.
It *is* the character that matters but a reader’s expectations of a character will be different depending on which gender the character is and how all the other characters react to the main character will also be determined, at least in part, by the that character’s gender. So it’s a complicated balance for me as a writer because to a certain extent if I don’t show a reader what they expect a girl or guy to be like they might find the character unconvincing yet I think we’re all so much more complex than X and Y chromosomes which is something I want to reflect also.
I've noticed that in both of your books, your characters have parents that have already separated or are in the process of separating; why did you decide to make it an issue in your books?
It’s funny you should bring this up because in my third book the main character’s parents are divorced too (although it’s not really much of an issue there). I feel as though the main characters come to me with their issues already attached and that it’s not something I’m deciding on at all but I guess on a subconscious level, what with the marriage breakdown rate being so high in America and Canada (and possibly also because my own parents are divorced), divorce seems like a common state of affairs to me. That doesn’t mean it’s become an easy thing to deal with and I just try to reflect what a character’s reaction to this untangling of lives is – or the intertwining of lives, for that matter. In the upcoming book the main character Mason is perfectly fine with his parents being divorced but finds it almost impossible to get along with his soon to be step-sister.
Anyway, one of the difficult things about being a young person is that you don’t have a choice in what happens to your family.
What is it that you would like your readers to glean from your books?
I would hope it would make them feel less alone if they’re in a similar situation – I’d like them to know that they can get through these things, like Nick’s dad says to him in I Know It’s Over. And if they haven’t found themselves in a similar situation I hope it would make a reader less judgmental of other people who are going through tough times. It’s not as simple as making good or bad decisions or being a good or bad person – life is shades of gray.
What are your writing essentials?
I need quiet and solitude to even be able to get started. Aside from that, If I had to I could get by with a pen, stack of lined paper, thesaurus and a nearby library for research purposes but because I have a computer I really only need that one thing (well, I still need the library – I’m addicted to my local library and usually drop by to pick up reading material at least once a week!).
Can you tell us anything about your next book?
The Lighter Side of Life and Death is mainly about sixteen year old Mason’s experiences with love and lust. When the book opens he’s having the best day of his life, having just starred in the school play, celebrated its success with all his friends and then lost his virginity to one of his best friends, a girl (Kat) he’s had a crush on for three years. He’s on a total high. But when Mason sees Kat again two days later she lets him know that she thinks sleeping together was a major mistake. In the fallout from this Mason’s other best friend Jamie becomes angry with him too and at home he has his future step-sister making life difficult. So he’s gone from feeling golden to feeling pretty crap…until he learns his newfound interest in a twenty-three year old woman just might be mutual.
If you could speak to any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Usually a writer’s books are enough for me and I don’t feel any real curiosity about the person behind them but because we currently have a Prime Minister in power up here in Canada that is exceedingly fond of doublethink and propaganda (in George Bush style) and is also proving extremely difficult to shake, I’d like a chance to talk to George Orwell and glean some information from him on how to cut through this guy’s mind games and bring him down.
Is there anything I didn't ask you wish I had?
Hmm, I’m not sure, but I saw this terrific comment on the online version of Canadian national paper The Globe and Mail a few days ago that really resonated with me so maybe I’ll take the opportunity to mention it. “Nothing in the world is easier - or lazier - than the perpetual sneer.” I won’t go into what the article is about because that comment can be applied to so many situations (both political and personal) but basically cynicism and apathy is a trap that a lot of people fall into – thinking things will never change, that there’s nothing positive they can really do for themselves or others. I think that’s something we have to guard against and although there are some bad things that happen in my books I never want to write a book that at its heart is cynical.