Featuring Kate Hargreaves, Irene Marques, and Suzanne Craig-Whytock
Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.
Kate Hargereaves, author of tend (October 13, 2022, Book*hug Press)
Kate Hargreaves: When I wrote the first few poems that would end up in tend, I thought I was writing an entirely different collection. My first poetry collection, Leak, focuses on the ways bodies and minds are connected and what happens when they start to fall apart, and the body has always been front of mind in my writing. Initially, I thought I would write through the ways we move our bodies, particularly in exercise, and the sensations, often uncomfortable, associated. However, I hit a wall with that project, and moved on to instead thinking about curated lives and the false ease that online personas often project. Again, I hit a writing block and put that aside. When I experienced a sudden and traumatic injury that drastically changed my life, especially how I inhabited my own body, I couldn’t fathom writing through it. People kept suggesting that I should, that it was healthy to do so, even therapeutic, but the sensation was too close to home. Pain, at least for me, was not productive, and the pain, both physical and psychological, was extreme and very real. It was not until I was several months into my long recovery from my broken leg (I had snapped both bones in my shin, resulting in an open fracture requiring three surgeries over two years) that I started being able to draw from the experience in my writing.
Irene Marques, Author of Daria (June 24, 2021, Inanna Publications)
Irene Marques: Why did I write Daria? Daria the girl, Daria the woman, Daria the hope, Daria the freedom, Daria the utopia? It seems that the book industry, and perhaps more so nowadays, tends to ask too many pragmatic questions, pose queries that insinuate tangible (practical, clear, simple, objective) responses as to why we do certain things, including writing a particular book. Why are we so obsessed with this tangible, measurable, rational, this understandable and unambiguous (and therefore also unsurprising), which, in my view, is more predominant in Anglo-American circles—though much of the rest of the world my also be catching the trend, or should I say disease? And yet, writing a book is an act of faith that requires belief and the suspension thereof. For that very reason, this endeavor falls within the realm of intangibility and non-pragmatism, at least the immediate kind. Why did I write Daria? Daria the girl, Daria the woman, Daria the hope, Daria the freedom, Daria the utopia? Are these (pragmatic) questions also asked because book sales are hard to come by and the book industry uses every medium it can think of to put the spotlight on authors and entice readers to buy a product that can serve them well in a practical sense? Perhaps, given that authors seem to be poor creatures, somewhat like serfs without land, asking and begging for bread and attention in an era apparently taken by more enticing media. But the truth is that the act of writing cannot always respond clearly, pragmatically, directly, to a query like this, or even fulfil the desires of a readership keen on finding immediately pragmatic insights, tips that they might use to quickly acquire a magnificent mansion in the Valley of Happiness. And so, I have gone in circles, likely annoying the seeker of immediately accessible knowledge, responses, illumination—the lovers of uncomplicated and straightforward responses. Forgive me. But please stick with me—and perchance some gain will arrive.
I wrote Daria when I was in my early 40’s, over 20 years after I had moved to Canada (from Portugal). Even though the novel is, in some respects, based on my experiences as a young woman moving to Canada at age of 20, it goes on a tour around the world—and not just because we have the world in Canada (or at least in Toronto, where the novels looks and searches for meaning), but mostly because I write not just to explore and understand myself and my immediate world, but to exit myself and my immediate world, explore the unknown, enter a realm of magic, of possibilities, of beingness, of others and otherness (the non-human, though in Portuguese we might prefer to say: “the more-than- human”). In that sense, I go against the motto: “Write about what you know.” In an era that defends avidly (and sometimes blindly) that one should only write from one’s own experience, this may go against the grain. But creative writing should be about going against the grain—about going against the motto, the cliché. The word “creative” demands so—makes it imperative. This is not to say, of course, that one should not write from experience, for I am very much an advocate of the argument that traditionally marginalized, misrepresented, and silenced groups in literature should write their own stories, their experiences. They should, they must. Daria is also very much my own story, my own experience. However, for me, writing is also fundamentally about getting out of the self, accessing the other, the unknow; it is about illuminating (expanding) oneself through looking at, reading and reminiscing about the other (and the otherness), about exploring that which has no immediate and easy responses, that which confuses, scares, stuns, astonishes… Writing is also about suspending the lack that we, as humans, are haunted by, and sometimes want to lullaby with cheap candies from the capitalist store. But cheap candy won’t do—because the deep self is clever, persistent, resilient. It calls. Over and over again. It also responds. And it opposes, proposes and counter proposes. It makes noise.
I wrote Daria to find, search for myself, myself in the other, the other in myself, myself in the world, the world in myself. Daria is about expanding the self through the other (and the otherness), and in that sense, making fiction a universal home, a collective beingness that dares to corrupt borders, and in fact insists on doing so. I wrote Daria to become more myself and less so—to travel through the streets of Toronto and converse with all who could see and hear me. I wrote it to oppose, to propose and counter-propose. To make noise. I wrote Daria to revisit my childhood in Portugal and through that, dissect the evils of Portuguese colonialism, classism and fascism. I wrote it to become acquainted with the dreams of abused little boys and women, or those of men who suffer under the heavy weight of a racist and prejudiced system. I wrote it to imagine myself as a woman who can exit and thrive outside patriarchal machinations. To explore the degradation of the human soul, when living under tyranny, and envisage how that soul could really BE if free of it. Our beingness rising, rising, moving between spaces, and shadows and blackholes—finally suspending borders of self and other, all of us entering the source, the chora—where sea meets sky and land and fire and molten lava, a dance of true goodness. I wrote it to push language and dream beyond limits. I wrote it to birth belief through the tricks of a magnificent Iberian Romani circus, whose enlightened Master knows how to capture precious black matter and give colour and meaning to the world. I wrote it to suspend belief and disbelief. To be free and full and connected with humanity—and also travel beyond humanity, enter the sphere of the more-than-human. Daria is a girl. Daria is a dream. Daria is the world. How it could be. And please, do not shut me up quickly saying that utopia is out of line in a world like ours—a mere mad chimera à la Don Quixote. No, it is not. What is out of line is the dystopia engendered by non-believers, siblings of Sancho Panza—compadres of Donald Trump.
“I write myself in the intervals of a lifetime to see if I find my true name.” That is how I started my Daria. After nights and days of dreaming it. Sometimes in agony, sometimes in awe or loneliness or inside the blank gaze of an exhausted woman. Or simply attuned to the barely audible ruffle of a fall autumn leaf, landing on the ground, on its way to another life.
Suzanne Craig-Whytock, Author of At the End of It All (Feb 7, 2023 Potter’s Grove Press)
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Great question—why do I write at all? Because my mind never stops, that’s why—if I wasn’t writing, I’d probably go mad.
I have two books coming out in early 2023, so I’ll start with my second short story collection At The End Of It All, which will be out at the beginning of February. I wrote that particular collection as a follow-up to Feasting Upon The Bones, which was released in 2021. While I was finalizing that book, I’d already started writing ‘Nomads of the Modern Wasteland’, the three parts of which create the anchor stories for the new collection. Even though I try to be a positive person, I also see the world as a very frightening place, so writing dark fiction is cathartic for me. A lot of people know me best from my website, where I write almost exclusively humour, so they’re always a little shocked when they read my short fiction, but to paraphrase what Stephen King said in his essay Why We Crave Horror Movies, “all you need is love…as long as you keep the gators fed”.
I also have the sequel to my most recent novel due to be released in late spring. The Devil You Know picks up where The Seventh Devil ends. I felt that there were some loose ends, and a character who needed a redemption arc, so I continued writing Verity and Gareth’s story. It’s still not complete—there will be a third novel to complete the trilogy. And I can’t get past my love for Mort Sterven, aka Mr. Death—he’s a character I began to flesh out in Feasting Upon The Bones, and he’s made appearances in both The Devil You Know and At The End Of It All.
Ah, Death—I wish I knew how to quit you.
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. James works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.