Featuring Rebecca Hirsch Garcia, Anne Smith-Nochasak and Damhnait Monaghan
Why do your favourite Canadian authors write the books they write? Let’s find out in this exclusive feature here at The Miramichi Reader.
Rebecca Hirsch Garcia, author of The Girl Who Cried Diamonds & Other Stories (Fall 2023, ECW Press)
My debut collection The Girl Who Cried Diamonds & Other Stories is a collection of short stories that flit between the real and the surreal. The copy called them “Just to the left of reality” and I think that describes them well; stories where things are initially quite mundane with a creeping sense that there is something not quite right lurking in the background.
I think all writers have a form they naturally gravitate to and mine is short stories. I like being succinct and even more than that I love to cut. My favourite part in editing is when the editor points out something is unclear and I realize that I can just cut a line or a paragraph and the story still holds its original meaning and intent – in fact is often sharper and more interesting that way. Sometimes I feel like if left to my own devices I could hack down some of my pieces until they’re just a line that leaves an impression or mood. I’m currently working on my debut novel, Other Evolutions, and while I’m enjoying playing with all the space it throws into relief everything I love about writing short stories. Because there’s such limited space you have to create a mood and an atmosphere really quickly but throwing in a ton of description conversely makes the story feel cramped; you leave a lot of gaps so it’s up to the reader to interpret what isn’t there.
Having been a teenage girl once I have utter faith in their discernment. That’s who I was always trying to impress with these stories, myself at 16. I’m always worried about her and her reactions to what I write. “Would she have liked this?” is something I frequently ask myself. I like to believe she would have. That she would understand all the things I’m not saying.
Anne Smith-Nochasak, author of The ice Widow: A Story of Love and Redemption (Friesen Press, Nov. 2022)
The Ice Widow is a story about incompatible youthful love that finds a new and surprising fulfillment in maturity.
The story began when a good friend texted me about the ice window he placed in his snow house wall. He wrote, however, “widow.” Somehow, I could not let go of the idea of “an ice widow in a snow house wall.” That fall, in a hotel room in St. John’s, I picked up my Tablet and began to shape Anna’s prologue.
The story hangs on that one word. To Joshua, it is window, a simple structure that brings light and joy to the occupants of a snow house. To Anna, it is widow, a metaphor for her life: Rigid and unbending, she has carried love “like a dead coal, never allowing its light or its heat.” I wanted a story about that.
During my teaching journey, I witnessed both great pain and remarkable beauty, and the incidents in Anna’s career are based on my impressions. I tell of tragedies and of triumphs, and each is a hero.
I also wanted to honour those who are dying and those who support them. The medical escort is charged to join the dying person in a solitary journey, affirming their nobility and dignity in the pain, the despair, and, yes, the madness. I wanted a story about this, too.
A Canoer of Shorelines is the story of my heart; The Ice Widow is the story of my soul. It is, most of all, a love story with a joyful ending – for I believe all the characters deserve the riches of joy.
Damhnait Monaghan, author of New Girl in Little Cove (HarperCollins, March 2 2021)
My debut novel New Girl in Little Cove was released almost two years ago in the midst of lockdown. Bookstores were closed, in person launches were impossible and my celebratory dinner was fish and chips from the takeout. But when your dream comes true, nothing can dampen the joy. Turns out, champagne pairs beautifully with fish and chips.
New Girl in Little Cove tells the story of Rachel, a grief-stricken mainlander who arrives in the tight-knit community of Little Cove, Newfoundland as the new French teacher. Initially she struggles to fit in, not understanding the culture, dialect or way of life. She isn’t thrilled with the small-town vibes either. As the school principal tells her:
“People knows what you had for breakfast, before you’ve brushed your teeth.”
Gradually, though she begins to fall in love with the place, just as I did when my family moved to the island from mainland Ontario when I was twelve.
I wrote New Girl in Little Cove in part as a love letter to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Like Rachel, I was a mainlander who began my teaching career in outport Newfoundland in the early 1980s. Unlike her, I was not new to the island. But it makes a far better story to drop a complete outsider into a unique setting to see how they cope.
While the novel is inspired by my own teaching experience, there is no Little Cove. That community is entirely fictional as are its residents and the events that occur in the novel. But I’m always delighted when readers write to say:
“We will definitely be stopping into Little Cove.”
My response? The same warmth, humour, and strong sense of community can be found anywhere on the island. If you have yet to visit this special place, Rachel and I strongly recommend it.
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.