Bill Arnott’s Showcase: A Visit with Christina Myers

This interview was previously published on Bill Arnott’s newsletter: Bill Arnott’s Showcase

I became a fan of Christina Myers, and her writing, long before meeting her. I’d been touring BC’s Gulf Islands where Christina’s debut novel, The List of Last Chances, was everywhere, from bookstores and giftshops to cafes and ferries. In one little store, her novel had two separate display shelves, anchoring the space like bookends. I immediately contacted Canada’s literary book hub, The Miramichi Reader, wanting to be one of the first to savour and review this bestseller, which I was privileged to do. Everything about the book was enjoyable, not to mention the delight I found reading a “road-trip” styled book on an actual road-trip. Naturally, I wanted to know the person that created this engaging experience. Which brings us to here, where it’s my pleasure to introduce you to (if you haven’t yet met) the amazing Christina Myers.

Let’s start with her bio: Christina Myers is a writer, editor and former journalist. Her novel The List of Last Chances (2021) was longlisted for the Leacock Medal, shortlisted for the Fred Kerner Book Prize, and won the 2023 Canadian Book Club Award for fiction. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and in a dozen anthologies, including one she edited. Her new book, Halfway Home: Thoughts from Midlife, a collection of essays, is now out with House of Anansi, and she’s currently at work on her next publication. Christina grew up all over Canada, lives now in Surrey, and is a member of Da’naxda’xw First Nation.

(Bill) Christina, welcome to the Showcase, and thank you for helping to make that island road-trip extra special. Now, let’s get to know more about you. What inspired you to start writing?

(Christina) Thanks Bill. Like a lot of people, it definitely came from reading as a kid: being able to disappear into whole new worlds that someone had created out of thin air was such a magical discovery. Nancy Drew books and Anne of Green Gables and The Chrysalids and then as a teenager getting into Stephen King and secretly reading my mom’s Danielle Steel books. I remember asking for a typewriter from the Sears catalogue one Christmas, maybe about fifth grade. I wanted it so bad. It was blue. I figured I could maybe write a real book on a fancy blue typewriter like that. I got a chemistry set that year instead. It didn’t help … I nearly failed chemistry in high school a few years later.

(B) Oh my. Well, a chem set is a pretty cool gift, but it’s not a blue typewriter! And I can certainly relate to the near-fail in chemistry. My science teacher was also our gym teacher, a man with a buzzcut who made us do push-ups, in chemistry class. But I digress. With the success of The List of Last Chances, the release of your latest, Halfway Home: Thoughts from Midlife is extremely exciting. What prompted you to create this new book?

(C) I was having so many conversations with women my age about all these common themes and concerns that we were navigating in our own heads with varying degrees of success. Just lots of uncertainty and anxiety about so much in our lives. Aging and motherhood and relationships and bodies and the climate crisis and being the sandwich generation and menopause and friendship. And we were at loose ends about it all. What did it mean to approach midlife in this time, in this place, in this culture? There’s so much that has changed since our mothers or grandmothers were in this part of their lives, and we just don’t really have a good map for what this should look like.

Something I learned in my early years as a reporter is that no one story, no one article, is the whole picture. Journalists sort of work as mapmakers – someone breaks a story, and everyone else follows it up and they find another angle, another person to interview, another detail. And those build on each other over days or weeks, sometimes years, until there’s a really full map of what happened and how and with who. We collectively create that archive. And I thought about that a lot with this book, even though it’s not journalism, because it feels like contributing to a bigger map. I’m not the first one to write this theme. I won’t be the last. But maybe I’ve got some new information to add, maybe my experiences are familiar to someone else and it helps them with their map. The title really comes from that feeling: we’re all halfway home and we’re not sure what’s ahead, and we’re figuring out where we came from, building new maps as we go.

(B) Perfectly stated, and relatable. Your mapmaking analogy is ideal, that archival construction as we find respective paths, whether breaking new trails or following others, so often without GPS or an atlas. As you navigated all this – these life elements – what was that process like?

(C) It didn’t start as a book idea. I had written a few essays just as stand-alone topics. And I keep a list of ideas, images, memories – things that I want to write about, that I think I could build something out of. And between those first essays, and that list, it felt like there was a thread there, something tying these different ideas together. One day I was in my car on the highway, zoning out, and suddenly I realized how they fit together, what the source of it was. I pulled off the highway and parked the car and scrambled for a pen in the glove box and started making notes. We all have those lightbulb moments and maybe some people remember them later but I sure don’t – I’ve learned to write it down immediately or lose it.

(B) I love that it was a Eureka discovery, and that this one took place on the road! So, following that, where were you, specifically, when you eventually wrote all of this?

(C) I want to have a really cool answer, like “in a roadside dive bar in eastern Oregon” or “my family’s chateau in the south of France.” But I think almost everything I’ve written in the last decade has been done in some combination of the same three pretty mundane places: my office at home, the local coffee shop, and the local library. My office is a corner of the unfinished basement in my very old house – my office walls are bare drywall on two sides, and flattened cardboard boxes tacked to the 2x4s on the others, with concrete floors. Needless to say, I need a change of scenery sometimes; the library and the coffee shop become my “remote offices” on those days!

(B) Well that’s actually a very cool answer: coffee shops, libraries and unfinished rooms. I think Virginia Woolf would approve. Now, as is our tradition, are there any other messages or personal stories you’d like to convey to our Showcase readers?

(C) Oh gosh, don’t give me that kind of open-ended license to talk … I could go on and on. Ha! I guess I’d just want to say how massively grateful I am for readers. It sounds cliché but really – wow, I just feel so lucky that someone wants to read what I’m writing. We all tell stories to connect with other human beings, we always have, we always will. And sometimes that’s at a dinner table or around a camp fire or over a game of cribbage. But when we do it in books, it can feel very solitary – a one-way conversation going out into the world. When you hear from a reader that they picked up the other side of that conversation, that they engaged with it, that they liked it or it made them cry or think or laugh, whatever the response is, it’s just so damn exciting. Truly.

(B) That’s lovely! Thank you, Christina, for nurturing so many inspiring conversations, these connections you create, foster, and have grown into a wonderful and welcoming community. Cheers to you, with thanks from our Showcase.

You can find Christina’s array of work and books through her website, Linktree, Instagram, Facebook, and her publisher’s book page.

And on the topic of road-trips, additional thanks to Canadian Geographic and the Explore podcast for featuring my latest books, A Perfect Day for a Walk, a Vancouver journey on foot, and the Gone Viking travelogues, from Arsenal Pulp Press and Rocky Mountain Books, respectively. Find these features at Canadian Geographic here: Vancouver’s hidden yin-yang | Canadian Geographic and at Can Geo Explore here: Gone Viking with Bill Arnott | Canadian Geographic.

Thanks again friends; safe travels, and see you next time!

Bill.

CHRISTINA MYERS is a writer, editor, and former journalist. She is the author of the novel The List of Last Chances, winner of the Canadian Book Club Award for Fiction and longlisted for the Leacock Medal for Humour, and editor of the award-winning anthology BIG. An alumnus of the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, she now teaches creative writing through SFU’s continuing studies. She is a member of Da’naxda’xw First Nation and lives in Surrey, British Columbia.

Publisher: House of Anansi Press (May 21, 2024)
Paperback 5.5″ x 8.5″ | 200 pages
ISBN: 9781487012441

 -- Website

Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

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