Interview With Christy Ann Conlin

downloadToday, it is my pleasure to welcome Christy Ann Conlin to my blog to talk a bit about her latest book The Memento. Since its release in April, The Memento has received a lot of publicity, and you know me, I love supporting authors–especially local authors! Christy Ann Conlin’s acclaimed first novel, Heave (2002), was a Globe and Mail “Top 100” book, a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in 2003 and was shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Dartmouth Book Award. Heave was also longlisted for the 2011 CBC Canada Reads Novels of the Decade. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals including Best Canadian Stories. Conlin also hosted the popular 2012 CBC summer radio series Fear Itself. The Memento is her first novel in fourteen years. Conlin teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies online Creative Writing program. She lives in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Before we talk about the book, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and what the writing process is like for you? Do you spend much time in the planning stage or do you jump right in when an idea comes to you and figure things out as you go along? In other words, are you a plotter or a pantster?

A bit about me: I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia, both in the Annapolis Valley and over on the on-the-road-to-kingsportBay of Fundy. When I finished high school, I left, like many of us Nova Scotians do, ha ha. I traveled and worked all over the world. I did a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto, and then headed to Northern Ireland, and from there made my way back to Nova Scotia where I’ve been ever since. It took all that wandering and exploring to discover there was no place more exotic than home. I think many writers have this experience, and some are smart enough to know this without having to leave!

My process: I tend to work on stories in my subconscious, while I’m actually writing another one. For example, I’m working on a novel right now, but at the same time, I have a notebook on the go for another novel. Usually it all starts with a character who appears, and if I follow them, they show me the story. When I do sit down to write, it feels like jumping in but there actually has been a huge amount of mental work done in my head. As a result, I go into a story with a very strong sense of character and plot. In the early days of writing I used to skip this mental process so I’d have really fascinating characters and great dialogue and a distinct sense of place but nothing happened. Oh, those stories which lead to…nowhere. But it was how I cut my teeth, so to speak, and learned.

When the book opens we learn about the significance of the mirrors placed outside the front door of houses which I found quite intriguing. I’d never heard of it. Was this something your writer’s mind invented for the book or was it taken from actual mountain folklore? 

It’s a combination of actual folklore and my writer’s mind! My grandmother always had both a chest of drawers and a mirror in her porch. If people came by to drop something off for my grandmother, a present or something they had borrowed, or a letter) they would leave things in the drawers, if they were valuable or private. As a child I would peek and one just never knew what would be in there! And the mirror was something my grandmother told me she would check her hair in, and then she’d laugh in that dry way she had and say that it was good to see if there were any ghosts behind you.

The Memento introduces readers to some memorable characters that you certainly brought to life on the page. Were any of the characters inspired by people in real life?

All of the characters in all of my work are inspired by real people, sometimes nominally and sometimes to a very large degree. That said, it’s often not a specific person, but a specific kind of person.  When you travel and live in different places you begin to see that every town has similar kinds of people. It’s one of the most amazing parts of writing, creating my own fictional characters whose origins come from observing the world around me, the heartaches, the joys, the devastations, and the triumphs, the big ones and small ones.

The embroidery element plays a significant role in The Memento. Can you explain what inspired you to add this to the book? Do you perhaps embroidery yourself?

Yes, I do embroidery and different kinds of needlework. I grew up in 4-H and spent hours and hours by woodstoves and at dining room tables with some master craftswomen and artisans, learning what I call the “lady arts”. We also had a lot of antique embroidery on the walls at home. I was fascinated with the faces, how they looked so different up close, almost grotesque or unfinished, and when you stepped back, they seemed alive. It’s the same thing in impressionistic painting.  I collected framed embroideries and after years of having them surround me while writing, I began to think about how women who did needle work really channeled their experiences and spirits into these works, as any artist does. And so, then Fancy Mosher’s gift with embroidery took on a whole new meaning, of what she was able to depict in her pictorials, in these mementos.

Although Nova Scotia is not specifically mentioned, I found you totally captured the rural aspects of the book and I felt very much at home with the setting.  I actually Googled Lupin Cove Road because I was sure it was an actual place! Was there a reason why you chose not to mention specific name places in the book other than the Bay of Fundy?

Well, I wanted to create the exact experience you are describing for the reader, that the sense of place and setting would be so real and familiar they would be sure it existed. I had so many readers from England tell me my first novel, Heave, reminded them of the seaside villages they grew up in England. (Heave is also set in Lupin Cove).  It does, of course, exist in the story and in our minds, but it’s also one step removed, like a fairy tale. Faulkner did this, with a fictional county in Mississippi, and I really admired how this gave readers a bit of a distance, so they could see a reflection of the world, if you will. I love how the idea of a seaside village and a valley and a grand home and a path in the woods, how these locations resonate with people regardless of where they actually live. It is a way of using regionalism to create universalism.

The one setting which I really drew on specifically is the Tea House and Grampie’s art work. That was all inspired by Maude Lewis and her painted house and her artwork.

Of all the characters in The Memento who is your favourite and why?

I love Jenny, the anti-heroine. She’s so marginalized and outright dismissed, so powerless, and yet she is the only one brave enough to really acknowledge the full horror of what is happening, and to seek justice. Yes, I know, ha ha, her sense of justice is a bit warped, to put it mildly, but she wants more than anyone to restore a sense of moral order, and put the ghosts of the past to rest.  But she can’t do that on her own, and she needs Fancy, with her gift, to help her understand the true nature of what is haunting them.

The book is written in first person which is a very personal point of view that brings an author very close to the character she writes about.  I’m dying to know, are you hiding somewhere inside Fancy Mosher or is she somewhere hiding inside of you?

Honestly, Laura, I think I am hiding in Fancy Mosher, but I am seeing the world through her very unique eyes. It was a privilege to view the world from her unique perspective. I’m not so much like her, even though I would like to be. I always feel my characters are very brave, and I am not so brave. I’m more like Seraphina in Heave. That novel was much more autobiographical.  My grandmother always told me because I had an artistic disposition, a sensitive nature, the spirits would speak to me. My understanding of this is that characters come to me and I write out their stories.

The Memento has been described as a literary ghost story. Are you intrigued by ghosts and most importantly do you believe in them?

I think it’s more magic realism, to be honest, with ghostly elements. It’s very much a genre blending, or even genre defying novel, which merges the old world novels of Jane Austen and the Brontes, L.M. Montgomery, Allistar MacLeod and Ernest Buckler with a hint of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson.

What is your favourite part of the book?

The fire on the beach, and the island scenes.

Are you currently working on a new novel and, if so, you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, I am working on two new novels and a short fiction collection.  One of the novels is called The Flying Squirrel Sermon. It’s about a man who finds a bottle on the beach with a secret message in it, a clue to his sister’s disappearance many years earlier.  The other two books I can’t speak about or I’ll destroy the writing magic!

Is there anything in the book that you have not been asked about but would like readers to know?

The Memento is not at all a traditional ghost story or thriller. It’s a blend of pastoral writing and horror writing, humour and heartache, the historical and the contemporary. The story is really a look at what happens when we marginalize and oppress people based on gender, physical ability and economic circumstances. It’s an exploration of how young and vulnerable women are so easily exploited. In the case of Jenny, she’s physically disabled and pretty much rendered irrelevant because of it. Fancy is discriminated against because of the circumstances of her birth, and because she’s lower class. The ghostly element was my way of looking at the anger and fury which arises from this discrimination, how eventually, those who are mercilessly exploited will rise up.

Thanks so much, Christy Ann. I enjoyed learning more about the book and your writing life. I wish you every success with this book and look forward to your future publications.

The Memento is available at Amazon, Chapters Indigo and in your local independent bookstore or as an ebook.

 

September Catch-up Post

Oh wow, where did summer go? Seriously, I want to know what happened to this entire season that only began a few short weeks ago. Is it hiding? Did it get lost? Did someone steal it? Did it disappear all on its own? Abducted by aliens? Come on. This is simply ridiculous.

I’ve been busy working and writing and gardening and editing and grand parenting and knitting. The edits for the sequel to Flying with a Broken Wing are moving long. I finished two rounds with my editor Penelope Jackson who is really wonderful to work with. I worked with her on the edits for the last book and was really pleased to have her as an editor again. From what I’ve been told the advanced reading copies (you know, the ones that get sent out early to reviewers and the like) will be ready to send out early winter. I expect there will be some small changes to the manuscript once the proofreaders go through it and who knows maybe I’ll see a thing or two I might want to change. (But just minor changes at this point.)

So with the edits done (for the most part) I’ve been working on a few other writing projects. Again this summer, I took my books to the Heritage Blueberry Festival in Parkdale and I also took part in the Rural Arts and Life Tour. I met a lot of people and sold some books, but most importantly I had a great time. I picked up a few gifts at the gift shop in the Parkdale/Maplewood Museum. They have a great little gift shop and museum. If you’ve never been there plan to check it out sometime.

Despite having the lack of rain this summer, the garden managed to grow. We weren’t overrun with zucchini or pumpkins this year which was a bit of a relief. Luckily, hubby cut back on how many seeds he planted. You really don’t need ten + zucchini plants. Those buggers multiply like rabbits. This photo of dsc07829the LaHave River was taken in early August.  Many of our rivers are nothing but beds of rock. We’ve recently had a bit of rain but no where near enough to bring the water levels up. I read this morning that this is the driest summer on record and that we can expect more of the same in  the years ahead. Wells are going dry. Serious stuff.

Work…what can I say? Work.

Miss Charlotte got in a visit to Nova Scotia this summer which was nice even despite the fact that we had to work. She’s headed into to grade one this year and really loving it! The twins turned one in September. I’m not sure where that year went either. Hmm, seems to be that time is dwindling everywhere I turn. I think that happens as we age. But don’t quote me on that. Little Levi is a going concern and talking a blue streak these days. He’s filled with “whys” and other questions. He’s a boy on the go.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share the cover of my new book with all of you soon. They’ll want it finalized to put in the spring catalogue. Not sure when that gets put together but I believe it will be relatively soon. So keep your fingers crossed. I’m getting pretty excited to see it. As you’ve probably noticed publishing is a mighty slow business. Of course they’re planning ahead all the time so they are always very busy getting their titles ready for publication. It just seems slow to all of us.

Oh yes, knitting. If you’re on Facebook with me you might be aware that I’m knitting a few pairs of slippers for a friend’s mother, trying to squeeze that in during my spare time. I’m having coffee with her next weekend so I need to be all ready for then. Three of us , friends since high school, get together once a year to catch up on all our news. It’s always a fun time.

So, that was just a bit of what’s been happening in my little corner. Nothing exciting. Just every day. The exiting life of a published writer!

My Rainbow

Rainbows introduce us to reflections of different beautiful possibilities so we never forget that pain and grief are not the final options in life. ~~Aberjhani

DSC07880

I like to think that rainbows are kind of special. And when one touches down in the lake where you live well maybe it means something….

This weekend I went to a celebration of life for a friend of mine. I’ve been thinking a lot about her since she passed away, remembering her laugh, the way she’d crinkle her nose and give a little sniff, and the times when she’d wag her finger at me and jokingly say, “Listen here little girl.”  We didn’t see each other often, although at one time we did work together, but some people you feel a certain connection to even when you’re not exactly sure why. Times like this I’m reminded of how fleeting life is and how, at the end of the day, we are the memories we leave behind in the lives of the people we’ve touched. In this journey we call life, it is the most precious gift we can give to those we leave behind.

Peace to you, my friend, as you continue to live on in our memory. Your journey is not over.

You will be missed.

Edits and Relish and Leaves

I’m interrupting my edits to give you zucchini relish…

DSC07839

This is one of two batches I made over the weekend as well as dill pickles. Sorry, no photo of the pickles. Hubby already took them to the basement.  He’s so efficient that way.  ;)

And coloured leaves…

DSC07838

We’ve been seeing leaves of various colours along the roadside. It’s only the middle of August. What’s up with that?

Okay, so I’m on a tight schedule here with the edits but sometimes you’ve got to live life. Do I need to be writing a blog post. Nope. But I am just the same. Why? Because I feel like it.

Yesterday, we went to a 50th Anniversary party for friends of ours. I snapped the leaf photo on the way home, ground up the veggies for relish to sit overnight, and took a dive into the edits. This morning I cooked the relish and sealed them in jars with the help of Hubby who’s pretty helpful in that department.  As I said, my schedule is tight, what with working five days a week and making pickles and relish, but a part of me likes having a date looming over me. It makes me determined to get things the way I want them. I love working on edits and my editor has asked some challenging questions about the the story. I’ll have to turn to my mum to clarify some things about the Halifax School For the Blind because she’s my expert in that department. It’s great having an inside source.

Okay, so time to get back into the edits. When things slow down, I’ll let you know a bit more about the book. Maybe even give you a peek at the cover. Gotta go. Wish me luck!

 

Stepping Back in Time

Yesterday, I took a step back in time, just like the advertisements told me too. (Hey, I’m easily persuaded. What can I say?😉 )This year marks New Ross’ 200th Anniversary and that’s something to be celebrated. What’s my connection to New Ross? New Ross is actually my next door neighbour and I have lots of friends, and some family, living there. I love this little community and the people in it. It even got a mention in my last book!

Since I’m a supporting-local-kind of gal, I couldn’t imagine not being at the parade. Coincidentally, I’d heard a few stories about the 100th parade from my friend Oran. I wrote a blog post about her awhile back because she was such an amazing person.  If you didn’t already read it you can by clicking this link HERE. I wish now I’d asked her more about the celebration in 1916.

Here are a few highlights from the parade. Keep in mind that New Ross is a community that relies on the agriculture and forestry industry and this was certainly reflected in yesterday’s parade entries.

You can’t have a parade without a marching band. Well, you can but…..

DSC07662The New Ross Historic Society had a float in the parade with people decked out in period costumes.

DSC07674Nothing says rural Nova Scotia like the 4-H club. I’m pretty sure most everyone in New Ross belonged to 4-H sometime during their youth.

DSC07677

The Christmas Tree Industry was well represented. J& M Reeves Christmas Greens. Hey, there’s Jeanette, Matthew, Rylie, Barb, Gracie and I think I see John’s arm in the background. Hmm sitting down on the job, I see.  ;)

DSC07680

The Christmas Tree Festival. An entire weekend in December to celebrate this industry that is so important to this area. If you drive through New Ross during the festival you’ll see these carolers everywhere.

DSC07690

 

The logging industry was well represented with floats from Murray A. Reeves Forestry Ltd. and Colin Hughes Enterprises Ltd.

DSC07697

DSC07707

The final float I’m posting was from Gina’s Hairstyling . It was one of my favourites. Even had a barbershop quartet singing.

DSC07692

So there are a few highlights of the parade as I saw it. I couldn’t possibly post photos of all the floats in the parade, but for those of you who are not familiar with New Ross perhaps this will give you a small glimpse into the culture and lives of those living in this small community that was first settled in 1816. Congratulations New Ross for continuing with the traditions of rural Nova Scotia.

If you took in the parade yesterday, what was your favourite part?And  have you ever been in a parade?

Book Update

It’s hard to believe that July is coming to a close. We’ve had some pretty warm days, lots of humidity but, I’ve got to say, I’ll still take that over an avalanche of snow any day. July scooted on by without me having written a single blog post. I didn’t mean for that to happen but….

Edits for Cammie Takes Flight are about to get underway. I found out last week that I’ll be working with Penelope Jackson again. Penelope and I worked on Flying with a Broken Wing together. She’s marvelous! Can’t express how fortunate I’ve been to have such great editors to work with  at Nimbus Publishing and how very thankful I am for their expertise. Having that second set of eyes always opens my own eyes up and allows me to see things that previously weren’t there. My imagination soars. Right now, the plan is to have the edited manuscript back to Nimbus for layout by mid-September and to have the Advanced Reading Copies available for media by early winter. The book is to be released in April 2017. (I think I mentioned that in an earlier post.)  I’m expecting to see a cover sometime in August or early September. I’ll share it with you as soon as I can. It’s always exciting to see a new cover, and with this being a sequel it’s even a bit more exciting.

Also in July, it was brought to my attention that Flying with a Broken Wing made the Bank Street College list for Best books in 2015. I know many of you saw this on Facebook so please indulge me. The college is located in New York!  Here’s a bit about the list in case you’re not familiar.

One of the most comprehensive annotated book lists for children, aged infant through 16. The Committee reviews over 6,000 titles annually for accuracy and literary quality and considers their emotional impact on children. The best 600 books published each year, both fiction and nonfiction, are listed with annotations, according to age and category.

I’m also working on a new project at the moment, but July’s been busy with family visiting (yes, Miss Charlotte was here for a few days!) and gardening, work  etc….etc….But writers find a way to work around the everyday. We squeeze in time for writing whenever we can. There’s no way we can resist!

So, there’s a bit of an update for now. I’ll keep you posted as more news come in. I hope you’re all enjoying your summer.

 

What’s news?

This week marked my blogging anniversary. That’s right! I’ve been hiding out on WordPress for seven years now. The number seven seems significant in that it’s always been said to be a lucky number and aren’t the cells in our bodies all replaced in seven years? I always wondered how they can know this. Regardless, I’ve been here in the blogging world for seven years. I’ve met some wonderful people and I’ve seen many bloggers come and go. Maybe I deserve a pat on the back for making it this far. Also it’s been seven years this fall since Bitter, Sweet came out–just saying.

It’s berry season in my part of the world. Wouldn’t you love to have a field full of these beauties to pick? We’ve been helping some friends with their berry crop for a few days. It’s always a challenge to get them harvested.DSC07511A few weeks back we took a trip to Centreville and stopped off that the Cement Museum which was the home of Charles Macdonald. Unfortunately it wasn’t open for the season, but we took some pics of the statues outside. Quite amazing to think it is all made of cement.  I’m looking forward to seeing the inside once the museum is open.

DSC07509

These cottages were also built by Charles Macdonald in the 1930’s and are in Hall’s Harbour. I think they’re absolutely charming. Some describe them as fairy homes and I can understand. They look so enchanting.

DSC07477

This one is called the Blue Cottage for obvious reasons. I understand that it can be rented!

 

DSC07466

Outside the museum there were other statues all made by Charles Macdonald.

DSC07501

Love this mountain lion. He looks to be on the hunt. Maybe for the deer that are hanging around the property.

DSC07502

I’m curious about this lovely lady, how and why she ended up here, naked, in the garden. Perhaps there a story there and maybe, just maybe, the answer can be found within the museum itself.

DSC07494

Okay, to many, none of this is earth-shattering news, or even news at all, but just a few things that caught my attention this past while. I’m so glad to say that summer is finally here. I’ve been looking forward to it and hoping I’ll squeeze in some writing time over the next few months.

Do you have any special plans for the summer months? I love to hear about it!

The Eagle Has Landed

DSC07373

As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill. ~~ Helen Keller

So sad and so true. Some quotes leave me a bit in awe. So much packed in so few words.

The eagle in the photo is often sitting on some old dead snags a few miles from home. Sometimes, we’ve even seen two. I find it interesting that, as a young girl, the sight of an eagle was a special occasion. In my memory, I remember only seeing one during my childhood, now I see them quite often. One occasionally flies over our property.  It’s wonderful to know that their numbers are increasing. In fact, a few months ago, we nearly hit one that was feasting on some road kill. We actually heard its wing feathers brush against the truck. It was one of those times you give a silent thank you as you look out the back window and see that it made it to the other side. Things can happen so quickly.

So what’s new on the publishing front?

I’ve a few stories accepted for publication in upcoming anthologies, one to be published in 2016, the other in 2017.  Then of course you all know about the upcoming publication of the sequel to Flying With a Broken Wing in Spring 2017. I expect the edits for this will soon get underway. I really enjoy the editing process. That’s where small miracles happen. I’m quite anxious to meet the editor I’ll be working with, and can hardly wait to see what the cover will look like. Don’t expect to see that for quite some time, though. And it could possibly be the end of the year. In fact, you’ll likely have it long forgotten before I’m ready to have a cover reveal.

Other than that I have a few stories I’m working at and, hopefully, will be submitting somewhere in the not to far future.  That’s if all goes well and no distractions come along. We all know how life has a way of throwing a pickle or two into the mix. As my friend, Gail, would likely agree, it keeps life interesting!

Personally, I prefer baby dill. How about you?  ;)

 

All You Need is Love

resized August 2011 181Back in the sixties The Beatles sang, All You Need is Love. While it might have been a bit simplistic an idea I think they were really onto something big. Love is something the entire planet, not to mention the people on it, could sure use more of. Especially during these times. I keep hearing this message again and again in my life.

Some days you find a quote that speaks to you. Today, I found this one by Emmett Fox and decided to share. Because I do believe that, no matter how simplistic it sounds, love can conquer all.

“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer. There is no disease that enough love will not heal. No door that enough love will not open. No gulf that enough love will not bridge. No wall that enough love will not throw down. And no sin that enough love will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seeded may be the trouble. How hopeless the outlook. How muddled the tangle. How great the mistake. A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. And if you could love enough you would be the happiest and most powerful person in the world.” Emmett Fox

 

Finding Water

DSC07359After a long, cold winter most of us are anxious for Spring. It’s that time  of the year when the earth springs back to life.  (Hence the name–spring.) Original, don’t you think? From the bright yellow heads of dandelions pushing their way out of the grass (yes, I’m one of those people who actually like dandelion flowers) to mayflowers, trilliums, daffodils , new spring buds, and the emerging of leaves, things are about to get green. Very green.

Like any season, this one has had its ups and down. Fine weather, cold weather, windy weather, black flies and wood ticks. I hear people grumble about the ticks and the flies. And I’ll agree maybe they’re not my favorite part of Spring, but we don’t get to pick and chose. Kind of like taking the good and the not so good. Like it or lump it, it’s all part of life. I’m into acceptance, meaning I believe in accepting what life sends our way. It’s much more productive (not to mention peaceful) than trying to change things that can’t be changed…like black flies and ticks.

Yesterday, we found a duck’s nest in the middle of the tree lot. Nesting ducks amaze me, the way they’ll DSC07368go inland to lay their eggs without a body of water in sight. I’m not even sure where all these babies will have to waddle to( and through) to dip their little webbed feet. Let’s just say we’re talking a long ways, people. Imagine being a duck and taking your babies on such a journey. They can’t fly, so they’d have to dawdle those little feet of theirs for miles perhaps. The funny thing about ducks is they don’t look at the challenge ahead as impossible, they just take what’s ahead of them and do the work that’s asked. They find water.

Seriously, there’s something so enchanting about finding a nest with eggs inside, such a marvel. Magic isn’t just something that’s pulled from a magician’s hat. It’s everywhere. Even on the days when we’re sure there’s nothing at all to marvel over. But you’ve got to look, and you’ve got to pay attention because it’s out there. All around us.

This Spring I’ve been working on a story I started about seven years ago. I’ve picked at it from time to time, trying to capture the story the way it appears in my mind’s eye. And I think I’m getting there. I might not be the fastest writer on the block, but I get there sooner or later.

So as we journey through Spring and life, I hope we’ll all remember to be like that duck with her babies. Just keep your heads down and keep plugging along. Eventually, you’ll find water.

 

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 230 other followers

  • Follow Laura Best on WordPress.com
  • my novels

  • Laura Best

  • Blog Stats

    • 69,974 hits
  • Add me

    Facebook Buttons By ButtonsHut.com