Why fiction is beautiful – Canadian author Margaret Atwood
This is the first post of a few I will be doing featuring some of the authors of the Edinburgh book festival which starts this Saturday August 10th. I have decided to start with Margaret Atwood as she was the first Canadian author I read and I discovered many more Canadian books and authors thanks to her.
Her collection of books and stories is impressive. Some of these books below were bought in Canada as as well as the stories, I thought the book covers were quite something too. I mean just take a look at them:
The cover represents the age and elegance of the time. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century.
And for one of my favourites if not only for the detail and the artwork involved. I would quite happily hang this book cover on my wall. In fact, I think I will. ‘All books are equal to art forms but some are more equal than others’ – very animal farm I know but something I believe to be true. All of the above could be artistic paintings hanging in a gallery. I’m just pleased they are currently gracing my shelves in my book, I mean ART display case.
Following on from the review and trail yesterday, The Book Trail is very proud to introduce to you: Elaine Cougler: Time to pick her brains!
Hi Elaine. First of all thank you very much for agreeing to this interview on the Book Trail. The Loyalist’s Wife is an intriguing read. What made you want to write about this period of history and in particular from the point of view of a loyalist’s wife?
I am delighted to be your guest on the Book Trail and am overwhelmed by your support of The Loyalist’s Wife. Thank you so much. As for the choice of point of view, the story just seemed to demand that both John and Lucy get to show their respective sides as the story progressed. When John goes off into the trees to join Butler’s Rangers I could see that this was terribly difficult for both of them. The structure, then, of chapters from his point of view and chapters from her point of view allowed me to do that. And to add a lot of suspense, as well!
I felt such sadness at Lucy’s plight – did you find certain parts of her story hard to write?
I absolutely did and I sat at my computer with tears streaming down my face but I can’t tell you what they were as they are spoilers for new readers. But while they were hard to write, they were also the easiest as I just lost myself in the story. My fingers smacked the keys, only stopping to grab a tissue, as I stuggled to bring to life those scenes.
Can you tell us something about the literary devices you used to tell your story – such as the alternate storyline of Lucy’s plight and John’s role in the fighting?
I love words and word pictures and writing word pictures in such a way that the tumbling of the words in their sentences mirrors the action and, indeed, the meaning of the words. They are like a patchwork quilt which has been carefully constructed of various colours and designs in order to make the whole a bigger entity than just each square taken by itself. For me, the literary devices slide in unobtrusively because they just are part of that love of mine.
Did you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake as part of your research and can you tell us a little bit about what you found there?
Oh, yes, I visited Niagara-on-the-Lake several times. I love to walk where my characters might have walked and I click away on my camera so that I can have photos to remind me of what I saw. NOTL has Fort George, built after the American Revolution. It has many historical buildings built after the burning of the town by the Americans during the War of 1812. And it has a wonderful museum which keeps all of this history alive so that down through the generations we can see and remember. But the best thing I found was Fort Mississauga, which was built after the time of The Loyalist’s Wife but which is hidden on a golf course—you have to walk to get to it—and which shows exactly why Fort George had to be built. Fort Niagara is so close to Fort Mississauga that the Americans could easily have erased it with a steady bombardment. Of course today our countries are best friends but a couple of hundred years ago, not so much.
Do you think these battles and this period of history is something that is not well understood by many? Your book certainly lets us see them from the point of view of those involved!
Most of us are caught up in our daily lives and don’t pause to think too much of what or who came before and I was no different. When I did start to research for The Loyalist’s Wife, I found out a lot about my own personal history and that just made me ache for more. I knew I was from Loyalist stock but not much more than that. Now I absolutely treasure the stories of those who fought then so that I can be who and what and where I am now.
Congratulations on your first book! As the book is part of a planned series, are you able to tell us about what we should be looking forward to?
The Loyalist’s Luck (due out next year, I hope!) stands on its own as a novel but continues on with John and Lucy’s story. My research showed me there was much more about the history of these brave peoples and John and Lucy just had to be involved. The Loyalist’s Legacy will again stand on its own but have links to the first two books. And that’s all I can tell you at this point.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice to anyone out there who is currently writing a book or thinking of doing so?
I am not sure there is any quick way to write a book or to learn how to write the kind of book you want. I wanted mine to be excellent for its story, its characters, and its correctness. As a former teacher of high school English I needed to do the best job I could. That meant taking a few years to learn about the industry, the process, the social media connected, and the people who were doing a great job. The short answer is just start. Write a set number of pages a day and stick to the schedule that suits you. Writing is mostly about being persistent.
Finally, who do you think would play Lucy and John in a TV adaptation or indeed a movie adaptation of your book?
OMG, you’ve done it! You’ve come up with a question I find impossible to answer. I am the one who watches a movie and afterwards says, “you know, the one with the purple shirt who sang that obnoxious song” when trying to give the actor’s name. I don’t even really take note of the characters’ names either. I love authors of long books who give a character list at the beginning so I can keep going back and refer to it.
So now you’ve managed to sneak into my head and steal my secret.
That being said, Lucy must be strong-willed to the point of being a bit of a pain, independent, forthright, intelligent, auburn-haired, clever, competent, and a loving wife. John must be tall, deep, strong and yet soft, clever, and a true friend, as well as quick to anger and able to forgive. Maybe I should have a contest on my blog for people to name actors to play my amazing characters.
Thanks Elaine for agreeing to feature on The Book Trail!
Elaine blogs at On Becoming a Wordsmith which may be found at www.elainecougler.com. She also is frequently found here: @ElaineCougler, Facebook/ElaineCouglerAuthor.
I just wanted to send a very good friend of mine lots of hugs and best wishes on their special day:
Yes Canada I mean you. It’s your day today and I want to thank you for teaching me about great literature and for opening up all the possiblities of reading in both French and English that you have fostered in me.
I’ve put together of 10 great things I love about Canada and its literary leanings. I lived in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and hope one day to go back and call one of them home.
I discovered the world of Canadian Independent bookshops and discovered Toronto’s huge literary scene one Sunday morning in between Yonge and Spadina
I delved into the world of Margaret Atwood and discovered her writing environment
I read many books on the tram travelling along Queen Street West in Toronto on my way to work
I laughed at Canadian wit thanks to the daily Morning Smile column in The Globe and Mail
I spent hours and hours in Chapters and Indigo, ate there, read there and almost nearly slept there
I quickly picked up the skills of reading with one hand and eating poutine with the other (Poutine is a dish of chips covered in gravy and cheese curds – the best ever!!)
I lived in a house with a wooden porch and swing seat where I would sit and read- very Anne of Green Gables
I got snowed in for 2 days and spent the time reading!
I fell in love with Canada and its literary festivals : the Antiquarian Book Fair in Montreal in particular
I know not of a greater pleasure than relaxing with a Tim Hortons, on a bench on Granville Island, Vancouver, whilst reading a book.
I stumbled across a book by a Canadian author the other day and immediately wanted to delve in to travel with the writer Laurie Gough on her journey from Canada to California.
The idea of the book is one I’ve always said I would write myself and it resonated with me since I have been to many of the places she has too.
It’s a story of the search for adventure and the meaning of life, with a healthy dose of self-deprecation thrown in for good measure.
It’s a drive from Canada to California where Laurie Gough finds out what her adult life will be like and to spend time reflecting on experiences of the past whilst visiting these childhood memories. Hints of Eat, Pray, Love, are woven into each and every page but this only goes to enhance the journey she takes.
I wasn’t always captivated by her tone and her apparent attitude to just go somewhere without any regard for her personal safety. But I did identify with her decision to choose locations and experiences which were far from the well beaten tourist path. ‘Live like the locals’ was always my travelling mantra and this I particularly liked about her. That and the fact that she names her jeep Marcia.
The best memory this book raised for me was the sense of freedom and adventure that travelling brings and the desire to want to live differently than all your friends who are settling down and having children. Of course, there can also be a sense of running away in all of this but, in my experience, the feeling of driving along an isolated road in a campervan across the Nevada desert, the tumbleweed blowing across the hazy horizon is a sight everyone should not only see but feel. Then when you spot a diner car at the side of the road, you should park up, taste and smell the experience.
Once you see the approaching blur of the Las Vegas skyline, your experience of one of the most surreal and wacky places on earth is complete.
I loved my time on the road and this book took me right back there.
I would like to share an interesting idea courtesy of The savvy reader.ca who have launched the #50bookpledge again to read 50 books in a year. The aim is to make reading part of your day to day activity wherever possible and to give yourself an excuse to read as much as you can. Often I want to read but think I should be doing something else and I often waste time doing the washing up for example when I could do it quickly with the motivation of having a great book to delve into.
But of course reading should always be fun and never a chore. If the pace is too fast for you, don’t do it. I like to savour a book as much as the next man, but I do read quick and have such a large TBR pile that the challenge could well do me a favour and give some space back in my house.
The promise of an exciting literary journey – reading the next chapter of a book – lets me escape and revisit the country or place that the book takes me back to. I have never lost the travelling bug so together with the reading bug, I think this #50bookchallenge will be right up my street!
As written on the savvyreader website, there are many ways to get involved with the challenge. It’s not too late – one book a week is the standard to match so although you may have a little catch up to do, isn’t that just another part of the challenge itself?
Got to go, I have a book to finish….the Yard by Alex Grecian – it’s taking me back to Victorian London and the after affects of the ripper murders. CSI Victorian London may I feel lead to me seeking out more on this kind of genre.
Books are my life. I love, read and breathe them. I also love writing and have umpteen jotters and notebooks filled with ideas and scribbles which I intend to use in articles, blog posts or other things I write.
I like to have a notepad with me at all times as before the days of Twitter, I used my notepad as a pre-twitter tool if you like, a way of writing down short concise musings to myself.
I started this notepad when I first started to travel and my first scribbles were writing down the daily musings of Canada’s national newspaper ‘ Your Morning Smile’, which was a daily gem of a idea in which readers would send in their brief pun or ‘thought of the day’ along the lines of:
Does a Frenchman eat oat cuisine for breakfast?
I also found a lot to note down about people and where I was. One lovely memory was the gorgeously titled cafe ‘Hello Toast’ on Toronto’s beachfront. I only went in because of the name but found that it was a cafe where you could meet and talk to people, read a book or newspaper that someone had left and even try on the odd feather bower. Yes, it was a mix of things and it had the yummiest food I hasten to add!, but it led to me chatting to the locals and discovering some fantastic local and national literature. It soon became my favourite place to read – to absorb the atmosphere and to read on a comfy battered sofa, the walls dotted with various paintings and with the sounds bustle of a busy cafe in the background. Better still, as I got to know the regulars, I found out about their tips for a good little bookstore in the area, a local reading group, and my next Canadian reading adventure.
These surroundings were perfect – the tram for the quick cheerful ‘Morning Smile’ and the weird and wonderful ‘Hello toast’ for the lazy autumn evenings or brunch on Sundays. You find inspiration for reading in the most unexpected places!
The world of the little orphan girl sent to live with an old brother and sister, Matthew and Marila Cuthbert is one full of charm and delight.
Both the novel and the character are warmly loved in Canada and despite being located on Prince Edward Island, I found was largely filmed nearer to Toronto, Ontario.
I entered this world after reading the book as a child and have loved it for years. To see the Lake of Shining Waters and to visit the bridge where Gilbert and Anne, the main character of the novel, first kissed is a warm a place as described in the book or portrayed on television. Sometimes visiting somewhere portrayed or described in a book can be disappointing but the charm of Anne of Green Gables is also the charm of Prince Edward Island. Never has a place captivated me so much as this one.
An Anne of Green Gables the musical is celebrated in the local theatre and I must admit, even though not a fan of musicals, I loved it. They really love their Anne, and her character is one of a very hotheaded young lady who is both funny and endearing.
The warmness of the characters is just like the people I met when I was there. I stayed at a guesthouse where they went out of their way to show me the real Prince Edward Island.
A hidden gem of a place you can visit through a book if you can’t go. Its obviously not the same but its the next best thing.