Douglas & McIntyre

Nicole Lundrigan Interviews

Nicole  Lundrigan

Nicole Lundrigan

July 2011

First, letís start with place. Glass Boys is set in the fictional town of Knifeís Point in Newfoundland. Youíre from Newfoundland but have lived just outside of Toronto for some time now. Why did you choose to set your novel in your home province?

Iíve now spent more of my life in Ontario than in Newfoundland. Yet, as a setting, Newfoundland is still quite crisp in my mind. My memories are very clear and distinct, and I can pull up so many little details. I have a strong sense of the people and the culture, and even though I live in Ontario, Newfoundland feels very much like my home province. In some ways it helps to have that distance. Being away offers a certain type of clarity I might not have if I lived there.

How much are the characters shaped by where theyíre from?

Very much so. My community of Knifeís Point is close-knit and remote, and that definitely shapes the world view of my characters. Yet, there are universal elements to their personalities - their desire for love and acceptance. To understand their relationships.

A lot goes unsaid in this novel, particularly between key characters. What does this say about the people in this novel? Is communication Ė or the lack thereof Ė a major theme in your writing?

I never realized it, but if I consider all of my writing, that theme does emerge. There is this sense of disconnect and isolation. And thatís something that seems to capture my attention Ė each person has their own filter, and things are said or left unsaid, or misinterpreted. Even though there is disconnect, my characters still seek out connection. Very rarely is there balance in the relationships I portray.

Glass Boys is a visually evocative novel, rich in a number of image systems, perhaps the strongest of these being your use of water. Why is water so important in this novel?

Water is quite a strong element in the novel. It represents so many things Ė it offers a hiding place, it illuminates, it comforts, and it destroys. It houses life, and it draws that life away. Honestly, though, this is likely more a personal preference than an intentional effort to use and re-use an image. Ever since I can remember, Iíve always been drawn to water. I grew up near the ocean, spent my share of time hanging over a wharf. I find the sound of running water soothing. And my children were all born in water. In some sense, water is the ultimate ancient, and Iím fascinated by it. If I had many lives to live, one of those might involve researching properties of water Ė thereís still so much to learn.

Itís been said that you write about Newfoundland the way Faulkner wrote about the South. He shone the light on impoverished people and evoked sympathy. Do you think youíre doing the same? Do you feel itís your responsibility as a Newfoundlander to make people outside this place understand it and its people?

I would love to say yes, but that would be a lie. When I write, my only goal is to tell a story that feels truthful. An honest representation of my characters and their experiences. Nothing more than that. As Iím working through it, I really donít consider the readerís experience, unless that is, I view myself as the original reader. Obviously the story has to capture my interest and make me feel something. I often write towards an emotion, and once the bones are there, I pad and scrape as I go along until it feels right.

Glass Boys is a tense novel, at times uncomfortably so yet it is never overly graphic. The tension youíve created is extreme but youíve achieved this in a very subtle way. How difficult was it to not veer into the details that could have put the book over the top?

There are definitely many uncomfortable scenes in the book. Some sections were more difficult to write than others, and I pushed my own comfort level. Often I told myself, no one has to read this. You donít have to show this to anyone. I did my best to be true to the story, and I didnít necessarily need to be overly graphic to convey the emotion. In some ways, the words I omitted were as important as those I included.

There is some deep, underlying evil in a couple of the characters, at least this is what weíre led to believe. But youíve done a good job of playing with the readerís expectations and biases and turning these on their heads. Why did you set your characters up this way? Was it important that your readers felt sympathy for otherwise despicable characters?

Again, there was no set-up of characters. Not even close. I donít think Iíve ever written a character that was purely good or bad. Iíve tried Ė Eli was meant to be plain evil when I started writing Glass Boys, but after living with him for so long, I saw many sides to him. I saw him do things that were gentle, and though this sounds strange, a bit out of character. Then I needed to figure out who he was, and he had a history, and he had his struggles. And he had his good and bad points. Much of it is discovery on my part, and the reader may happen to share that discovery.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. How difficult was it for you to switch from the more innocent to the more sinister? What was the process of crafting and getting to know these characters?

I write in very short bursts, late at night. So generally I would focus on a single scene or interaction during that time. I take a day to shift from one mindset to another. Even though I spend very little time with fingers on the keyboard, I do think about my characters for many hours. I always have this background chatter in my head. With a family of five, I spend a significant amount of time washing floors or folding laundry. Curiously enough, I often come up with tiny insights while vacuuming.

To order a copy of Glass Boys, visit Amazon.ca, Indigo.ca or your local bookstore.

D&M Marketing, Jul 2, 2011
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