Stacey May Fowles Interview
Tightrope Books has recently launched several very recognizable Toronto writers newest works. Next on their agenda is a novel by Stacey May Fowles. Anyone who has ever picked up a copy of Kiss Machine or Shameless will already be very familiar with this talented writer. To give Blogto.com readers a better taste of what Stacey is all about, here is a recent interview I had with her. Read on. Enjoy! And make sure you buy her novel when it comes out in October.
Tell us about Be Good and what inspired the novel.
I suppose the easy way out of the "what's your book about" question is to say "sex, love and lies." Obviously (hopefully?) it's a little more complicated than that, but essentially it's about how we lie to ourselves and others in order to cope with life, so much so that we come to truly believe those lies.
My friend (and brilliant writer) Zoe Whittall read an early version of the manuscript and said that she kept thinking that university age Canadian narratives aren't all that common unless they are a small part of a larger story. After she said that I think I realized that that was what I was trying to do; make twenty-something Canadian women and their experiences the focus. It could be as simple as "write what you know," but I really never felt like my life and the life experiences of my friends were depicted enough in Canadian fiction. I suppose Be Good is my attempt to tackle that.
You write both fiction and book reviews. Which do you find more rewarding and more challenging?
I once read a great quote that compared being a fiction writer who reviews books to throwing knives in a rubber room, which is very true in many ways. Having said that, I really enjoy reviewing books because it's a great way to enjoy and explore literature without being bogged down by that neurotic writer ego crap. It's also a way to put my own fiction in a greater context and be part of a greater community. There's so many people in Toronto writing fantastic literature, and I'm blessed to be a part of that, whether I'm reviewing, writing or reading.
What is your next novel and book of short stories about?
I've just started a graphic novel project with artist and illustrator Marlena Zuber, slated for publication in fall 2008. We're just in the planning stages right now, but I'm consistently amazed at how she can completely transform my written work into something that truly is a work of art. I'm honored to be able to work with someone like her. As for the short story collection (Unconvincing,) I'm back to depicting those twenty-something Canadian women again, but this time with a focus on the shaky status of the f-word (feminism) and our (in)ability to choose our lives, regardless of how those choices are viewed by others.
What challenges do you find being a writer in Canada?
I went to Summer Literary Seminars in St. Peterburg, Russia last year right after I signed the contract with Tightrope, and at a writing workshop populated by equal parts Americans and Canadians, it was interesting to see how each group viewed the publishing world. Americans congratulated me for "selling" my book, while Canadian writers use a very different language. I think culturally we've resigned ourselves to never make money off our work and we find it difficult to view writing fiction or poetry as a business. In some ways that's a positive thing, but it also makes it difficult for writers to see their worth. We've replaced demands of payment with the granting system, which can be problematic, because it means established, veteran writers are still going for those arts council grants, leaving the emerging types in the lurch.
One of your bios said you were a book geek, what are you reading right now and what would recommend?
When I was growing up I was really obsessed with iconic American writers like Joan Didion and Brett Easton Ellis, but more and more I've been admitting that I like Canadian literature and admiring "local" talent. Lately I've really been enjoying writers like Sandra Alland, Emily Pohl-Weary, Emily Schultz, Zoe Whittall, and Heather O'Neill. My work with Shameless Magazine means I've been keeping up with a lot of recent non-fiction releases focused on sexuality and gender politics, including Virgin: The Untouched History (Hanne Blank) and The First Man-Made Man (Pagan Kennedy,) both of which were brilliant.
What is next for Stacey May?
I'll be spending the rest of the summer working with my editor on the final manuscript for Be Good, and then let's hope I can finally get some sleep.
Be Good, Stacey May Fowles, Trade Paper, 150 pgs. $18.95. October 2007
Be Good interweaves competing accounts of the same series of events: love affairs, failed relationships, obsessions, and moving away from familiarity. Each character has a distinct persona, which is shattered by the end of the book. The experiences of these twenty-somethings are often their first taste of a departure from the familiar, from home, revealing their ongoing alienation and isolation, and that the only reliable narrator is the future.
Stacey May Fowles is a graduate in Women's Studies and English Literature whose written work has been published in various digital and literary publications, including Fireweed, Shameless, The Absinthe Literary Review, Kiss Machine, subTERRAIN, and Lickety Split. Her non-fiction piece Friction Burn appeared in the widely acclaimed anthology Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity (ed. Matt Bernstein Sycamore, Seal Press.) Her first novel, Be Good, is forthcoming with Tightrope Books in October 2007. She is currently working on a graphic novel with artist Marlena Zuber (set for publication in fall 2008) and on Unconvincing, a collection of short stories.
photo credit Kelly Clipperton
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