First aired on Fresh Air (9/9/11)
They say that the second book is the hardest to write. At least that's what author Brian Francis was told. And now that his sophomore effort, Natural Order, is in bookstores, he couldn't agree more. It took seven years for this book to come to fruition after the success of his 2004 debut novel, Fruit, which was a Canada Reads contender in 2009.
Natural Order is told from the perspective of 86-year-old Joyce Sparks, who is spending her last years in a nursing home and looking back on her life and the mistakes she made in small-town Ontario. That's a far cry from writing about a 13-year-old boy, awkwardly coming of age (complete with talking nipples), and it was a shift Francis struggled with for a long time.
"After finishing Fruit and writing in the voice of a 13-year-old boy, I struggled to figure out [the answer to] what is my adult voice? And what do I sound like? And what kind of writer am I?," he told Fresh Air host Mary Ito. "It was awful."
So why do it? Why step so far outside your comfort zone after gaining national attention for a very different kind of book? Francis relished the challenge. "I wanted to push myself creatively," he said. After all, he believes that writers "need to give themselves permission to write from different viewpoints and from perspectives that aren't their own."
Even with this attitude, Francis struggled with Joyce's story, and only found success once he threw away the rule book, stopped caring about expectations and just wrote for himself, his way. Writing any other way felt "inauthentic" and this affected his work.
As different as Joyce is from Fruit's Peter Paddington, they have one strong tie: both were deep inside Francis, and pushed themselves outward through his words.
"I felt like I knew her and that she was there inside of me," he revealed. "It was scary to go out there and try it but I needed to do it."
by Brian FrancisBuy this book at:
"Voiced by an unforgettable and heartbreakingly flawed narrator, Natural Order
is a masterpiece of empathy, a wry and tender depiction of the end-of-life remembrances and reconciliations that one might undertake when there is nothing more to lose, and no time to waste."
Read more at Random House Canada