Still Life Q&A with Louise Penny

This past Sunday, CBC brought the adventures of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache to television audiences with the film adaptation of Still Life, the first novel in Louise Penny's bestselling mystery series. You can watch a special Making Of documentary in the clip below!

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Q&A with Louise Penny

louise-penny-160.jpgWe're also very excited to present this Q&A with Louise Penny about writing, writing Gamache, and how a song by Leonard Cohen became a major influence.

Q: The title of your latest Armand Gamache novel How the Light Gets In was inspired by Leonard Cohen's song Anthem ("There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in.") What is it about that lyric that really stuck with you?

Louise Penny: I'd heard the song, Anthem, years before I started writing and it had quite a profound effect on me.  I'd been suffering writer's block and came to understand that at the core of it was fear. Terror, really. Suppose I tried to write a book, the only thing I'd wanted to do since the age of eight, and failed? But more than that, was the burden of needing the book to be brilliant. A work of genius future generations would read and weep. Other writers would bow before me. My mother would approve. I was consumed with fear and the need for approval. It was paralysing. Then when I read the lyrics, "Ring the bells that  still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There's a crack in  everything/that's how the light gets in" it changed my life.  Not only could I let go of the anvil of perfection, I needed to. It was in the trying and failing that I might find inspiration. It was not only OK to risk and fail, it was necessary. The book is about terror, about shattered lives. But it's also about courage. And light.

still-life-100.jpgQ: Over the years, how has your relationship with Armand changed and evolved since Still Life?

A: I think it has deepened. He started off real to me, but became even more so. Still Life was like that remarkable first date, when you feel yourself falling in love. The rest of the books have been the relationship growing richer, deeper.

Q: You've got such a passionate fan base. What are your interactions  with your readers like?

A: I'm keenly aware of the presence of my readers, and very grateful to them for finding and championing the Gamache books. I tour now primarily to look them in the eyes and thank them. I post everyday on Facebook, about our lives here in Quebec. Sometimes it's about  writing and publishing, often it's the banal flow of a quiet life in the country. They're invited in, and trusted with the "silverware." And so far, few have taken advantage of that. Though I'm careful to distinguish in my posts between what is personal and what is private. My books, while clearly crime fiction, are not primarily about death. They're about duality, about choices, about belonging and friendship and community. It amazes and thrills me every day that a community has grown up around the Gamache books. The medium really is the message.

Q: You've got Armand working pretty darn hard. What do you think his  perfect idea of a holiday would be?

A: Ahhh -- a quiet place with Reine-Marie and a book. Perhaps by a fireplace, or under a maple tree. He'd love to go for strolls (not  hikes), have conversations (not debates), good food. And peace.

More on Louise Penny and Armand Gamache

You can watch more preview videos of Still Life on CBC Live.