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How I wrote it

Claire Cameron: How I wrote The Bear

Claire Cameron has been obsessed with bears her whole life. And when the voice of a new character—a young girl—made itself known, she knew she would be bringing her face to face with one of these mighty creatures. 

In Cameron's new novel The Bear, five-year old Anna and her little brother Alex flee from the black bear that killed their parents and embark on a harrowing quest for survival. In her own words, the author lets us in on some of the rituals, rhythms and quirks of her writing process.


FOLLOWING THE VOICE
“The voice came first. I was writing something else and it was a whisper in my ear, which is how characters come to me… It was a Monday and I remember opening up a new document in Word, which should have been intimidating… I wrote a first draft really fast, in about 6 weeks. I had the voice so strong I almost had to fake the rest of my life. I have kids and a family and went through the motions of living that life. I was very much in the life of The Bear…”

RESISTING TEMPTATION
“I love the Internet, and I love wasting time on the Internet—even though it sometimes ends up being not being a waste of time. I’m very rigid about my schedule. I sit down at 8 am and the Internet blocker goes on. My standard time is 120 minutes. I’m a compulsive writer so it reminds me to stop writing…  If I write more than that I turn into an ogre for my kids.”


AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
“I find this mortifying to admit, but I have one of those balls that helps my posture. They’re hard to sit on so it stops me from sitting too long... I also wear a pair of 3M™ PELTOR™ Optime™ II Ear Muffs. They’re the same ones that people wear on the tarmac among the planes—noise blockers. I start when the kids are still in the house. My husband takes them to school, but there’s still a lot going on so a neighbour gave them to me as a joke. Now they’re crucial because they’re a signal that I am entering an internal world. So now even when there’s no one in the house I wear them.”

CANLIT INSPIRATION
“I pooped out after I’d finished a big section and I made the mistake of reading back. I realized that the voice was kind of weird and demanding to read. And I also had this huge doubt about who is going to want to spend this book in the mind of a five-year-old. That was the moment when I really thought of Room by Emma Donoghue. I love that book and I knew its voice was different. I knew that she had done it, and I took strength from that and kept going.”

These quotes are condensed from a longer interview.

Photo courtesy of the author. Ed. note: check the bottom left corner.


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