How I Wrote It

Michelle Winters' I Am a Truck is a tribute to the people, places and things she loves

The author talks about how she wrote I Am a Truck, which is a finalist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters is on the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. (Invisible Publishing)

Michelle Winters is a New Brunswick author and painter — among many other things — who describes her painting and writing as "preposterous things rendered in a very sincere and realistic way."  

Her debut novel, I Am a Truck, is on the shortlist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It centres around Agathe Lapointe, a married woman whose husband, Réjean, mysteriously disappears before their 20th wedding anniversary, leaving behind only his beloved Chevy truck.      

In her own words, Winters shares how she wrote I Am a Truck. 

Write what makes you happy

"Agathe had come from a different short story that I was writing about a murder in Minto, N.B. I decided to write a story about a missing man and thought I could use her. The rest of the characters have come from beautiful pieces that I've collected along the way, from the behaviour of beautiful people.

"A lot of them act as a tribute to certain people that I have loved in my life and characteristics that I enjoy. I love the idea of a sweaty character, I love the idea of a character who's a giant so those things were just me having fun. The book was about making me happy, so I used things I love. I Am a Truck is a tribute to a lot of things that have enhanced my life." 

Inspiration from Marian Engel

"I had actually done a version of this story where Agathe was mute, she didn't say a thing. I was thinking she's in such grief that she doesn't speak. It wasn't a deliberately timid way around the French, but it did circumvent the problem. As I wrote I Am a Truck, I got more fearless. At a certain point in writing, I read Marian Engel's Bear and it changed everything. I thought, 'Screw it, if Marian Engel can write a book like that I can do whatever I want.' I found that book incredibly inspiring, as far as what I do creatively."

An ode to New Brunswick

"The book was set in New Brunswick because it's ingrained in the way I think. Whenever I set a story I think there's something richer and funnier about the fabric of New Brunswick. New Brunswick is where I got all my experience of growing up. It's coloured with French, it's coloured with the dialect, the food we eat and the weather and the landscape — all of that is so dear to me."

Writing is power

"My favourite thing about writing this book was the liberal employment of the absurd. What I find most fun about writing is that you can go absolutely as far as your imagination will let you. I'm a small woman in a corporate world that's filled with restrictions. Writing is where I feel most powerful and where I can impose my will on the world I want to create — it's incredibly liberating."

Michelle Winters' comments have been edited and condensed. 

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