David Adams Richards on the dangers of scapegoating

When New Brunswick author and Independent senator David Adams Richards set out to write a novel about the dangers of scapegoating, he knew just who to turn to — Mary Cyr.

Author and senator revisits old character for new novel

Award-winning author David Adams Richards was appointed to the Senate in August 2017 to represent New Brunswick. (Doubleday Canada)

When New Brunswick author and Independent senator David Adams Richards set out to write a novel about the dangers of scapegoating, he knew just who to turn to — Mary Cyr.

Cyr appeared in his 2011 novel Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul and, as in many of Richards' novels, appears in later books, this time as the title character in his new release.

She's so easy to dislike and dismiss until you get to know her soul, and that happens to people all the time and that's really sad.— David Adams Richards

"Mary Cyr was a fairly minor character in Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul. I decided although she was kind of a little spoiled debutante in that book, I thought there was a lot more to her," he said.

Richards, a Giller Prize-winning author who was named to the Canadian Senate last August, said Mary Cyr is about the "terrible terrible presence of identity politics and scapegoating in our society that happens on every level, every day without people admitting it to themselves."

In his latest novel, Mary Cyr, David Adams Richards builds on a character introduced in a previous novel. (Penguin Random House Canada)

"And it happens to this actually quite wonderful human being. But she's so easy to dislike and dismiss until you get to know her soul, and that happens to people all the time and that's really sad."

Richards said most writers write to "explain the world to themselves," not to their readers. Richards tends to do that using characters he's already familiar with.

"Most writers, if they can, return to the same ideas in different forms. Well, I return to the same characters in different situations."

Richards, 67, has written close to 20 novels. Now that he's a senator, he said he doesn't have as much time to write, but he's working on another novel that will revisit the main character from 1981's Lives of Short Duration, who also happens to make an appearance in Mary Cyr.

Award-winning writer David Adams Richards talks about his new novel Mary Cyr. 11:29

With files from Shift NB