Monday January 04, 2016

Farzana Doctor on swingers, spirituality and the dark side of resorts

Farzana Doctor was struggling with "third novel blues" when inspiration struck as she biked home after teaching an emerging writers' group. (Dundurn Press)

Farzana Doctor was struggling with "third novel blues" when inspiration struck as she biked home after teaching an emerging writers' group. (Dundurn Press)

Listen 20:23

A story of sun, sex and swinging, Farzana Doctor's new novel All Inclusive is more than a day at the beach — there are complications and tensions that are dark, even tragic. When you read the first few pages you'd be excused for thinking you were embarking on some kind of a sex romp. But once you read a bit further the story takes you deeper, often in directions you didn't expect to go. The novel is about a 29-year-old woman from Hamilton, Ontario, who works at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. She's good at her job, but she's got her share of secrets and mysteries. Farzana Doctor, who won "Best Author" in NOW Magazine's 2015 Best of Toronto poll, spoke to The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers in Toronto.

ON THE DARK SIDE OF RESORT CULTURE

I was at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico about six years ago, and I found myself noticing the inequality that exists between the vacationers and the workers, all the food and water waste... it was a place of tension, and places of tension make really good settings. Also, resort vacationers are not very self-aware, and so there's a lot of this kind of queen/servant mentality that happens. Often people don't leave the resort to venture into the real country that they're visiting. And there's a lot of what I'd call hoarding behaviour that goes on, at the buffet for example, where people will put way too much food on their plates and not be able to eat it all. That's just one side of it, of course. As a child, I would go to resorts with my family, and we had a great time, so my memories of resorts are of happy family moments. As an adult, I wonder if they're the best way to vacation. 

ON WRITING SEX SCENES

I found writing about sex both fun and nerve-wracking. I had to grapple with my own inner prude. We grow up in this sex-negative society where we have a lot of confusion about sexuality. We think about it all the time, and we worry about it all the time — are we having the right kind of sex, with the right person, as often as we should be? And yet we're not very comfortable talking about it. I wasn't very comfortable writing about it either, but it was kind of interesting to push my own boundaries and see where I could go. There's a lot of awkwardness, it's kind of messy, but sex is also liberating for the character, and I wanted to explore that.

ON WRITERS AND SPIRITUALITY

I think that the spiritual world is important, and it's really important to writers. We're always half living in spirit land. I think that almost everything I write comes from somewhere else, and as a writer I make choices about what I'm going to commit to the page and have published.

Farzana Doctor's comments have been edited and condensed.

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