Canada Reads

C.L. Polk hopes Canada Reads contender The Midnight Bargain will 'shine a light' on power of fantasy

Olympian Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021. The debates take place March 8-11.

Olympian Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021

C.L. Polk is the author of the fantasy novel The Midnight Bargain. (Submitted by C.L. Polk/CBC)

C.L. Polk is a fantasy writer from Calgary. They are the author of the novels WitchmarkStormsong and The Midnight BargainWitchmark, their first book, won the 2019 World Fantasy Award for best novel. 

The Midnight Bargain is their latest novel. It's a page-turning fantasy with love, magic and rebellion featuring a woman named Beatrice trying to discover her status and identity while on a quest to become a magician.

Olympian and broadcaster Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021. 

Canada Reads will take place March 8-11. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Polk spoke to Winnipeg's Emily Brass on Up to Speed about what it's like having a book on Canada Reads.

C.L. Polk on her Canada Reads 2021 contender, The Midnight Bargain.

For anyone who hasn't read it, can you tell us what The Midnight Bargain is about?

The Midnight Bargain is a fantasy novel, but it touches on very familiar territory, especially to anybody who's read the works of Jane Austen or historical romance novels or watched the Netflix series Bridgerton. The story is about Beatrice Clayborn, and her family is deeply in debt. They have one thing that will save them, and that's if they pull out all the stops and send her off in order to find a wealthy husband during Bargaining Season. A wealthy husband is going to want to marry Beatrice because she was born with the magical gift to attract and bargain with spirits.

Beatrice isn't willing to go ahead and do what society wants her to do. She wants to use her talent for magic. She wants to become a great magician.

But here's the catch. A husband really only wants Beatrice for her ability to have children who have this inborn, magical gift. It is considered extremely dangerous for women of childbearing age to do magic, so they're not allowed to until they're through menopause. But Beatrice isn't willing to go ahead and do what society wants her to do. She wants to use her talent for magic. She wants to become a great magician. And she thinks she can solve her family's problem her way. The story is about how this is her last chance to get what she wants. But, as things develop, she finds herself trying to make an impossible choice between realizing the full potential of her talent or marrying for true love and having a family.

Why did you choose to write a fantasy novel that tackled these issues?

The thing about fantasy novels is that they are multi-tool. You can do all kinds of stuff with fantasy novels because you are not limited to the real world or realistic expectations. You can sit down and you can think about something that bothers you about the way we live today or something that you wonder, like what would the world be like if we did this thing differently? And you get to explore all of the possibilities and the implications, the benefits, the drawbacks, the weird consequences. And you get to do this in a package that aims to entertain the reader while exploring some pretty profound social themes.

Rosey Edeh on finding mental toughness in dark times and in literature

1 year ago
Duration 1:09
The Olympian and broadcaster is championing the novel The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk on Canada Reads

What do you hope readers take away from reading The Midnight Bargain?

I'm hoping that, after being spellbound for six hours — because that is my fondest wish — they'll feel that their time was well spent. I hope that they were thoroughly immersed in Beatrice's world and situation and entertained by it. I'm hoping that they will find inspiration to bring Beatrice's persistent energy into their own lives and tackle something that feels a little daunting.

Speaking of daunting, you've made it all the way to Canada Reads. How does it feel to have The Midnight Bargain in the running?

Oh, my goodness.

It sounds like you're excited.

This is happening. This is actually happening.

It is happening. You are a fan, I take it.

Yes. I stumbled across the very first Canada Reads on CBC Radio completely by accident. I was listening to it at work. I was totally invested. I worked every shift during the original Canada Reads discussion. I talked about it with my customers. When they came in to pay for their gas, I was into it.

Wow. That's quite a journey. The theme this year is one book to transport us. How do you think The Midnight Bargain does that?

I think that if there is any book Canada Reads could have chosen to shine a light on the power of science fiction and fantasy, it's definitely this one.

I think that if there is any book Canada Reads could have chosen to shine a light on the power of science fiction and fantasy, it's definitely this one.

The Midnight Bargain is set in a world that is like ours but also profoundly not like ours. The world is not real. They do magic. But at the same time, you're getting to explore the experience of a person who is doing extraordinary things while still being relatable to us. Beatrice's struggles are common.

Your book's defender is Olympian and broadcaster Rosey Edeh. You met her virtually and got to know each other. What does it mean to have her be your book's champion?

I am so thrilled that Rosey loved my book and that, of all of the books that she was offered to champion for Canada Reads, this one is the one that caught her heart. She is going to bring Beatrice to Canada. She's going to show everyone this story about resilience and inner strength and about how you keep your eyes on the finish line and see it through all of the obstacles, all of the doubt, all of the fear. It's part of the quest. She's the perfect champion for The Midnight Bargain, being an Olympian. I'm really looking forward to her competitive drive. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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