Megan Gail Coles & Alayna Fender discuss Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club
Canada Reads takes place July 20-23
YouTuber Alayna Fender will defend Megan Gail Coles's debut novel Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club on Canada Reads 2020. Ahead of the debates, Fender and Coles discussed the themes explored in the multi-narrator novel.
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club takes place over the course of a day during a winter storm in St. John's. The characters, all connected to an upscale restaurant, are implicated in each other's hopes, dreams and pains as they survive harsh economic times in the province.
- Read an excerpt from Canada Reads finalist Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles
Watch Fender and Coles's conversation above or read a condensed transcript of their talk below.
Alayna Fender (AF): You've described the book as a love letter, a tough love letter, to Newfoundland in the past. Can you tell me a bit more about what you meant by that?
Megan Gail Coles (MGC): I think we have a very flawed notion of what unconditional love is. And in the past, I have heard people describe unconditional love as the kind of love where everything is forgiven without examination, without honesty. While I am examining some of the less than positive aspects of Newfoundland and Canadian culture, I am doing so in a way that expresses my deep devotion and love for that place where I was made.
AF: Because you want it to be better.
MGC: I want them and I also believe that they can be better.
AF: Do you have any advice to someone who's about to pick up your book or about to start reading the book going into it?
MGC: This is not a light-hearted romance. This is not your entertainment for the sake of entertainment. I am trying to communicate a need for change and so there's going to be discomfort and there's going to be things that are really painful.
It hurt a lot to write the book. It definitely hurt as much as it does to read it.- Megan Gail Coles
It hurt a lot to write the book. It definitely hurt as much as it does to read it. And the characters are based on Canadians. The characters are inspired by our society. I hope that you engage with those characters in a way that makes you recognize them on the streets of your cities.
AF: Do you have a favourite passage in the book or a favourite line that you wrote?
MGC: I don't know that I can choose a line or a passage from the novel. I know that this is something that people like to ask authors, but it is like choosing between your children. And all the characters are of my creation. Like, I made them for us, of us, so that we could learn from them and talk about what it is we're living through. And so, while I don't have favourites, I do have a kind of technique that I use in my writing where I pull a line out of the paragraph and isolate it on the page and potentially even repeat it many, many times because I want this part to be heard. And we have heard a lot of false things. We were talking about how people have grown up in cultures where we say things like,
Together: "Boys will be boys."
- Why Megan Gail Coles set her Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated novel on Valentine's Day in Newfoundland
MGC: And we've heard these things so many times that to undo this messaging we have to hear the opposite. We have to hear it as much and as loudly and as frequently and in as many different contexts as we can to undo that. And so yes, I do hit that nail and I'm hitting that nail for a reason.
There is a passage at the end of the book that is special to me though, because it is a passage that moves Iris and Olive through something, both physically and figuratively. And so that is very close to my heart. You won't get to know what I'm talking about unless you finish the novel.
AF: I want to know. Will you tell me after?
MGC: I will.
I would like you to stay true to your principles and be respectful and generous with the other panellists, even if that means we go first.- Megan Gail Coles
MGC: I think it's important to stay true to yourself. Like, I understand that it's a competition, but don't be underhanded or manipulative. And I'm not suggesting that you will be or that the other contestants, panellists will be either. But these kinds of situations sometimes bring out less than admirable qualities and that's not what I'm going for in the novel.
I would like you to stay true to your principles and be respectful and generous with the other panellists, even if that means we go first.
AF: OK. Wow. I can do that. I think I can do that.
MGC: The hard thing is the hard thing for a reason. Because sometimes the rewards don't seem to come very quickly, but we're playing the long game. OK?
AF: OK. I'll play the long game with you.
So thank you so much for having this conversation with me. I honestly couldn't be more thrilled to be defending your book at this year's Canada Reads, which takes place March 16 to 19. So be sure that you tune in on those dates.
- Alayna Fender defending Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles
- Akil Augustine defending Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
- Amanda Brugel defending We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib
- Kaniehtiio Horn defending Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
- George Canyon defending From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle