Donna Morrissey on the power and frustration of writing fiction
The Fortunate Brother, Donna Morrissey's latest novel, follows the perennially unfortunate Now family. Still reeling from a family tragedy, the Nows find themselves embroiled in the murder of a local man. Morrissey is the award-winning author of books like Kit's Law and successfully defended Rockbound by Frank Parker Day on Canada Reads in 2005.
Below, Donna Morrissey answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Emma Donoghue asks, "What quality or tic in your writing, or flaw or dearth in your works as a whole, makes you blush?"
I've thought and thought about this and can honestly say there is nothing in my work that makes me blush... at least, not the final product. During the beginning stages, the whole durn thing can be so awful I want to flush it... but I understand that's how the process is...
2. Lynn Coady asks, "Why do you write fiction? That is, why is it your chosen genre? What is it about the genre that you think makes it distinctive and/or important, vital?"
Fiction is something I fell into that helped defined me during a terrible time in my life when I felt lost and without direction. It's my mainstay. It continues to help me define who I am and my family and the mythology of our lives together. My family continue to support my telling our story through my writing. It helps us with the losses that we've suffered through, and the love of Spirit that continues to endure within us.
3. Sharon Butala asks, "What do you think of the age-old notion that the best writing comes out of a life led outside the bourgeoisie, where so-called 'rules' of normal middle-class life are deliberately broken and impulse is your guide, rather than duty or convention?"
Whether from duty or convention or intuition — whatever one's values or circumstance — a good yarn can come from anywhere providing one has the skills and creativity to tell it convincingly with all of its truths and failings. Who would argue with Jane Austen?
4. Lorna Crozier asks, "How did growing up with siblings (or without) affect your writing or your desire to be a writer?"
It certainly didn't affect my desire to be a writer, but now that I've started, my life with my family is what fuels my stories. If I had been a single child, I've no doubt that none of the books I've written thus far would be the stories that they are.
5. Gail Anderson-Dargatz asks, "Most people think of writers as loners, working away by themselves in their bathrobes and bunny slippers. But many of us collaborate in some way with others. How about you? Do you interview, brainstorm or write with others? Do you incorporate the work of others (photos, drawings) in your text? How does that change your writing?"
I work alone, sadly in bathrobes and bunny slippers. )-:
6. Louise Penny asks, "What advice to you give emerging authors?"
To keep our butts in the seat. It is through bad writing that we discover good writing... we have to stick with it, curb the despair when the going gets tough, we just keep sitting with it, and just keep picking at it and walking with it and picking at it and walking with it and eating with it and dreaming with it, and then... and then... the breakthrough comes... again and again till the thing is done. It is a challenging thing to do, writing a novel. Trust the process, that is my mantra...
7. Pasha Malla asks, "Which would be preferable: a life of relative contentment and comfort, and having your books die alongside you, or being miserable and destitute, and having your books read long after you are dead?"
Having suffered terribly from anxiety, I would absolutely prefer a life of relative contentment and comfort and have the damn books die alongside of me. After all, nothing really dies...
8. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "Do you think you or your books would have been successful, say... fifty or a hundred years ago? Or has the style of writing changed too much in the passing decades?"
I kinda enjoy the old style of storytelling and I enjoy writing from an older time. Maybe I might've been more popular back there somewhere. :)