Books·How I Wrote It

Guillaume Morissette: How I wrote New Tab

Montreal writer Guillaume Morissette explains what inspired him to write his debut novel in English.
Guillaume Morissette is the author of the novel New Tab. (Vehicule Press/guillaumemorissette.com)

Montreal writer Guillaume Morissette has two families to thank for teaching him English: The Simpsons and the Banks family from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In 2010, the francophone writer decided to immerse himself even deeper in English, moving in with anglophone roommates. The result is his debut novel (written in English), New Tab.

In his own words, Morissette reflects on writing in a second language, getting inspired by Facebook chats, and the real-life muse who should become a household name.

Living English

"New Tab is semi-autobiographical. I used to work in video games, and I'm also francophone. Around 2010 I started experiencing dissatisfaction, angst and overall dismay in regards to what I was doing. I felt creatively that I wasn't very stimulated, so I switched to studying English literature at Concordia and I moved into this household that had only anglophone roommates. All of a sudden, I had access to this entirely new playing field, and that felt really freeing. Writing in English was never a political thing; it was more of a pragmatic thing, like a convenient way for me to step into a new reality."

The Facebook library

"I would look at photos from a party I'd been to, on Facebook, and I would use what was happening in the photo in the book. I would stare at a poster in the background and I would use that as a description in one of the scenes. It's not like I had really good documentation from that period, but I did have access to stuff from Facebook — like Facebook chats — so I could use that as material for dialogue. I never felt tempted to rework it."

Yin and yang

"I'm very close to the Montreal writer, publisher and performer Ashley Opheim. We collaborate a lot. I feel like she influenced the internal energy of New Tab. Ashley and I have a yin and yang relationship where she's the very opposite of me. I'm more logical, and she's more into magic, nature and plants. I would frequently feel like 'I'm never going to finish this, this is taking forever,' but then I would have a conversation with her and that would allow me to refocus myself." 

Prochain book... Next livre?

"To write something in French, I would have to immerse myself in the language a little bit more. At the same time I feel like I would have to find something that I can only express in French. It's almost the same as Yann Martel with Life of Pi. He's francophone, but he writes in English. If I ever found something that I felt comfortable expressing in French, then I would definitely consider it." 

Guillaume Morissette's comments have been edited and condensed. 

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