Nfld. & Labrador

Q&A with Flannery author Lisa Moore on branching out to young adult fiction

The acclaimed author sits down with Weekend AM host Heather Barrett to talk about her new novel for young adults, Flannery.
Award-winning author Lisa Moore's new young adult novel, Flannery, was released in May. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

Lisa Moore has a new novel out, Flannery, and this time the acclaimed author is trying something new: it's her first novel for young adults.

16-year-old Flannery Malone lives in St. John's with her mother, an artist, and younger brother. The novel follows Flannery as she navigates her family's precarious financial situation, high school, and an undying love for the handsome Tyrone.

Moore sat down with CBC Radio's Weekend AM host Heather Barrett to chat more about Flannery, writing for teenagers, and her favourite young female heroine.

Here are several excerpts from their conversation.

Why did you decide to turn your hand to young adult fiction?

The thing was that I didn't really decide. I've been taking notes for this book for over ten years. I think my desire to write this book comes from the fact that I read a lot of young adult fiction when I was growing up, and also, I read it to my children. (Moore has a daughter, step-daughter and son) So, that's a whole range of reading YA, young adult fiction, that I drew from when I was writing.

And you're a big fan of Anne of Green Gables too, aren't you?
We tend to think of Anne of Green Gables as a bit dated and prim. And PEI is gentle, pastoral, with the beautiful beaches. But Anne, she's a bit of a spitfire. She has a temper, and the constant conflict in that book is her trying to be a lady, and being unable to be a lady, needing to express her opinion. And that's where the humour comes from in that book. She's a heroine, she's one of the first female protagonists for young women who has a mind of her own.

Is there a part of her in Flannery, do you think?

I think so, absolutely. Flannery has red hair, and that's a direct homage to Anne of Green Gables.

Flannery has already garnered good reviews from several newspapers and literary journals. (House of Anansi)
Tell us more about Flannery.

I'm not quite sure where she came from. She's not based on anyone in particular the way fiction sometimes is. But she was a voice that I could hear. I could hear her talking, and that was kind of a gift in a way. And when I've heard writers say that kind of thing before in interviews, I always think, 'yeah sure', I just don't believe people hear voices. But somehow she poured out ... and it had to do with the people she was surrounded by, the characters that she was surrounded by and acts against. She's kind of funny and has cool insights, but she also feels deeply.

What kind of an experience is a teenager getting reading this book?

Well, that remains to be seen, I'm dying for some teenagers to read it. But I think the ones that have — because I gave to teenagers before it was published to get some feedback — I think they're experiencing it in the same way. Flannery has relationships with adults, but she is also totally in love with Tyrone, who is the quintessential unobtainable heartthrob. He is a graffiti artist, the cops are after him because he's sprayed a few banks and other institutions, and he's gorgeous, but he's also got a few problems of his own.

When you say though, that you did run it by a number of teenage readers, what have you done to make sure that everything rings true in it?

Hopefully it all rings true, I'm hoping. One of the little items that came up that one reader pointed out to me, is that they don't have blackboards in schools anymore. And when you think about it, Anne of Green Gables smashes a slate over Gilbert's head — the technology has changed in schools! And now blackboards are old fashioned.

But the truth, what we feel deep down, seems to be a kind of an essential thing. And even though there's technology in the book ... I use it sparingly because it's used for a particular purpose. And certainly the internet plays a huge role in the book, and some shaming that occurs. And I have gone on tour a little bit with this book and read in high schools, and the kids in high schools know what I'm talking about, when I'm talking about particularly young women, being shamed on the internet. 

It sounds like we're having a heavy conversation about a heavy book, but it's not.

Well, it is and it isn't. The thing is that Flannery is, I think, hopefully, funny. She is funny and the characters that surround her are funny and the situations she gets into are funny. But I don't think it's easy, being 16 in high school. I don't think it's easy in lots of ways, so she does go through some turmoil to get to the end.

With files from Weekend AM