Why Megan Gail Coles set her Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated novel on Valentine's Day in Newfoundland
Megan Gail Coles is a writer and playwright from Newfoundland. Her debut novel is Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club. It features a complicated cast of characters at a trendy St. John's restaurant. As a blizzard bears down on the city, staff and friends contend with their own storm of issues brought on by addiction, trauma and betrayal.
The novel is on the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. The winner will be revealed on Nov. 18, 2019.
Coles spoke to Shelagh Rogers about writing Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club.
Set on Valentine's Day
"Modern media projects a certain kind of significance on romantic love. We've had a tendency toward prioritizing it in our lives. This unrelenting pressure to project our romantic outlook onto the world is very much felt on Valentine's Day. There is a whole marketing machine behind this.
The book is set in St. John's on Valentine's Day. I'm reaching out to the people that may be feeling less than lovable on that day.
"The book is set in St. John's on Valentine's Day. I'm reaching out to the people that may be feeling less than lovable on that day. There are people that are struggling, regardless of what greeting card companies suggest they should feel. Newfoundland is not perceived as what it is in those saturated colour commercials."
"There is quite a rural-urban divide in Newfoundland. There is a class-based differentiation between the bayman and the townie. This is something that is easily identifiable, not just in your complexion, but in your voice and your patterns of speech. The moment you open your mouth, people can place you. There's a lot of discrimination that is associated with this.
"That makes people very limited in the economic or employment experiences that they can have in the urban centre. To this day, people in rural Newfoundland are discriminated against in town. It is unfair, it is unfit and it's unkind. But it's never going to change unless we acknowledge it."
Feelings of isolation
"The Great Northern Peninsula is very geographically isolated. It has a very northern climate; its never-ceasing gale force winds are uneasy and unsettling. You can go for a walk and have to constantly try to voice your opinions over the howling northeast wind.
"That informs your manner of speech. It informs how you conduct yourself in the world. There's a certain urgency and drive that is enforced by the weather."
The real Newfoundland
"I almost feel a sense of guilt and or pity for the people that do little research before venturing to the island. They're expecting something that is much more picturesque than we are able to sustain.
I almost feel sense of guilt and or pity for the people that do little research before venturing to the island. They're expecting something that is much more picturesque than we are able to sustain.
"That is not to say that Newfoundland is not beautiful. Newfoundland is majestic in every definition of the word, but it is also incredibly grey. It can be foggy and can rain for days on end. There's not always a red-haired child running through quilts on a clothesline."
Megan Gail Coles's comments have been edited for length and clarity.