The Next Chapter

How Christy Ann Conlin's writing is shaped by the evocative landscapes of Nova Scotia

The Nova Scotia author spoke to Shelagh Rogers about her book of short stories, Watermark.
Christy Ann Conlin is the author of Watermark. (House of Anansi Press)

Christy Ann Conlin is an author from Nova Scotia. Her first book Heave, published in 2002, was a finalist for the First Novel Award, Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and Dartmouth Book Award. The Wolfville, N.S.-based resident's most recent book is short story collection Watermark

Conlin recently spoke with Shelagh Rogers in Sandy Cove, N.S., about the book.

Welcome to my world

"The Nova Scotia landscape where I grew up — the Bay of Fundy and Annapolis Valley — you have the pastoral meadows and fields and you can see some small houses and the spires of little churches. Then you have the dramatic North Mountain jutting out in Cape Blomidon and in this area, which is sacred to the Mi'kmaq, from which you can drive down into the valley. 

That land shaped me dramatically and my literary landscsape is rooted there.- Christy Ann Conlin

"It's a small valley but when you move there the rest of the world falls seems to fall away. It exists very much in its own time paradigm. It's like an enchantment. That land shaped me dramatically and my literary landscape is rooted there."

When it's safe

 "My mother would let us run wild in the woods and on the beach. We understood the tides so we didn't get caught and smashed against the rocks and drowned, which can happen.

"We understood the danger of falling off one of the enormous cliffs or of being washed out in these really powerful tides and that's the end of us. I understood that you should use your common sense and listen to what you were told about the tides and the weather and when you don't swim in the Bay of Fundy.

I was afraid because that's a powerful body of water that can suck you out when the tide turns. All of that is infused into my stories —  where it's safe and when it's not.- Christy Ann Conlin

"But then at the same time, I was afraid because that's a powerful body of water that can suck you out when the tide turns. All of that is infused into my stories —  where it's safe and when it's not."

Nova Scotia has the highest tides in the world. (Saint Mary's University/Canadian Press)

World of gothic

"My grandmother would tell me all of old world and Celtic stories. These tales had a lot of darkness but there was also a lot of magic. There were always secrets in these old stories about the places around us. Up on the North Mountain there's this road that goes into a place that we called 'murder meadow' when I was a kid. There were like secrets about this woman who had been brutally murdered and we told ghost stories about it around the campfire.

"As an adult, I began to understand where that story came from. It was actually the horrific murder of a woman and the man who was convicted of her murder was the last person to be executed by hanging in Kings County. And it's really affected that community to this day. It's created a conversation about domestic violence and violence against women. So there were two worlds, where you tell this story around a fire at the beach when you're 11 years old, then you grow up and understand where it came from."

Christy Ann Conlin's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 


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