Janice Lynn Mather wanted to show readers the real side of paradise in her latest novel
A longer version of this interview originally aired on Oct. 3, 2020.
Janice Lynn Mather's YA novel Facing the Sun is a coming-of-age story set in the Bahamas. It's about four young girls — Eve, Faith, KeeKee and Nia — and the choices they are forced to make one fateful summer. When a hotel developer makes a move to buy the community's beloved beach, all four teens are faced with decisions that might change them forever.
Facing the Sun is the Vancouver-based Bahamian writer's second book. Her first book, the YA novel Learning to Breathe, was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.
Trouble in paradise
"I have often found that people inevitably ask where I'm from. If I don't give the answer that they're hoping for — which is somewhere exotic, and that explains my skin tone or accent — they would ask, 'Where are you really from?'
"I say I'm from the Bahamas, and there would be this exuberance and effervescence, as though that meant that I lived in a hotel all the time and lay on the beach all the time.
One of the things that felt important to me was to write about addressing the reality of living in a place that is marketed as a paradise.
"I love the Bahamas fiercely, but everywhere has its challenges. One of the things that felt important to me was to write about addressing the reality of living in a place that is marketed as a paradise."
The stories we tell our friends
"I was lucky growing up to have a close-knit group of friends and to still be in touch with them now. I always look back at my teens as a time when it seemed quite common for there to be these groups of friends that were often best friends. But I remember there being little clusters. Sometimes the clusters would overlap and sometimes they wouldn't — and there would be groups of friends breaking apart and coming together.
"As I got older and began having different kinds of conversations with friends, I came to realize that there were certain things that we just didn't talk about.
There were often things that we were dealing with at home that maybe we didn't want to bring to our friendship.
"There were often things that we were dealing with at home that maybe we didn't want to bring to our friendship. We didn't want to pollute our friendships almost with those things — or we didn't feel comfortable sharing them.
"Certainly for myself, there were things that I was dealing with personally that I didn't even know how to verbalize. I found it interesting to go back and, through these four characters, look at the things that they talk about together and what they decide to share with each other."
Janice Lynn Mather's comments have been edited for length and clarity.