Geneviève Pettersen on a wild girl growing up in a small town
The Goddess of Fireflies, the debut novel from Quebec author Geneviève Pettersen, was a bestseller and prizewinner in its original French and is now available in an English translation. The translator, Neil Smith, was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for translation (French to English). The book follows a 14-year-old girl growing up in the Saguenay region of Quebec in the 1990s.
I wanted to write about the Saguenay, which is where I come from. It's an industrial place, and it was truly a nightmare to grow up there. The only things to do are drugs, drinking and sex in the woods with the wrong people, the bad guys. Everybody is restless when they're 14, no? And my main character, Catherine, is no exception. She's pretty wild, she wants to experiment with different things. I was like that — I remember that my dream was to go to Montreal or Toronto, just to see something else. I think that's why Catherine is fascinated not just with the drugs, but with Berlin, with David Bowie, with lots of things.
Geneviève Pettersen's comments have been edited and condensed.