How Angie Abdou learned to give herself over to the creative process
Columnist Angie Abdou was planning on creating a horror story featuring a little boy when she began writing her novel. Gradually, as books do, the story morphed, blending history, contemporary life and the supernatural. Her novel is titled In Case I Go and it still features a young boy named Eli. He moves with his parents to a small mountain town and ghosts from the past start to visit him there.
Abdou spoke to Shelagh Rogers from Calgary.
"In Case I Go started as a horror story because it reminded me of my love of Stephen King. So, I had this idea that I was going to outline this story, control it and it was going to be an organized process. I was doing that, but this novel was not coming to life. I thought, 'Maybe that's it, maybe I'm done — there's no energy here and I'm really not enjoying this.' Then I was speaking at the 2015 Regina Writers' Guild conference and the more my co-speaker, Michael Helm, talked, the more I got excited about writing again. I remembered what I liked and I realized I was trying to control this novel too much. So when I got home, I just let the novel take me where it took me. I've never quite given myself over to the creative process like that."
More than a ghost story
There are three Ktunaxa characters in the novel — Indigenous people mostly in the east Kootenay in southeast B.C. I didn't think too much when I was writing the draft — because I try not to censor myself— but once the novel was finished, I realized I waded into potentially problematic territory. So I approached Cree novelist Frank Busch, author of Grey Eyes, and he gave me really great feedback. In the early drafts, Mary was a ghost and he said, 'You cannot have the Indigenous girl as a ghost because you are suggesting she is insubstantial, airy and of the past.' So with that one suggestion, I suddenly had a ghost story that did not have a ghost. It was a massive revision. But I did it because he was right — metaphorically, I was saying the wrong thing."
Telling someone else's story
"It is daunting, but I know we're learning to be respectful, and that's important. At the same time, writing a novel is an act of extreme empathy where a novelist imagines oneself in different perspectives and subject positions. I tried to do that. If we can't do that anymore, the novel is dead and writing becomes an act of narcissism."
Angie Abdou's comments have been edited and condensed.