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Twilight Times Feature
with Pat Montague
Interviewer: Lida Quillen
1. Does your creativity express itself in ways other than writing?
Yes, I'm a crafter in the physical world too, a string bag maker, a knitter, a needlewoman, a refurbisher of old furniture, etc. etc. I'm a great believer in the three R's: reduce, re-use, re-cycle.
In addition, I help to take care of my thirty-three year old schizophrenic daughter. She now lives in a group home just down the block, but from 1998 to 2001 she was with us, living in my writing room, untreated, unaccepting of her illness, demented. Creativity was needed on all fronts during that harrowing time, not least to imagine what sort of horrors she herself was going through.
2. Do you feel you were creative, even as a child?
Yes, I believe so, but I have no memories of writing. Indeed, I didn't begin to write until I was forty.
3. Could you share with the story behind the story? In other words, how did your writing lead you to your first novel?
The first thing I wrote at age forty was a bit about my home town, Kirkland Lake, a gold-mining town in the midst of Ontario's immense northern forest. It was knowing that landscape that allowed me to feel my way into the lives of the mid-17th century forest-dwellers in The Wampum Keeper. The two writings are related.
4. How did you prepare for the creation of your first novel?
I didn't; I pitched right in, right over my head. Fortunately, fairly early on, my daughter gave me her copy of John Gardner's The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young People. I read and re-read this wonderful guide.
How much research was necessary?
A great deal of historical research was necessary in order to write The Wampum Keeper. You can get an idea of this by reading my Author's Introduction at http://wampumkeeper.com.
5. What kind of reaction do people have to your writing?
Very few people have read my writings, certainly not my first novel, TWK. My New York friend, a writer, Christine St. Lawrence, thinks the TWK story is great! The fellow whose wampum string photo graces my 'cover' image thinks it is "very well written." People DO find the Author's Introduction interesting, but fiction is such a personal matter, isn't it, both the writing and reading of it. I don't like to ask people I know to read my novel; it seems too much to ask.
6. Do you find anything difficult in the writing process, and if so what?
All of it!! It is all ridiculously difficult.
Consider what John Gardner says about writers and "frigidity" in his "Art of Fiction":
"... The fault Longinus [Cassius Longinus, c.213–273, a Greek rhetorician and philosopher] identified as "frigidity" occurs in fiction whenever the author reveals by some slip or self-regarding intrusion that he is less concerned about his characters than he ought to be -- less concerned, that is, than any decent human being observing the situation would naturally be." (page 117)
"... The writer lacks the kind of passion all true artists possess. He lacks the nobility of spirit that enables a real writer to enter deeply into the feelings of imaginary characters (as he enters deeply into the feelings of real people). In a word, the writer is frigid." (page 118)
Re-writing and re-writing and re-writing was the only way I ever found to "enter deeply" into the feelings of my characters. And boy did that re-writing ever take a long while!!
7. Do you currently have any writing projects?
I have both a volume two and volume three of The Wampum Keeper on the back burner, but at the moment I've pitched myself right into the middle of yet another enormous project, that of 'indie' author/ePublisher. I shall have to see how it goes.
8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not at the moment, thanks.
A former librarian, college English instructor, and freelance writer, Pat Montague grew up in Kirkland Lake, a gold-mining town in the midst of Ontario's boreal forest. She now lives with her husband in a 19th floor apartment overlooking the lower Don River Valley in Toronto, Canada. The Wampum Keeper is her first novel.
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