August 29, 2014
"It’s daunting for a writer to take on her own town."
The Opening Sky takes place mostly in Wolseley, a neighbourhood I’ve lived in and love. No trips to the British Museum for this one-- my research involved asking people questions like, “What beer would a work crew of 25 year-olds be drinking?” (Moosehead, apparently).
If I worked hard to get Winnipeg right, it wasn’t to satisfy readers that know the city like the backs of their hands. I was the servant of a fictional Winnipeg, which meant creating the illusion for readers that they’re entering the real one. This illusion depends on a lot of specific detail – but sometimes it’s the need for specificity that drives you to invent. For example, I wanted to give my fictional family a house number, so I ended up creating a street in Wolseley, Augusta Street.
As a reader, invented details in a real setting sometimes bug me. As a novelist, I don’t question them: the demands of the story are always going to trump small matters of factual accuracy, and I don’t think they’re terribly crucial to the larger goal of getting the city right—but maybe I’m about to find out.
* Joan Thomas
August 21, 2014
Joan Thomas' latest book is the novel, The Opening Sky
See Joan at THIN AIR 2014 at the Nooner, Tuesday, September 23rd at 12:15 pm, at Carol Shields Auditorium, Millennium Library, and at the Mainstage. Tuesday, September 23rd at 7:30 pm, at MTYP.