Caroline Woodward on Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves PennyAuthor Interviews Sunday, September 12th, 2010
About your book: Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny by Caroline Woodward (Oolichan Books: September, 2010)
I hope they will find my contemporary retelling of The Odyssey, complete with a gritty ranching and long haul trucking couple facing overwhelming challenges, to be most memorable. It’s always a bit audacious to take on a Big Myth and make it one’s own but the layers of story should work whether the reader is very familiar with the original or not. I took a completely different tack with the series of battles fought by Ulysses and found myself writing about the after-effects of World War I on 3 generations of men in one family, for example, and made the story much more equal when it came to portraying the faithful Penelope fending off the land-grabbing suitors in ancient Greece. Mostly I want readers to recognize themselves in this novel, to see their patient, loving, stressed-out, tough as nails, loyal, hardworking selves being honoured in a novel for a change.
2. Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?
I was finally able to invent my doppelganger in Penny, a much more sensible and conservative person than myself, but someone who wouldn’t heed my own parents’ advice: never marry a farmer. It was also great fun to incorporate my driving experience into a novel as I do have intimate knowledge of truck runaway lanes in the mountains and crawling along in a white-out blizzard, praying that your wheels will keep turning slowly but steadily and that you are actually on the road and not heading for a cliff.
3. Did researching and writing this book teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way?
I learned, yet again, that optimism is an attitude that is inherent and unquenchable in certain people despite their harsh upbringing and formative years. That most hopeful quality, and its intelligent cousin, adaptability, are essential ingredients in the make-up of farmers, ranchers and writers who stick to it, who intend to last, to endure the vagaries of bad timing, bad weather and misfortune with the fickle fashions of the market.
4. What would you most like readers to tell others about this book?
“You just have to read this book! You’ll love it!” Okay, maybe I’m dreaming in technicolour but when I love books, I am totally evangelical about them, buying them for friends, insisting they read them and soon, they must drop everything else, because the story is so wonderfully told or the characters are utterly original or the language is a delight or best of all, all three, in communicating the joy in finding a new, great read.
5. Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?
What makes someone a hero in this day and age compared to other eras? How are women, children and men portrayed as heroes in the popular media, in contemporary literature, in daily life in Canada and elsewhere? What is right and what is wrong with this picture? I was in a classroom where the group was discussing heroes in 1983 when amidst all the talk of warriors and assorted killing machines, I blurted out that Penelope was a hero. I was met with puzzled silence but I filed that blurt away in the mental filing cabinet and began this novel in 1995. I like portraying people who try their best to do the right thing, to survive, to outwit a dangerous situation or person, to be heroic by making the best of their own lives to begin with. These people, with their example of shining spirit, truly elevate the lives of their families, their workplace, and whatever sphere of influence they reach. Most don’t get headlines and the only time they are praised for being wonderful Dads or Moms, for example, might be their obituaries.
6. How can readers help you promote this book?
The best way would be for readers to enjoy the book and to tell their friends and ask for it to be read in your book clubs. Nothing, except possibly a great CBC radio interview, beats word of mouth for books actually being read and being sold. Think of Water for Elephants, The Book of Negroes and so many others, just so beloved and enduring. In order for writers to keep getting published, we have to sell our books in decent numbers for publishers to want to invest in us. It’s just a fact of life in this business, so I’d say: buy the book, buy it often and tell your friends and family to do the same!
1. Why do you write? To make sense of the world as I make my way in it, to share what I’ve discovered through my adventures and my solitude. I don’t often see my own life reflected in literature and certainly didn’t as I was growing up and reading voraciously so that may play a part in my insistence on writing as well.
2. What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I’ve been told that my writing is energetic and earthy and often funny when I’m trying to be profound and pissed off and eloquent after my own fashion so I will leave that debate to my readers!
3. What quality do you most value in yourself? It’s often difficult because I am impatient by nature but I try to be empathetic and kind as much as possible. We all have a hard sack of rocks to lug around with us and a river of tears inside as we struggle along in life so I try not to add to anyone’s burden even when I want to whack them upside the head and tell them to smarten up, grab a brain, basically, to see and do things my way. Writing demands absolute empathy so I suspect that is why I have hitched myself up to a lifelong apprenticeship to the craft.
4. In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?
I love gardening and making preserves, baking good bread, kayaking on the ocean, reading, music, singing in choirs when I’m able and trying to stop short-sighted, clueless urban bureaucrats and cynical politicians from shutting down staffed lighthouses on Canadian coasts and putting the Site C dam on the Peace River.
5. What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
Seamus Thomas Woodward-George is my happiest accomplishment along with his lovely father, my husband, Jeff, so I’d say my family life is what really makes me happiest and most proud of in this lifetime. Writing awards and other things pale beside real human beings who love you, warts and all.
6. Is there any new or established author whom you feel deserves more attention, and what is it that strikes you about his or her work?
Grant Buday is an enormously talented writer from B.C. who can tackle such diverse topics with great range and depth, creating such memorable characters, even the secondary roles are unforgettable, such a ragtag bunch of characters, writing about them with humour, insight, and heart. I’ve never met him personally but I think he deserves to be widely read because he writes with great authenticity about real working people, bakers and taxi drivers and hairdressers and even Greek warriors. What a refreshing change from urban slackers and other world-weary nihilists who moan on and on and never actually DO anything!
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[tags]Caroline Woodward, fiction, Penny Loves Wade, novels[/tags]
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