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Lisa McGonigle on Snowdrift

Snowdrift by Lisa McGonigleAbout Snowdrift:

BCB: What do you think readers will find most notable about this book?

Lisa McGonigle: First, Snowdrift was originally written as a series of emails to my friends back in Ireland and the UK. And, as we know, when we’re writing to friends it’s when we’re at our most candid and least circumspect. So I suppose the sense of immediacy and raw honesty about the text might strike them as notable, for better or for worse.

Secondly, ski-bum culture—or should that be subculture?—hasn’t tended to have a terribly huge amount of literary representation. So perhaps the text also provides an insight into a hitherto unknown way of life for readers beyond the ski-town bubble.

BCB: Did researching and writing this book teach you anything or influence your thinking in any way?

Lisa McGonigle: More the other way round. I started writing the emails a month or two after finishing my Masters (in Irish and Scottish literature), which in turn had come straight after doing a four-year Bachelor of English Studies. So after five years of constructing tight critical arguments which built to a final flourish, Snowdrift was like freestyle writing. I could swerve off on tangents and write what I wanted in as many or as few words as I wanted, being as incendiary, partial or foulmouthed as I liked without being mindful of a final grade. That said, those five years of university had been an invaluable training and I doubt I could have written Snowdrift without them.

I’m not saying you need to study English to become a writer, or indeed that you even need to go to university at all to write, but for me served as a sort of apprenticeship. Writing academic discourse requires discipline and learning to be as precise and concise as possible in your mode of expression and perhaps paradoxically having had that experience was what enabled me to go on to write what might seem like a very unliterary, anti-academic text. What would you most like readers to tell others about this book? I suppose how it got published, really. It was the writer’s dream, and I wrote a blog post about it HERE.

In summary: got a scholarship to the Fernie Writer’s Conference, read from my work while I was there, the following day met with a publisher who’d heard me speak, sent him my manuscript, heard back several months later from him that he was offering me a book deal. Dream come true from start to finish.

BCB: Can you suggest one question readers might find interesting to discuss, concerning you, your writing in general, or this book?

Lisa McGonigle: The issue of responsibility or duty might be something to explore. Was it irresponsible to drop out of Oxford to go snowboarding? Or was it a responsible decision? To whom does one owe responsibility – others like parents and external agencies like funding bodies or to yourself? To what length should you follow your dream and what might be the consequences of this, anticipated or unanticipated?

Photo of author Lisa McGonigleAbout You:

BCB: In addition to writing, what else are you passionate about?

Lisa McGonigle: Skiing! Snowboarding! Being in the mountains! The Kootenays! I’m also currently doing my PhD about ‘the scandals’ in the Catholic Church and how they’re reflected in contemporary Irish culture which, as you can imagine, is quite the emotive subject, something to which those of my friends who’ve been on receiving ends of my rants can testify.

BCB: Have you acquired any good anecdotes surrounding this book? If so, could you share one?

Lisa McGonigle: Man, too many good anecdotes, but I don’t want to incriminate either myself or others…Let’s focus on the book launch, which happened in Cafe Books West, Rossland, British Columbia.

It took place this January on the Friday night of Rossland’s Winter Carnival, which is now in its 114th year of Bacchanalian excess. Downtown Rossland gets transformed into a weekend-long party with food stalls, a rail-jam, a DJ-booth and an outdoor ice-bar and DJ booth so it was only fitting that the book launch would be similarly debauched. Oolichan Books shouted us a keg of Faceplant Ale from the Nelson Brewing Company (keep it Kootenay!). There was a “Best Ski-bum Story” competition, we drank the bookstore dry, two guys attempted to perform kegstands; I was wandering around at one point doublefisting bottles of champagne and later on gave an interview to the Rossland News wihile blazing drunk – all I could remember afterwards about the interview was lunging towards the dictaphone going “this is off the record” and then “okay, okay, this is back on the record”.

It was something of a revelation to read the print interview several weeks later and discover what I’d said. It was quite the night. (I’m back on the straight and narrow now and have sworn off alcohol for a while)

BCB: 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?

Lisa McGonigle: I’m a massive fan of Irish novelist Marian Keyes. Though commercially very successful, critically she’s thus far been disparaged as frothy “chick-lit” (the label operating here with a derogatory tang) She is however an extremely skilled – not to mention humorous – writer who explores many dimensions of contemporary female experience in her work and who at the same time doesn’t shy away from tackling darker subjects, such as alcoholism, transvestism and domestic violence. Rachel’s Holiday, for example, is a searingly authentic, moving and exceptionally funny account of one woman’s coming to terms with her drug addiction, spliced with a love story. Being Irish myself, I also adore how Keyes’ Irish idiom inflects her work.

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Posted by Pearl on Feb 23 2011. Filed under Author Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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