Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Conversation: Lisa Moore

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION

Lisa Moore is a writer based in St. John’s, N.L. Her novel February was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and won Canada Reads in 2013. She is a three-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, most recently for her novel Caught.

Moore will be launching her young adult novel Flannery — about a girl who manufactures love potions for her entrepreneur class that somehow seem to work — at the Winnipeg International Writers Festival on Tuesday.

She spoke to Ariel Gordon via email.

Winnipeg Free Press: What do you want people to know about Flannery?

Lisa Moore: That it’s funny and set in St. John’s, N.L., and it’s about the intensity of friendship at sixteen. How powerful those friendships are, how they have the capacity to alter us forever, and how they are sometimes ephemeral. How those fast friendships can easily unfasten and cause heartbreak.

WFP: What prompted you to write young adult fiction, after two collections of short stories and three novels for adults? Put another way, what drew you to tell this story this way?

LM: Children and young adults are able to suspend disbelief as fast as a snap of the fingers. When we’re younger, the imagination is very supple and easily set in action; a few paragraphs of a novel and the imagination goes into full-on, massive fibrillation, all aquiver. It’s a beautiful power, to be able to give over to the imagination, because we can inhabit another’s skin. I think, as we get older, that muscle — the imagination — can sometimes be subject to seizing up or even atrophying. So I knew it would be a total blast to write for young adults. I loved reading young adult literature when I was young, and I loved reading it as an adult to my kids. And I wanted to try capture what it means to be sixteen in 2016.

WFP: Were there any young adult novels you looked to when writing this book?

LM: I thought about Anne of Green Gables because I once wrote an introduction to Montgomery’s novel. What I loved about that novel how uncontainable Anne is. How alive with passion and exuberance and temper tantrums. Her melodramatic love of everything. The way she smashes that slate blackboard over Gilbert’s head.

WFP: In the novel, Flannery often feels powerless. And the adults around her are preoccupied with their own problems—they seem as bewildered as she is. What does this novel say about how you build a life? About our ability to make choices?

LM: The novel tries to be honest about the way the world is for people who don’t have a lot of money. It’d be great to be able to say: Don’t worry you’ll have lots of agency if you just try hard. But of course, very often, perhaps most often, for most people, the odds are tilted in the other direction. However, there’s also lots of humour in here. I think many things, when we look them square in the eye, can be hilarious and sad at the same time.

WFP: What function do the love potions play in the book, when everyone seems to be actively looking for love, even when it’s clearly to their detriment with partners who are sometimes manipulative, even abusive. Are we that desperate for love?

LM: The love potions are mostly comedic, a tiny reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the errant, unfettered folly of desire. What dopes we become when we’re besotted. The love potions are just a gag, as Flannery herself admits. In a way, the potions make fun of the idea that love is something that happens instantly — in fact, we must be constantly learning about love, in order to love well. It requires inspiration, yes, but also work. But you’re right; I’ve also explored, in this novel, the nature of abusive or manipulative relationships. How disorienting and damaging those relationships are, how difficult to negotiate and escape — in fact, they are the opposite of love. Despite the dangers of these kinds of relationships, do I think we need to love each other? Do we need that desperately? Yes! It’s the best part of being human.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

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