Saturday, October 20, 2007

Canada Calling: Anne Emery


Anne Emery is a Canadian author. A graduate of St. F.X. University and Dalhousie Law School, she has worked as a lawyer, legal affairs reporter, and researcher. Apart from reading and writing, her interests include music, philosophy, architecture, travel and Irish history. She lives in Halifax with her husband and daughter.


Bibliography:
Sign of the Cross. Toronto: ECW Press, 2006 (winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, 2007)
Obit. Toronto: ECW Press, 2007

PDD:
Writers argue among themselves about can a woman write a male character well? You've chosen not only male protagonists, but that exclusively male prerogative, the Roman Catholic priesthood. What were some the techniques you used to create such strong male characters?

Anne:
I don’t know quite how to answer that, except to say I must have been paying close attention all these years, without always realizing it, to the men around me!

PDD:
What's the response been in the law community been to having a blues-playing, hard-living, hard-drinking, poker-player lawyer as one of your protagonists?

Anne:
Lawyers have been very enthusiastic. Maybe because Monty Collins is not so different from many of them. There are a number of lawyers I know who are also musicians. There are some who, I suspect, could be called hard-living and hard-drinking, as well. Poker players, too, some of them. Many aren’t, of course, but if they’re too pure it’s no fun writing about them!

PDD:
All of your characters are ambiguous: neither all bad nor all good. They often leave the reader with conflicted emotions about whether to like them. Was that an intentional choice from the beginning, or did it grow out of the way the book developed?

Anne:
It probably was my intention to write about people who are a mix of good and bad, or who are basically good but flawed. They are flawed in a way I can understand; I can sympathize with them. Occasionally, people reading a draft or the finished book will be quite vocal with me about the behaviour of a character they like; they feel very strongly that he or she should not have behaved in a certain way. I take this as a compliment in a backhanded sort of way; I feel I have created a character people care about. As long as the behaviour is “in character”, so to speak, I feel it’s defensible: “Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it, but that’s exactly what he would have done in that situation.” Much of what the characters do has grown out of the developments in the book, and out of my own growing knowledge of the characters themselves. I used to hear writers say that characters sometimes go off in directions the writer didn’t intend, directions the writer didn’t even want them to go in. Now I know what they mean. There are certain things I wanted to happen, but I came to realize “he wouldn’t do that” or “he’s more interested in this other person than in the one I had lined up for him”! I love that, though, when they kind of take over, and do what comes naturally to them.

PDD:
You use song quotes, from a wide range of musical traditions, at the beginning of each chapter. Both of your main characters are intimately connected with music. How does music influence your writing?

Anne:
Music has been an enormous influence on my life and on my writing. Some plot ideas have even been suggested by particular pieces of music. I usually get my ideas while listening to music, even if the effect is not always direct. I’ve seen a number of quotations that say music is the language of the soul. Music can open you up to your creative side, there is no question.

PDD:
In Sign of the Cross, Ireland—more specifically Ireland as viewed by the immigrant North American---is always in the background. Your second book, Obit, deals even more closely with Irish connections. You have a strong interest in Irish history. What are your thoughts about the "auld sod" as viewed from America?

Anne:
I come from an Irish Catholic background, and I’ve been surprised at times just how strong an influence all of that—family, school, church—has had on me, or how it has reasserted itself in my adult life. I have only vague memories of my father talking about arguments in his home about Irish politics, or clandestine baptisms — there was Orange and Green on both sides of my family, with Green being the dominant gene. Now it’s too late to follow up on the stories I should have pursued at the time, so I’m making up my own! I’ve been over there a few times, spent last summer in Dublin. And I do a lot of reading on the subject of Irish history. Many of the events and the people are as real and immediate to me as if they were here in Halifax right now.

PDD:
What are your plans for Father Brennan and Monty?

Anne:
They’re with me for the long haul, along with their extended families, who will appear from time to time. I hope to continue the series well into the future. They’ll have their ups and downs, and their conflicts with each other, but there is a strong bond between them, and I intend to see them through a number of adventures together. I never thought of it this way until now, but each of them has something the other needs.

1 comment:

Darlene Ryan said...

Anne's a terrific writer--and I'm not just saying that because she comes from my part of the country.