By Nicole Fitzgerald
What: Whistler Writers Festival and Retreat
Who: Eden Robinson
When: Saturday, Sept. 16, 8 p.m.
Where: MY Millennium Place
People may be what they eat, but writers aren’t necessarily what they write.
Reading Eden Robinson’s Blood Sports, a novel steeped in darkness that could only be scraped off Vancouver’s East Hastings Street, a few conclusions might be drawn about a devout Stephen King worshiper whose torture scenes had to be scaled back to make the read more palatable.
But no preconceived ideas about a writer could be more off the mark. Instead of death and torture a conversation with Robinson leaves one sore cheeked from laughing so hard.
“It’s all the stuff you repress,” Robinson says of her writing. “All the dark stuff. If it didn’t come out in writing, I would be a lot crankier (laughs). Generally I am an anxiety-ridden person (laughs). There is a great cathartic release in writing horror. If you fear small places, you have characters in all these tiny places. If you fear pain, naturally your characters are tortured a lot (laughs).”
This is one of the joys of getting to know the personality behind the ink and if you were to pick a colour representative of Robinson’s tenor instead of tar black, it would be highlighter yellow — with sparkles.
Robinson is one of three critically-acclaimed, award-winning writers who will bring their stories off the page and onto the stage at public readings Thursday, Sept. 14 to Saturday, Sept. 16 at MY Millennium Place as part of the Whistler Writers Festival and Retreat.
Maude Barlow, winner of the Alternative Novel Peace Prize, reads Thursday, Sept. 14. The Council of Canadians chair writes award-winning works, including Blue Gold and Too Close for Comfort.
Joseph Boyden, a nominee for the Governor General’s Award for fiction, reads Friday, Sept. 15. The 2006 CBC Canada Reads finalist wrote Three Day Road, which received the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year award.
Robinson reads from three books on Saturday: Traplines, Monkey Beach and Blood Sports. The First Nations woman, whose father is Haisla and mother Heiltsuk, has received many accolades for her writing, including a Governor General Award and Giller Award nomination, Editor’s Choice from both the New York Times and Globe and Mail, as well as countless others.
When you understand that her muse is affectionately named Marvin, a cankerous 93-year-old man she describes as always having to go to the bathroom and baring a likeness to the Loonie Toons Martian, the dark, gritty characters found in Blood Sports make more sense. Robinson’s muse takes her to interesting places requiring a leap of faith, whether she likes it or not. Like the battling characters she writes about, Robinson’s writing process reflects struggle. A Harlequin was her original intention with Blood Sports.
“I always wanted to write erotica, but in the process of writing sex scenes, I realized I don’t have a big talent for it,” she says, laughing at herself. “The scenes come off all goofy and strange. I tried romance and there are some of the tender scenes left over from that attempt (in Blood Sports), but it seems I have a gift for violence and torture. Those scenes just flow. I have a vocabulary for pain and suffering (laughs).”
Despite her best efforts, her characters refuse to be controlled. Having previously worked with the Blood Sports characters in her first book, Traplines, a series of short stories, Robinson sat down to the blank page with a set plot. However, her characters wanted nothing to do with it.
“The main character, Tom, was supposed to end up with a different woman, not Polly,” she says. “She was only supposed to come back for a cameo and then leave. She was supposed to be just a catalyst, to trigger memories. Anytime I try to fight the characters and what seems to be going on, the book just stops with weeks of nothing.”
Always taking a year off after publishing a book, Robinson’s pen is at a standstill these days. Other than timed writing exercises to ensure she doesn’t get “too flabby” before her next book, Robinson’s focus remains with family time, workshops and tours promoting her new book.
Join Robinson for an evening of off the page storytelling to really get between the covers of what writing is all about.
Tickets are $10 each or $25 for all the three readings. Purchase tickets by calling 604-935-8410.