Author of Ellen in Pieces speaks at writers’ series
A part-time teacher at Simon Fraser University in the editing and publishing program and the Associate Director of Narrative at the Writing Studio at Banff this year, Canadian author Caroline Adderson was in Fernie for Booked Fernie Writers’ Series at the Fernie Heritage Library on March 10.
In an interview with The Free Press Adderson explained how her 2014 novel Ellen in Pieces came to be.
“I read a couple of books that in the title said novel and I thought to myself this is not a novel. These are linked short stories,” said Adderson. “Although they were wonderful books, one was Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and the other was A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I loved them but my reaction after reading them was, does the publisher think that we are so stupid that we can’t tell the difference between a collection of short stories and a novel? And then I felt quite sad, I thought do publishers not want to admit that they are publishing short stories? Because it’s a form I love and I think that’s what I’m best at.”
Adderson has written four novels, two collections of short stories and 15 children’s books.
Before writing Ellen in Pieces she wondered if it would be possible to write a novel that followed the traditional structure, but have each chapter as a story of its own that would follow the same structure eventually bringing them together to create a novel.
“When I put it all together, of course it didn’t work at all because it was very repetitive so I ended up having to pull a lot of stuff out and shape it,” said Adderson. “But it ended up being quite an interesting structure and I wouldn’t have written it that way if I hadn’t conceived of this idea of writing it.”
In university Adderson received a teaching degree and had plans to become a teacher, she had taken a few writing classes out of interest and her professor Andreas Schroeder was very encouraging to her.
He eventually suggested that she apply for a grant, which she received and her first job out of university was working on a collection of short stories. This experience encouraged Adderson to start thinking of writing as a possible career.
Adderson believes her biggest accomplishment is the fact that she has managed to earn a living by writing fiction.
“It’s pretty hard to be a professional writer in Canada, and probably anywhere these days, and not be associated with a university and have some kind of full-time or even part-time continuously paying job,” said Adderson. I have managed to cobble a living together around the writing of fiction.”
Interviewer and fellow author Angie Abdou was thrilled to have Caroline for the last guest of the Booked series season.
“I was really excited to get Caroline,” said Abdou. “She won’t sing her own praises but she has been short-listed for every award there is, the Giller, the Governor General and she is very highly admired amongst writers.
Abdou has been interviewing Canadian authors through the Booked series for the past four years and is gearing up for the release of her fifth novel in September, What Remains.
Loosely based on the graves in Ridgemont, it is a new kind of ghost story.
“I was going to write a typical ghost story but it will be more about the way we are haunted by our ancestors mistakes - environmental and genocidal,” said Abdou. “I’ve been collaborating with the Ktunaxa to get to use their name and their language. That’s been very interesting.”
Abdou’s novel will be the first in the next series of Booked, which starts in September. Following the local author will be Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier, then Adam Louis Schroeder, followed by Joseph Boyden. The 2017/18 series will conclude with author Esi Edugyan.