I've been meaning to write this post for, apparently more than four months now. When I finally sat down to write about an article that I thought I'd read a few weeks ago, it turned out that said article was actually from the June 2014 issue of Quill and Quire. Once I considered and rejected the possibility that I had contracted some sort of neurological virus that caused me to lose months of memory at a time, I concluded that I am simply rather lazy and need to post more often.
So, many months ago, supposedly, I came across this fantastic column by the incredibly talented Nadia Bozak.
I do not know Bozak personally, but I have been somewhat obsessed with her debut novel, Orphan Love, since it was first published in 2007. This is one of a handful of books that I would consider trajectory changing for me, in terms of my writing life. It feels simultaneously experimental and digestible. The story revolves around the romantic relationship, and attendant social struggles, of a pair of misfits, and yet is able to employ elements of mystery and thriller as well. It's a kick-ass book. Rough, and fun, and interesting. Reading it, I kept thinking, "This feeling, this one that I'm getting right now, I wish I got this feeling from every book." It was a feeling of being emotionally engaged in the characters and their relationship, tempered by a healthy does of surprise, and perhaps shock. I understood the story and the people in it, but I was constantly reminded that I didn't know them, that they were unknowable, at least until I had reached the last page.
It is the same feeling I got reading Whispers the Missing Child by D.O. Dodd, The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, and, perhaps unexpectedly, A Complicated Kindness and Summer of My Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews.
What I did not get from Orphan Love, taken completely on its own and judging it on the prose alone, is how much of a "McCarthy-head" Bozak is. That fact becomes much more clear in her sophomore novel, El Nino, but I am still devouring that one, so perhaps more on that topic at a later date.
Bozak's love of the McCarthy canon is something that hits very close to home for me as well. The simultaneous affection for and feeling of alienation from his work is incredibly familiar. To see Orphan Love as an intuitive response to Blood Meridian opens up a million mental doors for me in forming a deeper understanding of the novel.
I think many writers struggle with an inability to write intuitively, to simply immerse ourselves in a story and tell it in the best way we can, with feeling and relatability as the cornerstones, rather than "big ideas" or "point to prove." I would say this is particularly challenging in the early stages of a piece, before the story has fully formed in our minds, before we ourselves really know the characters.
Read Orphan Love, if you have not already. It's available in e-book format on Kobo and Kindle.