Nicole Lundrigan’s dazzling new novel Glass Boys was the official November pick of the Opinonless Virtual Book Club, and it also claimed the number three spot in our countdown of 2011’s finest reads. Not only was Ms. Lundrigan gracious enough to participate in our club’s live online discussion of her novel, but in addition she also carved some time out of her busy schedule to answer questions about her work for our web visitors as well. What follows below is a spoiler-free discussion about the themes and characters that inhabit the novel.
Nicole grew up in Upper Gullies, Newfoundland, with her five siblings and parents, John and Nancy Lundrigan. She attended Queen Elizabeth Regional High School in nearby Foxtrap. During her final year at QERHS, she enjoyed a semester of school in Amiens, France where she lived with a Baron and Baroness in the Chateau de Prouzel.
After high school, Nicole moved to Fredericton, and earned a BSc from the University of New Brunswick. The summer after graduation, she resided in the small community of Morawhanna, Guyana, where she helped to rebuild a schoolhouse, volunteered with a doctor bringing healthcare to remote villages, and assisted in a sea turtle conservation program on Shell Beach. Upon returning to Canada, Nicole attended Saint Mary’s University (Halifax) and received a BA (honours) in anthropology. During her time in Halifax, she worked on an archaeological dig which involved the removal and analysis of skeletal remains beneath the Little Dutch Church. In 1996, she moved to Ontario, and completed an MSc from the University of Toronto with a focus on physical anthropology. Her main area of interest was understanding the conditions affecting the degradation of DNA in postmortem skeletal remains.
Shortly after graduation, she began freelance writing and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Reader’s Digest, Mothering: The Natural Family Living Magazine, Law and Order: Police Management, and the Halifax Daily Herald. She is the author of four novels: Unraveling Arva, Thaw, The Seary Line, and Glass Boys (forthcoming Fall 2011, Douglas and McIntyre). Her literary fiction has been selected as a top ten pick by Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail, was long-listed for the Relit Award, and given honourable mention for the Sunburst Award.
She resides in Ontario with her family. (Official bio)
O: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about your work. Can you give folks some background around how it was that you chose to become a writer?
NL: I had my first child shortly after finishing my graduate degree, and I decided I wanted to stay at home. I also wanted to have some type of career, and writing nicely fit the bill. Initially I began writing freelance articles, and eventually I decided to try writing a novel.
TE: Glass Boys deals with some difficult subject matter. Where did the original idea for this novel come from?
NL: The original idea was a very vague. I wanted to look at the bond between two brothers, Melvin and Toby, and what might happen if that bond was strained. As I began writing, characters walked into the picture and did various things, and the story rolled out from there.
TE: As a writer, do you find you tend to be more focused on trying to tell a good story or on developing great characters?
NL: I don’t necessarily focus on either. I try to write a story that I find engaging and feels real. Sometimes that involves reaching into a character’s personality, and sometimes that involves interaction and conflict or simply reflection. Ultimately, I want authentic characters that have interesting lives.
TE: There are quite a few themes introduced in the novel. What would you say is the most important thing you’d like the reader to walk away with thinking or feeling after finishing Glass Boys?
NL: This is a tough question. I’m not really sure. I can tell you what I was thinking and feeling when I walked away. As I was writing, I made certain assumptions about some of the characters. I had their personalities clearly defined in my head. But sometimes my characters had traits I had not initially identified, and their motives were more complicated than I had imagined. In many ways, I feel that can be true of real people. The more I write, the more I recognize that every life is an extraordinary tangle.
TE: Glass Boys seems to be filled with an overabundance of strong male voices. Was it a conscious decision to feature less female characters in the novel or was this something that just happened naturally as you were writing?
NL: It happened naturally. My primary focus was on the two brothers, and their voices came quite naturally to me.
TE: As a female author do you find it more challenging to write characters of the opposite sex?
NL: Not really. Their voices were very clear in my head. Plus I grew up with four brothers, and they were all unique personalities. I think that helped me to capture the male voice.
TE: Which of the characters was your favorite to write and why?
NL: In Glass Boys, my favourite character was Toby. He was both gentle and tough at the same time, and sadness never seemed to cling to him. He was the strand of light through the book, and when I think about him, I hope he’s content.
TE: How similar in tone are your first three novels when compared to Glass Boys?
NL: I would say Glass Boys is the darkest of my books. The subject matter is darker, and the relationships are occasionally very caustic.
TE: Can you give our readers a sneak peek at what you’re working on now? What will your next book be about?
NL: My first three books were based in Newfoundland, but I’m trying a completely different setting this time around. My husband and his family are from former Yugoslavia, and over the years I’ve heard so many stories and learned so much about their culture. I’ve taken one particular story from my father-in-law, and am using that seed to write a mystery about a clutch of Roman coins, a missing boy, his mother, and his best friend.
Nicole Lundrigan’s latest novel Glass Boys is currently available for purchase in Canada and will officially land in the United States in the Fall of 2012. You can learn more about Ms. Lundrigan and her entire body of work by visiting her official website which can be found at http://nicolelundrigan.com.