A Conversation with Nicole Lundrigan

Nicole_LundriganNicole 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.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.