Q&A with Lesley Belleau

This is your first foray into fiction. How did you come up with the idea for this work?

I came up with the idea for this work one piece at a time. Everything I wrote about had an underlying truth beneath the final work, which were sometimes relational in nature, sometimes painful, sometimes sensual. Each segment had a life truth that I felt some people may or may not relate to, but that all people could sense stirring.

What was the creative process like for you?

The creative process is always fascinating to me, as I never know what is going to pour forth until I begin writing. I am not a planner, but I am a passionate writer who hates to stop, even when morning calls, the phone rings or life insists. It felt natural, like a long run before daybreak, something that the soul and body needs.

Who did you read as a kid, and how did these first forays into reading fiction affect your sensibilities as a writer?

I read anything I could get my hands on. My mother found three huge boxes of books at a garage sale (I can’t even remember the authors), but I read everything furiously until the boxes were empty and I had to go hunting for more.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Marquez.

How and where do you write?

I write when my children fall asleep at night. I indulge during these quiet times with hot tea and a warm robe on.

Do you write with a certain audience in mind? Who is your “ideal reader”?

My ideal reader would be an audience who is hungry for real life, the sometimes impermanent, and often ugly and beautiful.

Name one person in your life who profoundly influenced your work, and why did you choose this person?

Tomson Highway profoundly influenced my work because he was never afraid to reveal the truth to his audience no matter how brutal or distasteful. In another light, he was so comfortable writing about sexuality and its impact (positive and negative) on society.

Who is your favourite protagonist in a work of fiction or poetry, and why?

My favourite protagonist in a work of fiction is Dinah from A Red Tent because she is so rich and surrounded by mothers, yet motherhood is stolen from her and happiness is fought for and fought for until she holds it in her hand. She is persistent and gentle and almost forgotten until she screams her story out loud.

In your own work, which character are you most attached to, and why?

I am most attached to the unnamed protagonist (the main character) because she is strong without knowing it and can pull from her spiritual well a confidence and hope that is not only valuable, but reassuring. She brings a sensual element to the book that is stronger than her lack of confidence and fears, that brings a connective element of the spiritual and physical and emotional and winds them together beautifully.

Tell us a little about the overarching theme of your work, and why you felt compelled to explore it.

The overarching theme of my work is the tenacity of my people, specifically Native women in Canada. I felt compelled to explore it, besides the fact that I am a Native woman, because of the issues and struggles that are within our lives commonly. Native women are the strongest women I know and pull strength from their community, each other, the wisdom of our grandmothers, and mostly from our Creator. I find that our woman are resilient, are warriors and not the victims that are portrayed/stereotyped often in society and must be seen as such. Though I approach issues such as alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, these do not weaken my characters; they express the strength that will be used to pull through these things.

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