Q&A with Pamela Stewart

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

I was a private investigator for many years. I watched people who did not know they were being watched. So many people live lives of such routine, going to work, picking up kids at school, grocery shopping. I cannot tell you how many times I have followed someone to Walmart. I often worked in poor neighbourhoods. It broke my heart seeing people, especially children, living in these apartment buildings. I marvel at the strength of people in tough circumstances.

My work has also been coloured by my own life as a mother, for some years a single mother of two boys, and my health problems, living with breast cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). You have to have a sense of humour to be a private investigator on surveillance, with IBS. I use humour in my work because laughter brings people together, and because many of my stories could be considered depressing, “not the Hollywood ending” kind of stories.

What was the creative process like for you?

I never have an outline. I just write. Not in any kind of order, it is all over the place and then just comes together. Some really short stories almost come to me whole. I wrote the stories at different times and sometimes work on more than one thing at a time.

I like to write an opening line that is different and will make people want to read the rest of it. Endings are the most difficult for me to write, although sometimes the ending comes to me first.

I have a terrible memory and if I have an idea and don’t write it down right away, I’ll lose it. I don’t write a lot of drafts because I will edit as I go.

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

As a young girl, I read all the Nancy Drew books, which probably had an effect on me becoming a PI later in life. Nancy Drew brought girls together; we would trade and discuss them. I also read the Cherry Ames nurse books. It was inspiring to read about girls who were strong and independent and had dreams.

We lived in an apartment building where pets were not allowed but I read horse books, such as My Friend Flicka. The bookmobile came every week, and I always took out the maximum allowed books. Since I was kind of a loner and a morbid sort, I connected with Edgar Allan Poe's work. As a teen and young adult I read a lot of poetry. Reading saved me spiritually and literally.

One time, I was around 19; I was locked in a room at a house party with a big mean biker. I was trying to talk my way out. I had a book of poetry by Yevgeny Yevteshenko with me. He then confessed that he didn’t know how to read. I read to him. It had an effect on him; he stopped harassing me and listened. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true.

What are you reading right now?

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle. This is her first novel. It also happens to involve horses and a young girl and it’s a wonderful book.

How and where do you write?

I write at home, on my computer, I don’t have a lap top and can’t type on one, so have to sit at a desk. I sometimes write by hand in notebooks. Sometimes I like to write until 3 in the morning. I am a scattered person, I prefer to say that I am good at multitasking, but the truth is that I have a mind that is always all over the place, so reining it in is probably the most difficult thing I have to do to write.

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

Someone with an open mind or who wants to have an open mind. I am not an intellectual or an academic, I dropped out of school in grade 11 (It was the 60’s). I would like it if someone read my work and learned something, such as being more accepting of people. I would like it if it saved a little bit of a person the way reading did and does for me.

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

Barbara Gowdy. I took a writing course with her at Ryerson some years ago and she made me feel like I could be a writer. I came to it later in life. I wanted to be a writer when I was young, but was very sensitive to criticism and had no sense of self at that time, so I suppressed my desires. Becoming a mother gave me the courage to try new things. I have done so much more with my life. It is as if my sons gave me life, so I guess they are my biggest influence.

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

Scout, the narrator and protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird. She loves to read, and she is very curious. I love all the characters in that book, Atticus Finch, Boo Radley. I would like to see more good female characters in my age range: 55. Barbara Gowdy and Tom Walmsley write characters that are lost and struggling but in a much different way than the ones I write about.

I also really like Razovsky, who is the protagonist in a number of poems by Stuart Ross. Ross has a brilliant, funny, and bizarre mind. He also gives the most fabulous readings.

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

A girl named Luna who is a teenager and lives with her older gay brother and his lover. Her mother is dead and she did not know her father. I like her because I made her question everything, especially God. She values the things in people that some other people might be afraid of.

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

I guess the main theme of my work is questioning God about why things are the way they are. I am interested in how our souls become corrupted by society, materialism and violence. How we deal with loss and death is something I’m really interested in exploring in my work.

1 comment:

Beth Fehlbaum, Author said...

I really enjoyed that interview. Thanks.
Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
Chapter One is now posted!