Reed Stirling lives in Cowichan Bay, BC, and writes when not painting landscapes, or travelling, or taking coffee at The Drumroaster, a local café where metaphor and metaphysics clash daily. His fiction has appeared in a wide variety of venues. His first published novel is Shades Of Persephone, 2019.
Lighting The Lamp, a fictional memoir set in Montreal, was published in March 2020.
Workspace in Cowichan Bay home
ESCAPE WITH A WRITER SUNDAY
From the Diane Bator Blog, March 15, 2020
Q & A
1.LIFE OUTSIDE OF WRITING
Before retiring and taking up writing fiction as a past time, I taught English Literature. (Several talented students of mine have gone on to become successful writers.) My wife and I built a log home in the hills of southern Vancouver Island, and survived totally off the grid for twenty-five years during which time the rooms in that house filled up with books, thousands of student essays were graded, and innumerable cords of firewood were split. Life outside of writing now includes painting landscapes, reading, fishing, cycling, skiing, and travel.
2. WORK IN PROGRESS
I am working on a first draft of a work tentatively titled Square Saint-Louis, where the troubles in a contemporary family mirror those of the tragic poet Émile Nelligan.
Brendan Young, a Calgary based businessman who travels more than he’d like, admits to having absolutely no patience for the intransigence of his music-obsessed, teenage son, Elliot. Ongoing domestic disputes have intensified over the years: antipathy now verges on hostile rejection. Elinore, an equally conflicted wife and mother, is threatening separation, a source of great anxiety for Brendan who turns to alcohol for the understanding that eludes him on the home front. His sojourn in Montreal, a city not unfamiliar to him, leads him incident by surreal incident, towards greater understanding through familiarity with the tragic story of Émile Nelligan, who, as a nineteen year-old, enjoyed a successful entry into the artistic community of Montreal in the last decade of the 19th century, and then fell victim to madness. Reconnecting with Emery St James Montesquieu, among old antagonists he encounters at a Yamaska College reunion, proves not only enlightening for Young in its mirroring effect — the troubles in his family are reflected dramatically in those of the young afflicted poet — but also redemptive. Elliot, the musician, will have his apotheosis.
3. MOST DIFFICULT PIECE
The most difficult piece I’ve had to deal with, a chapter, in fact, from Lighting the Lamp titled “Glorious Disorder,” was published in Humanist Perspective (Fall 2019).
On the one hand, the selection deals in a straightforward manner with the nature of metaphysical belief, which can be a very sensitive topic for some readers. On the other hand, my characters have to come to grip with the destructive nature of the Guillain-Barré syndrome. Deeply conflicted about the whys and wherefores of the devastating illness his granddaughter suffers, my protagonist explains that the tragic situation facing the family is not divinely sanctioned but “is simply a disorder arising out of the seeming randomness of the evolutionary process that the cosmos contrived, one that brought us into being, and one that can take us out.”
In reality, my neighbours’ young daughter suffered for months at the hands of this insidious affliction. The whole family was displaced and suffered much. In time, the girl recovered, as does my imagined character.
More recently I research things online. However, the reference books I consult (be they literary, mythological, philosophical, architectural, psychological, historical, scientific, geographical, linguistic) I find on my own shelves or on those of our local library. Most enjoyable is research done in situ, Greece for Shades Of Persephone, for example, and Montreal in large part for Lighting The Lamp and the novel I’m presently working on. Reading other fiction can also be a source relevant information. Simple observation of people helps in many ways, verisimilitude being the objective of the observation whatever the setting. I lean towards mystery in my writing, with romantic entanglement an integral part of the plot development. Greek mythology and literary allusion underpin a great deal of what unfolds. Irony is pervasive.
5. BOOKS, AUTHORS, & SOURCES OF INSPIRATION
I read widely, and have done so for decades, the classics included. At present, works by Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, and John le Carré await. The muse visits me most often when I read the novels of John Banville.
My reading has definitely influenced my writing. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandrian Quartet provided the impetus for Shades Of Persephone.John Fowles’ The Magus gave me the Greek setting. Joyce’s Portrait inspired more than one scene in Lighting The Lamp, as did the philosophical musing of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Marcel Proust plays a part here as well, as do Richard Dawkins, Emily Dickinson, and Albert Camus. The poems of Émile Nelligan are working thematically into Square Saint-Louis.
Teaching literature has had an influence on my writing. When you introduce young minds to the great works of great artists, (e.g., Hamlet, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Portrait of the Artist As A young Man, Gulliver’s Travels, The Handmaid’s Tale), you are constantly challenging yourself to get it right, to understand not only who, what, and when, but also how, and to elucidate on these considerations as discussion ensues. In your own writing, you want to emulate, difficult though it is to do so, but you have to try.
Greatest support and understanding comes from my wife, travel guide and firewood organizer supreme.
Q & A from BWL blogger Janet Lane Walters
Before retiring and taking up writing fiction as a past time, I taught English Literature. Several talented students of mine have gone on to become successful writers.
Did teaching influence my choices as a writer? Absolutely.
When you introduce young minds to the great works of great artists, (e.g., ), you are constantly challenging yourself to get it right, to understand not only who, what, and when, but also how, and to elucidate on these considerations as discussion ensues. In your own writing, you want to emulate, difficult though it is to do so, but you have to try.
Genres: I lean towards mystery, with romantic entanglement an integral part of the action. Greek mythology and literary allusion underpin plot development. Irony is pervasive.
Latest release: Shades Of Persephone is my first full-length novel, published with BWL in September 2019, although seventeen excerpts from this work have appeared previously in a variety of publications, in both hard copy and online.
At present I am doing a final revision of Lighting The Lamp, a full-length novel due to be published in 2020 by BWL. Sixteen selections from this work have been published independently, the latest being “Glorious Disorder” in Humanist Perspective (Fall 2019).
Concurrently, I am working on a first draft of a work tentatively titled where the troubles in a contemporary family mirror those of the tragic poet Émile Nelligan.
Does my reading influence my writing? Absolutely.
Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandrian Quartet provided the impetus for Shades Of Persephone. John Fowles’ The Magus gave me the Greek setting.
Joyce’s Portrait inspired more than one scene in Lighting The Lamp, as did the philosophical musing of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Marcel Proust plays a part here as well.
The poems of Émile Nelligan are working thematically into Séjour Saint-Louis.
The muse visits me when I read the novels of John Banville and Ian McEwan.
Find me at the following:
My website: reedstirlingwrites.com
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