Angie Abdou is one of the most popular writers on the Canadian literary scene right now. Since being a finalist for the Canada Reads series a few years ago, her works seem to reflect a reality that is consistent with many readers in their day-to-day lives. Now with her latest work, Abdou digs a bit into the past a bit. Abdou was kind enough to answer a few questions not only her upcoming work In Case I Go, but also a few of her upcoming projects as well for me.
1) First off, could you give an outline of “In Case I Go” ?
Eli’s parents (Lucy and Nicholas) have reached a rough spot in their marriage and decide to leave the hectic city in an attempt to find peace in a small tourist, mining town in the mountains. They move into a little miner shack originally owned by Eli’s great-great grandfather and namesake, Elijah Mountain. While Lucy and Nicholas deal with their own adult problems, Eli befriends the next door neighbours, a Ktunaxa man named Sam and his troubled niece named Mary. Gradually it becomes clear that Eli must make amends to Mary. They’re haunted by the mistakes of their ancestors, and are challenged to find a way to reconcile.
2) Was there any research involved in writing this book? Is there anything you are hoping to accomplish with it?
Yes, I did a lot of research. First, I read theoretical texts about history and haunting. I didn’t intend to write a historical novel but, of course, I kept getting pulled that way. Initially, I resisted scenes set in the far past, but eventually I had to give up that resistance. The characters are, after all, haunted by … the past. Once I realized the book had to go there, the Fernie Museum Director Ron Ullrich proved tremendously useful – with details on everything from what kitchen clocks would look like to what women’s bathing suits would look like to what men would have stayed home from the war to how much one might pay for a prostitute. What do I hope to accomplish? My main hope is that readers will be entertained and compelled to finish the book, enthusiastically even. After that, what each reader takes away from the book is up to that reader. But I’m very curious. I’m ready to hear from readers.
3) There is some confusion over official release dates of the book – Can you confirm the official date of its release? Are you planning a reading/book tour in connection for it? If yes, are there any particular dates/events that you are looking forward to attending?
4) You mentioned in our last Q&A “I learn things with each book I write, and apply those lessons to the next.” Now that you have written another book, do you still feel that is true?
Lately, I’ve heard myself saying that each book is a reaction against the last book. My 2014 novel BETWEEN was very contemporary and rooted in realism. With this 2017 novel, I went in a different direction, writing many scenes in the early 1900s and including a fantastical element, something I’ve never before experimented with. With this 2017 novel, my biggest challenge was the Ktunaxa element, what stories I could tell, whose voices I could depict, and how to do so as carefully and respectfully as possible. With my 2018 book, I’m reacting against that challenge and telling a story that is entirely my own: the memoir of a hockey mom.
5) Your fan page on Facebook mentions that your hockey memoir “HOME ICE: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom” will be published next year. Am I right in assuming this is your first non-fiction book that has been published? How did you like writing this book as opposed to your fiction work?
I have this delusion around writing. The last book I wrote was always “super fun” to write and the next book I write will be “super easy.” The book I”m currently writing is always torture. I”m currently writing HOME ICE.
6) You also mention on Facebook that you have a collection of essays on sports literature being published. Could you give a bit of a description about that work? How did you get involved with that?
My day job is university professor, and I often teach sport literature courses. These types of courses are increasing in popularity in Canada and US, and as author of a swimming-wrestling novel (THE BONE CAGE), I frequently get invited to speak to students of sport lit. During these visits, professors have complained about a lack of secondary sources, essays to which they might direct their students as samples or use as material to write lectures. Jamie Dopp and I put together this collection in response to that complaint. There are ten essays on the Canadian sport lit books taught most frequently, novels like King Leary, The Good Body, and Shoeless Joe.
7) (So here is the dreaded question I ask writers but I get yelled at by my followers of my blog if I don’t ask it.) Are you working on any new fiction right now? If yes, are there any details you can share?
My attention right now is focused on the hockey-mom memoir. But there are some fiction ideas simmering – nothing I could articulate yet.
8) As I talk to a lot of writers right now, they are getting a little fatigued with social media. Yet, many fans of their writings use social media to connect with their favourite writers. Are you still comfortable with social media as a means to connect with your fan base?
Finding a balance with social media and not letting it take up time that could be directed to more real activities is always a challenge. However, for now, I do think I need to be there. I appreciate the way it keeps me connected to writing and reading communities throughout the country. It allows me to live remotely without feeling isolated or disconnected.
9) Is Fernie still an idyllic place for you to live in and write? How is your family reacting to your writing career?
My husband tolerates my writing career, barely. I travel a lot with writing commitments and when I am home I’m often stressed about deadlines. He’s not a writer, or even much of a reader, so he tires of both those things – the absence and the anxiety. My kids love books, though, and they’re proud that I’m a writer, though they talk as if “Angie Abdou, the writer” is someone different than “Mom.” “Mom” is far less interesting.
In 2015, I moved to Alberta for work – I’m a professor at Athabasca University – but I still own a place in Fernie and am actively involved in the arts community there, helping run a writers’ series called BOOK!. Yes, it is idyllic.