Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A crush on Uncle Leslie

Margaret Laurence looking untouchable.
I got a nice email this morning from a woman who read Shelter and said she'd developed a crush on Uncle Leslie. I felt the same way about him when I was writing the novel. Uncle Leslie has integrity. There's a moment in the novel when Maggie turns to him for fatherly affection and he has to overcome his uneasiness about the appropriateness of the situation. He knows it would be suspect to an outsider. But he also knows she needs him. I didn't really write any of that, but I was thinking it, and admiring him.

I fell in love with all of my characters at different points when I was writing. I was thinking about that this morning and wondering whether that needs to happen when writing a novel. I was really pleased when an editor told me she thought Emil was "hot." I thought so, too. Same thing with Vern. And I loved Rita when she first appears. To me, she's so capable and competent and untouchable, in a fierce, independent way. I heard Eden Robinson say once that her characters sometimes go off and do their own thing. Rita was like that. I had ideas for her and her role in Maggie and Jenny's lives. But at some point I realized that she had ideas of her own. Then, as the people you love best do sometimes, she began to frustrate the hell out of me. She becomes emotionally self-destructive, and stubborn to boot. Her untouchability becomes a liability and she won't listen to reason (from me or anyone else). Still, I love her. But I hate her a bit, too.

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