Friday, August 10, 2012

Some of you may have seen this already: "Going underground to get some writing done. Won't be answering emails, reading manuscripts or attending events of any kind for the next four weeks unless I've already agreed to it. Summer's almost gone and my opportunity for finshing some projects is rapidly fading. Figure if I say this out loud I might be able to stick to it. Sincerely, a friend." That was my status update a week ago. I haven't been on Facebook since then, just trying to sort through some things, but mostly trying to finish the first draft of my new novel.
In Person. (Sort of.)

It's been such a fantastic and busy summer--nicer weather than we've seen in years--and two book launches for Finton Moon, in St. John's in June and Halifax in July. Before that, there was the Atlantic Book Awards, which was extremely busy and distracting week. Before that, I was working on revisions for that novel pretty much since Christmas Day. Of course, that doesn't count the judging for writing competitions, mentoring, reading manuscripts, book signings, and various other writing-related activities.

So I decided, reluctantly, that I needed some time away from FB to just get some work done before the fall semester begins and I'm back teaching, which takes up nearly all my time when I'm doing it. I've been contracted to write stories and articles, and I do want to finish that novel (I've got around 300 pages written, but I've been at that stage for over a year now).

I don't miss Facebook. But I do miss my Facebook friends. Some of you, in particular, I miss the almost daily updates and bantering. I never realized how much a part of my life it had become.

Okay, well I did, actually. That's why I had to step away for a while: I knew exactly how much a part of my life it had become. And it will be again.

The thing is with Facebook--it's not about Facebook. It's about the people on there. It's easy to forget that sometimes. We tend to make the distinction between our "real" friends and our "Facebook friends," but I'm not so sure there's a difference. I see lots of conversations and support and arguments on there that I'm not sure would ever have occurred in real life.

Sure, it's nice to hold a baby in your arms, feel its squishy, soft little fingers in your own larger hands. It's good to give a hug or get -- nothing really replaces that. And it's great to have a beer with your buddies, have an all-night gab fest with an old friend in the soft light of your living room.

But that doesn't diminish the friendships we make with people we've never met in person. They touch our lives, our hearts, our souls and they challenge and engage our minds. If you don't believe me, try telling someone on your friends list that you don't want them around anymore. Just see if you don't hurt their feelings. Just try walking away from that with a clear conscience. Fact is, you risk the same emotional connection -- if not sometimes a little more -- with your on-line friends. You risk the same kind of falling out (believe me, I've had those) and you risk the out-loud laughter (not the fake LOL thing that I can't stand--but the real stuff).

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I won't.

I'm not making much progress on the novel -- not yet anyways. But I will. Working on some stories and articles first. I'll bet some of you were silly enough to think, "Oh good for Gerard--taking a break from Facebook must mean he's taking a break, enjoying life." I wish that were true. I mean, yes, I'm enjoying life--but that wouldn't be true if I didn't enjoy work because these days, it's all work.

Not complaining. Just speaking the truth.

So back to work I go. This blog is part of that, I suppose. But I mostly just wanted to check in. Blogging is easier. I can control my time. I don't get involved in conversations and need only spend the 15 minutes or so it took to write this.

Just wanted to say "Hi!" and I'll be around again soon. Oh, and I'll likely be blogging again over the coming days and weeks. Keeps me in the game.

I miss the daily triumphs and tribulations, the wry witticisms and the useless talk about what's wrong with CanLit. I say that knowing I've engaged in such useless talk quite often myself and will do so again. It's all useless in a way. But then it's all good.

It really is.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First Review for 'Finton Moon'

My editor emailed me just before the Halifax launch of Finton Moon, asking if I'd seen this review. It took me a couple of weeks, but I was finally able to read it yesterday morning. It's nice to see a review that's thoughtful and critical, not just plot summary.


Gothic novels set in Newfoundland

by Jean Graham, The Northeast Avalon Times, July 2012

I always wonder why there aren't more horror and/or fantasy novels set in Newfoundland and Labrador. Surely we have the weather, the landscape, the old graveyards, and the human characters to inspire more than our share of the gothic.

Look what Stephen King has done for Maine -- I've never been to that state, but I know if I ever drive through, my skin will crawl whether I'm in a rural area or Bangor/Derry.

This is not a complaint about what most of our authors do write about -- don't be writing to the editor to complain that I don't like your favourite artist-downtown or coming-of-age-in-the-bay or historical fiction tale. I probably do. I just would also, greedy soul that I am, like to see our genre fiction expand.

Every so often, someone here makes at stab at it, however, and for this month's column I have two books -- one outright horror, the other described on the jacket as a "gothic, adult fairytale." Each has been a decade in development, according to the author notes. Both maybe be perfect additions for your summer reading pile, depending on your literary tastes.

Finton Moon
By Gerard Collins
Killick Press
330 Pages; $19.95

Finton Moon actually first emerged on the local literary scene as the 2001 winner of the Percy Janes First Novel Award. Eleven years later, it's here as an extraordinary addition to the scene.

It's a coming of age book, but one such as we've never seen here. Or perhaps anywhere -- books about children and adolesecents with unusual powers not being the norm these days. (And yes, I do remember the '70s -- but most of those kids were evil, possessed by demons, or both.)

The title character is a misfit in his family and his small bay town, Darwin. His father is called Tom, but I do not think that is an allusion to Stephen King's character Tom Moon in The Stand.

Finton has always healed quickly from injuries. Astonishing quickly, I mean -- minutes instead of weeks. Eventually, as a child, he discovers he can heal other people, which brings him instant notoriety in his town. The power disappears right after his first sexual experience, but show signs of re-emerging, if never quite as strong as it was originally.

A distant cousin is found dead. Tom is the suspect. there is secrecy and there are whispers. There is gossip and nastiness, both overt and covert.

Collins has created a town of characters that is both believable and memorable. You will recognize many of them -- Finton's hard-ticket best friend, his religious grandmother, supportive teachers and priests among them.

There is an unnattainable girl, and a girl who is a soulmate, but not recognized as such by Finton -- at least partly because she is from a family even lower on the town's social totem pole than his own.

The dialect never rings false, and the people Collins has created are not caricatures.

The book spans several years, and many of the central characters are children when it starts. The character development is clever -- they grow and develop and change, but none of them change in such a way as to become unrecognizable.

Eventually, the various strands of plot form a satisfying tapestry of a story. Every plot line has a conclusion -- many of them not exactly the ones you might expect, but none of them jarring with the story.

I read most of this book in one sitting of several hours, and would happily do so again. Collins has produced a razor-sharp portrait of much of what is worst and some of what is best) about small towns, thrown in a splash of fantasy and created a story that is well worth the decade or so we've been waiting for a finished product.

(Jean Graham goes on from here to review Charles O'Keefe's new novel, The Newfoundland Vampire.)