Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spotlight on Sunburst: The Sun, The Moon and Me

First time seeing Finton Moon

I've had a grand time getting to know my fellow short-listed authors for the Sunburst Awards. I'm not sure exactly when the winner will be announced, but I expect it to be quite soon. Good luck to Derryl, Emily, Martine and Rio - all very fine writers who deserve awards, nominations and plenty of
readers. Oh, and if you haven't read them yet, please scroll down the page to read the features I've posted on each of these authors. My hope all along has been that by getting to know them a little and being introduced to the kind of work they do, that at least some of my own readers and friends will give these other authors a try.

"Speculative fiction" is a category in which I never realized my writing belonged. In fact, I generally am not fond of labels or limitations of any sort, but sometimes it's necessary in order to define oneself by what one is, rather than by what one is not.

That said, as I've seen for myself in this year's nominees, the category of "literature of the fantastic" can encompass all kinds of writing - and quite often, prose of the very highest calibre.

The fact that Finton Moon is getting some critical attention on a national scale is a lovely feeling. When it first came out, it got much attention here at home because my previous book, Moonlight Sketches, had won the NL Book Award, only weeks earlier. But, for whatever reason (most likely timing - the book came out in late June, which is too late for summer "best of" lists and even too late for the fall lists, which didn't include it because, technically it was a summer book) Finton Moon was ignored by certain national reviewers, thus reducing its chances for national attention. In a Giller-centric world, in fact, even though the Sunburst Awards is a truly national award with some international ramifications - and the news of the short-list announcement made waves of various sizes on websites, blogs and in media all over the world - most book reviewers have paid little attention to the list, even though the panel of judges is a stellar one that rivals any such jury this country can produce. I would also argue that the list of short-listed books is more diverse than your average national literary award, and the writing is as good as any.

I've personally seen many more sales, some very nice mentions in local media (thanks especially to The Telegram, The Charter and Transcontinental media across the province), and, of course, as I said, a great shout of publicity internationally that will hopefully pave the way for other things - and already has, since this award is partly responsible for me being able to begin a regional tour in support of Finton Moon this coming January (2014).

The most satisfying part of it all for me, besides getting to know these four other authors, has been that Finton Moon was nominated at all. Think on it: with no national exposure, published by a small press on the far end of the country (thank you, Creative Publishers!), no big blurbs from well-known authors on the front cover, and no real sense of who this "Gerard Collins" guy from the east coast of Canada even was, these five jurors read somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-plus books and plucked this rather large and somewhat strange novel from obscurity to give it not only the proverbial time of day, but to shine a spotlight on it and essentially say to the literary world in Canada: "Hey, lookit! Here's one that you guys missed."

Local media and book bloggers, I should point out, have been very kind, and reviews have been incredible. In fact there's much more to come from Finton Moon, as will be revealed in time, but to the Sunburst jury (Rebecca Bradley, Tony Burgess, Shari Lapena, Barbara Roden and Leon Rooke, whose work was phenomenally difficult, I've no doubt, considering how many books and the large number of truly good books there were to read), I sincerely want to thank you - no matter who wins. It takes courage, as a literary competition judge, to select from a veritable slush pile of published books a novel that hardly anyone else seems to know about and to like it well enough to promote it as one of your favourites, knowing how much the nomination would mean to any one of those other authors, many of whom are much better known and more decorated than I am. I'm not exactly sure how, or even why Finton Moon was deserving of the honour more than many other novels, but I'll take it and run with it, and try to prove you right in the years to come.

So, here's what they said about my book:

Growing up in the 1970s in the outport town of Darwin, Newfoundland—a place connected to, but remote from, the rest of the province—Finton Moon realizes from an early age that he is different. He seems to have the ability to heal the wounds of himself, and others; an ability which sets him even further apart from his community, and the people around him, even as he desperately wants to belong.

The author grounds Finton Moon in warts-and-all reality, his lyrical storytelling creating a vivid and realistic world full of all-too-human characters, where poverty and violence exist alongside friendship and love, and where Finton must learn to find his way. It is a magical and compelling novel, like a long-form version of a Maritime ballad.

I'd do an interview with myself, but I think I've just said everything I wanted to say. And, face it, if you read my blog regularly, you already know who I am and that I'm not only genuinely thrilled and humbled about this short-listing but that I sincerely wish all the best to each of the other four authors - not only with the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic - but in their lives and careers, henceforth. It's not an easy road, or an easy life, and we've somehow each found our way to this point. Some of you have received other distinctions; for others, this is new, higher air. Either way, I expect each of you will be breathing this air again and again, and for many years to come.

This is my last word on the Sunburst Awards until the winner is announced. Thanks for reading these entries every week or so, and I hope you've found some new favourites to read.



  1. I think it's marvellous that your work is getting the positive attention it deserves. Here's hoping this is just the tip of a very large iceberg!

  2. Thank ye much. :-) It's a splendid feeling, I must admit. So lovely to hear from you, as always.