by Sara Grant.
by Sara Grant.
Writing fiction is a funny business. There’s a story you want to tell. You pluck characters from your imagination and create a world for them to inhabit. You go to great length to spin an engaging plot, twisted with sub-plots that you hope satisfies your readers. You write and revise and re-imagine, but when it’s all said and done and you read your story with a critical eye, you realize how much of yourself has sneaked onto the page.
I heard Hilary Mantel speak about her memoir Giving Up the Ghost. Someone asked her if it was odd to have complete strangers know so much about her life from her memoir. She said something like: in a memoir she controls what her readers know about her life, but in her fiction she unconsciously reveals so much about herself.
I wholeheartedly agree. Sometimes writing fiction is like looking through a magic window and telling your readers what you see on the other side. Other times the writing process can surprise you and you realize you’re looking in a mirror.
Dark Parties was a creative journey to the future, but it was also a cathartic journey to my past. My grandma passed away more than a decade ago, but, like my main character Neva, I still miss my grandma every day. Many details I included about Neva’s grandma were based on my dad’s mother – the way she smelled, how she loved to dress in bold colours, etc. She was a wonderful grandma who had a great imagination, feisty spirit, and a fantastic sense of humour.
Growing up, I’d often stay overnight with her. She would always share wonderful bed-time stories. They weren’t concoctions from her imagination but delightful tales about little Bobby and Donny – my dad and uncle. I’d beg her to tell me another and another. She shared my family heritage through these and other stories so it’s only fitting that I share a few fragments of her in my debut novel.
I didn’t set out to write a tribute, but I found myself writing this dystopian novel with the relationship between Neva and her missing grandma at its heart. I understood Neva’s yearning to see her beloved grandma again and her willingness to risk everything to find out what had happened to her. Every time I read Dark Parties, my heart fills with hope that Neva may find her grandma.
The pride I feel when I hold my first novel in my hand is overwhelming, but it is multiplied when I think that maybe I’ve found a small way for my grandma and her love of stories to live on.
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