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Tour de Blog: Kathy Para

Posted Kathy Para on Jun 22, 2014

My fellow BC Book Prizes finalist, Janie Chang, invited me to participate in a Blog Tour, and since I don’t have a blog she’s offered to host my offering on her site. Thanks, Janie! Here is my take on the four questions making the rounds.

What am I working on?

Constructing a road trip narrative is what occupies me at the moment. The structure is coming together, the pieces bolted together awkwardly. Once the narrative line is set, I’ll take apart the pieces and rearrange them to make the strongest possible arc. Set in Montana in the 1910’s, an era I’m happy to spend my days in, my characters are travelling north toward the shining beacon of Canada, leaving carnage in their wake. 

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ve been thinking a lot about character, given that the female character in my novel, Lucky, is hard headed, gets herself into a load of trouble and suffers for her actions. For some, it isn’t the uplifting reflection of how strong women characters are often composed: wise but flawed, possessed of an inner beauty or insight, and armed with agency and sensitivity. 

No, Ani is an addict, likes sex without emotional attachments, speaks before she thinks, and looks at the world through a cynical lens. She doesn’t make for the most ‘connectable’ character and yet I admire her greatly. However, I still get comments that she’s a tough character to like. 

I love ‘unlikeable’ characters. I see them everywhere, in the works of Cormac McCarthy, Will Self, JM Cotzee, Chuck Palahniuk, Martin Amis, Douglas Glover. There’s so much to work with, a compelling arc for the character to travel. It’s something, though, that I rarely see in work by women writers, or particularly in women characters and, in this process, I wonder if I’ve bumped up against a glass wall. In my experience, women can be as unpleasant as men, and my experience with book clubs is that the readers come to empathize with Ani, or at least admire her gumption and find meaning in her story. 

I think this is new area for women writers, seen in Sheila Heti’s work or Lena Dunham’s. Are women portrayed in fiction allowed a full range of character traits, or only the kind that will sell novels?  The perception of women’s roles may be so entrenched that there’s no room for tough women characters—I hope not, because another one is coming down the pipe.

Why do I write what I do?

I like to shake up women’s roles. There should be no difference in what a woman character is allowed to do compared to a male character. It’s uncomfortable perhaps, or challenging, but that’s what literature is supposed to achieve, a new way of looking at the world.

How does my writing process work?

I have stacks of books and paper, a telephone, used tea cups, lists of things to do, bills, photographs, crumpled post-its, and a cup with out-of-ink pens and mechanical pencils sitting on my desk. Amidst the chaos is an old computer, and an office chair that used to belong to author, Marilyn Simonds. First I dig down to the external hard drive and flick it on. Then I punch the tower button with my big toe and wait for my clunker to warm up. In the meantime I get tea. I rarely clean up my office. I don’t know why. It seems reflective of my process, somehow, the way I sort, save, or stack ideas, and make something out of nothing.

Next up on the tour will be novelist and poet Gillian Wigmore and Eufemia Fantetti, runner up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. 

Here are some other great entries in the Tour de Blog so far:

Theodora ArmstrongKathy Page * Janie Chang * Lorna Suzuki * Barbara Lambert * Matilda Magtree * Alice Zorn * Anita Lahey * Pearl Pirie * Julie Paul * Sarah Mian * Steve McOrmond * Susan Gillis * Jason Heroux

If you like this blog, please tweet it out or share or like on Facebook. (below) That would be awesome. Leaving a comment is equally awesome! -- Janie


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