Lisa Moore’s new novel This Is How We Love delves into the complexities of family ties

Newfoundland writer Lisa Moore has been nominated four times for the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novels Open, Alligatorand Caught as well as the collection of news Something for everyone.

She also won the Commonwealth Fiction Prize, the Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award and her novel February was the winner of Canada reads in 2013.

Moore often sets her stories in Newfoundland, where she was born and raised and lives with her family. His latest novel, That’s how we love, also set in St. John’s and follows the aftermath of a brutal attack in which a young man is beaten and stabbed. The story explores questions about what makes a family, how family shapes us, and whether we really choose who we love.

She spoke with CBC Books about the themes and the writing process That’s how we love.

The gift of history

“I don’t have a dedicated workspace. I’m a nomad – I can work anywhere. I often write by hand and work with a laptop on my lap. During the pandemic, I was in the countryside, so I was often written next to the wood stove.

The more I teach, the more I realize that everyone has a story – and also that stories are gifts.

“I get up at five and try to do the first drafts when my mind is still soft – or there’s no criticism – and I’ll write maybe an hour and a half, two hours, then the rest of the day I also teach creative writing, at Memorial [University].

“So the rest of my afternoon is just picking up that work and trying to shape it and seeing where it might fit in with what I did in the morning, but also looking at student work and talking to students. And I find that deeply inspiring. The more I teach, the more I realize that everyone has a story and that all of those stories form a community – and also that stories are gifts.”

Close to the house

“I think St. John’s is a breeding ground for stories because I’ve traveled a lot, but mostly I’ve lived there all my life – it’s home. And so I know a lot of people there very well- down, and I saw the city change and recorded those changes.

“It’s very close to the ocean – you can walk for five minutes and be on a cliff, and a wild fox can pass by and there are crashing waves below. We’re also an oil-producing province, even now – we depend on resource extraction in a deeply problematic way, and all of these things affect how we live and what happens to us.

“We are in a bad financial situation in Newfoundland, and I recognize how difficult it is – we feel it in our body, you know? I mean, even food costs about three times as much when you go to the grocery store in Newfoundland as it does in Toronto.

Examine the harsh realities

“I’ve seen the violence escalate in St. John’s over the past decade. And I know a lot of young men carry knives, even in high school. It’s pretty pervasive – and also commonplace. I think young people feel like it’s an ordinary thing to do in a way that it certainly wasn’t when I was growing up. There’s a frustration that I think is cross-generational that erupts maybe because of drugs, but also simply because of intergenerational precariousness, and the removal of a social safety net.

“I started to fear for the young people I knew who were going home at night after a night in a bar or after a night shift in the service industry. And it was easy to imagine that something terrible could happen. And I guess I started writing this story because I knew terrible things were happening and it was escalating.

There’s a frustration that I think is intergenerational and that erupts perhaps because of drugs, but also simply because of intergenerational precariousness and the removal of a social safety net.

“I wanted to write this book because I felt like it would help me understand the story of what brought us here to this moment. I didn’t want the stabbing that starts the book to be considered as an inexplicable or evil event – I wanted to show that it came from a long stream of frustration and deprivation and fear and lack of care in young people’s lives.

“Even those who are sometimes protected can fall into this sphere of influence.”

Community care

“We’ve been living in a booming economy for a long time. So it’s kind of a rollercoaster. And it’s throwing people’s livelihoods into chaos. But there’s also – especially in the arts community, but everywhere — a great sense of connectedness There is a sense of watching over your neighbor and taking care of people.

“Part of the novel is about ‘Snowmageddon,’ the weather event we had in 2019. And I was reminded in an interview how a group of people got together and called themselves ‘angels of the snows “and went door to door delivering food and shoveling people out and just this feeling of how desperate people were to make sure everyone was okay.”

Trust the subconscious

“When I write, I rely a lot on what I call my subconscious. It’s that moment someone else might call a daydream, where you drop into an imaginary space and follow the action. I go with what’s going on, and then I step back and look at what I wrote and ask yourself what it means and where it came from.

“And it’s in that freedom that I think truths come – or as close as we come to truth. And sometimes they’re uncomfortable truths – sometimes they’re upsetting. And sometimes they’re about the greatest moments of joy or the laughter or the humor we experience.

The book is about the pleasures of loving deeply, and how important it is for us as human beings to love freely.

“The book is really about those two things. It’s about the pleasures of loving deeply and how important it is for us as human beings to love freely. In terms of the theme, I wanted to think about what really love, and how we go about it.”

Listen | Lisa Moore on The Next Chapter:

The next chapter16:46Lisa Moore on That’s How We Like It

Lisa Moore talks to Shelagh Rogers about her new book, This is How We Love.

High stakes

“Every book is a risk – it’s a challenge. You don’t know its shape until you finish it. You don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s like a dog chasing a rabbit through the woods.- you can smell the smell, but you’re just going on speed. I think it’s exciting because of that.

“I don’t know any writer who absolutely knows what’s coming. I’m sure a lot of writers have a better idea of ​​the whole trajectory of a novel before they sit down than I do. I don’t mind don’t know. But I think everyone is surprised at the end of a writing spurt by what hit the page.

It’s that burning desire to reach people, and it’s always such a nice surprise when someone seems to understand what you’re doing.

“There was the same pressure with every book, because I want everything to look good. I want it to touch people, I want people to connect with it. And I recognize how hard it is to always communicate clearly.

“As the world changes, so do the stories, and you have to keep up with the world. Even though you’re writing historical fiction, you’re writing about the present moment. So I think it’s always that challenge and that desire that drives heart beating. touching people, and it’s always such a nice surprise when someone seems to understand what you’re doing. I think it’s important to allow yourself to take risks — and in writing, it’s a risk. And it’s always the issue.”

Response from readers

“I want readers to think about how they feel – I want them to be moved. I want them to feel like they’ve lived other people’s lives – they’ve suspended disbelief and lived really those lives as deeply as I lived them when I imagined them.

I want the reader to have been engrossed in the story, hopefully there has been a bodily reaction – laughing, crying, feeling deeply.

“And I want them to feel driven by that. I mean, that’s what every writer wants. I want the reader to have been consumed by the story, to have hopefully had a bodily reaction to it – laughing, crying, feeling deeply, and then it’s up to them to decide what they made of the experience, or if it’s meaningful.

The power of connection

“How you define success is something I think about when a book comes into the world, which is the moment I’m in right now. Of course, everyone wants their book to be appreciated by as many people as possible. But to have even one person telling you how they got lost in a scene or an image, or a reader telling you at a party or something they loved, it [become] part of this thing I made.

“I’m wary of the word ‘success’, because as a teacher I know how many wonderful stories there are – I’ve seen the most wonderful stories that struggled to get published. So a better word for me might be ‘link.’ And of course my imagination goes wild with, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be great to win a gazillion dollars,’ or whatever.

“But I quickly recognized as soon as someone tells me they’ve lived in that book, even briefly, that that’s the joyful moment.”

Lisa Moore’s comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Irene B. Bowles