Interview: Shaena Lambert

December 7, 2012
Radiance
November 30, 2012
Interview: David Wong
December 15, 2012

W elcome Shaena! I've wanted to write a review of Radiance and do this interview for ages, but you've been so busy.  

JC: What are you working on right now? 

SL: I just finished my book of short stories, Oh, My Darling, and it’s with my editor now. I found out yesterday that The Walrus magazine would like to publish the title story next year. I’m really pleased about that.  I’m now working on a novel, just working slowly into the mood, developing characters, prodding at scenes, working to understand the story. It feels good to pace myself for something longer after doing so many short stories in a row.

My husband and I have also just bought a cabin on Cortes Island. So I’ve gotten involved in the politics of the island. I am working to support a blockade of islanders who have stopped logging trucks from going in and logging the old-growth forest in the north part of the island. TWS graduate Carrie Saxifrage – a long-time Cortesian and a non-fiction writer -- has been helping bring me up to speed on the issue, and we have been doing some writing together.

And then there’s the usual. Dog walking. Reading. I just finished Sheila Heti’s book, How Should a Person Be? And found it funny and compelling and upsetting – all at the same time.

I’ve got two William Trevor collections on my side table, and I’m excited about diving into them.

JC: One of the two central characters in Radiance is Daisy, who starts out as the sort of 1950’s housewife that people tend to dismiss. Yet by the end of the novel, she has dignity and resilience after navigating through complex domestic, social, and politically-charged situations. Tell us how Daisy evolved in your creative process -- specifically, when did she become real to you?  

SL: That’s a great question – when does a character become real? I think Daisy became real when I changed her name. She had been ‘Mary’ for a long time, with dark hair and a kind of nondescript face. And  when I changed her name to Daisy, she crisped up nicely, and I could see the outside of her so much more clearly. Her freckles. Her age spots. Her hair, which turned immediately to a sandy blonde.  I could even see her lapsed Catholicism. Names are so important.

JC: What’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you first started writing novels?

SL: One piece of advice – that’s hard, Janie. You know from being in my mentor group that I have a lot more than one! I would say one of the the biggest things for me has been to learn that the words themselves, even if I love them, are usually expendable. What’s important is where they lead you. If they lead you to a place where you go ‘aha’ – and then realize the whole story or novel has to be changed, then that’s not a catastrophe: that’s a piece of grace. And the voice that says ‘axe everything – you’re in a new world now,’ is a voice that should definitely be listened to.

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