Thanks to Pen-L Publishing for this lovely cover of my soon-to-be released novel Freefall: A Divine Comedy. 

“These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life.”

—Laurie Ann Doyle, author of World Gone Missing.

“This is an enchanting story about old friends reuniting as they struggle with thoughts on aging, religion, motherhood, men, art, and death. A delightful trip in every respect, with plenty of surprises and laughs along the way. A Divine Comedy, indeed!”

—Mark Willen, author of the novels Hawke’s Point and Hawke’s Return.

Freefall will appear this summer. 

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Birthing a Novel

The publishing date for my new novel Freefall: A Divine Comedy draws near (July 15, 2018), and I’ve started the final editing process with Pen-L Publishing. It reminds me of when Pen-L published my debut novel, Fling! (July 2015) and how long it had taken to complete it.

When I had reviewed my notes for Fling!, I was amazed to discover I had started working on it in 1999. When I first began, I had hoped to write a lyrical novel a la Virginia Woolf. But my husband called my attention to a review of another Canadian writer’s book, Barbara Gowdy’s Mister Sandman. When I read of her comic sense, “both inventive and tough,” I realized again how much I wanted to write in this way. But I also had resisted it because the style seems limited to certain topics. It’s difficult to write beautifully and be funny, and I was letting my desire for a certain kind of  elegance inhibit the progression of what later became Fling!

imagination-3066796_1920I was particularly taken by how Gowdy steered her story between fantasy and probability, between caricature and portrayal, between broad, cruel social comedy and a sympathetic understanding of thwarted and unhappy people. It gave me hope that I could do something similar but in my own unique way.

In a short story I had written then, I got close to this type of vision. It was great fun to do, but it scared me because it got out of control. By that I mean it slipped out of the ordinary way of seeing, meaning realistic, representational prose, into something else. At the time I wondered if perhaps it was my own perverse, bizarre self I feared. But my husband, who loves that kind of humor, embraces this tendency in me and encouraged me to follow its lead. Even so, at the moment, I was torn between my wackier self and my more conventional style. I love things that are a bit mad, strange. Over the edge.

That’s one reason why writers like Roberto Bolano appeal to me. He writes realistically, but his work always has echoes of something else running through it. Something elusive that, as a reader, I can’t quite grasp. His narratives aren’t exactly dream-like, but they also aren’t mired in quotidian details. And he has a wonderful wit.

So it’s interesting for me to review how Fling! evolved. My notes show how the writer is so intricately interwoven into her work. I was not only unearthing my characters as I wrote, but I also was excavating myself, though at times it’s difficult to know the difference. Something similar happened in the second novel I published (Curva Peligrosa) and also in soon-to-be-released Freefall that features one of my zaniest characters, Tillie Bloom.

I would love to hear if other writers have had similar experiences!

by lilyionamackenzie

Lily Iona MacKenzie sprouted on the Canadian prairies under cumulous clouds that bloomed everywhere in Alberta's big sky. They were her first creative writing instructors, scudding across the heavenly blue, constantly changing shape: one minute an elephant, bruised and brooding. The next morphing into a rabbit or a castle. As an adult, Lily continues to seek instruction about fiction from clouds. Just as they provide the earth with much-needed water, she believes that stories have a similar function, preparing the mind to receive new ideas. Magical realism pulses at the heart of her narratives, her work celebrating the imagination.

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