Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


The Origins of Fling!

At my readings, many have asked me what the impetus was for writing Fling! I’ve explained that I started keeping notes for the book in 1999. At that time, I wanted to write a lovely lyrical novel, a serious work that would allow me to explore the grandmother on my mother’s side who was very unusual for her era.

How unusual? Some background. Her husband, the one grandparent I did interact with when I was growing up, had given up his job as a Scottish schoolmaster at Achiltibuie, a tiny village in the highlands. He traveled to Canada on his own, hoping to make a better life for himself, his wife, and his five children. One problem: WWI broke out, and it was impossible for the family to board a ship at that time. They had to wait until the war ended before making the crossing, a total of seven years. By then it was almost 1920.
His oldest son, Alasdair, refused to leave Skye, but the other three boys, my mother, and my grandmother did leave behind all of their family to join my grandfather. It wasn’t a happy reunion. They gave up a community they had been part of all of their lives for the frigid, barren prairies. Mum has told me that Grandpa was physically and verbally abusive with my grandmother. A feminist before her time, she refused to put up with his behavior and moved out. She found a housekeeping job in Mount Royal, a weSlide1althy area of the city.

Apparently, she had an affair with her married boss and joined him in a trip to Mexico City where she stayed. He must have returned, leaving her there to fend for herself. She never did return. At some point, a priest contacted Grandpa because she was dying. He was about to send the money for her to return to Canada, but she didn’t make it.

This woman has haunted me over the years. Who was she and how did she find the courage to step out of a conventional life, choosing instead to explore a country hundreds of miles away? These were the questions that prompted me to attempt to capture her story in Fling! and the repercussions for all involved. It led me to unveil four generations of women and the challenges they had faced in their lives. Instead of the book being a serious exploration of these ancestors, it turned out to be more comic, as I discovered the funny bone in myself and the lighter side of their adventures. It was a way of dealing with painful material without it becoming lugubrious. According to the reviews I’ve had so far, I succeeded.

6 thoughts on “The Origins of Fling!

  1. I don’t recall the exact area, it was about 30 years ago. I would have to check my travel journal. We stayed at a b and b owned by a lovely older woman who had us all eat around the same table and laughed when I asked for a napkin (apparently she took that to mean a sanitary napkin, how embarrassing!). We did find a pub one evening and met a lovely couple from somewhere in England. I mostly recall feeling like I was free, nearer heaven in some way. As far as the novel (fiction), I wrote the whole thing in third person from the perspective of the young main character I imagined as my grandmother. Years later I rewrote it in first person and incorporated a more mystical aspect that was underlying in some respects since my great great grandmother seemed to have some synchronistic beliefs, a mix of Pentecostal and, well, I’m not sure what. She read coffee grounds and made poultices for sickness, etc. Thanks for the encouragement! I did have interest from a religious publisher at one time, but he moved to a different company before I even got close to finishing the rewrite. Really I just need to finish it for myself. I’ll leave a review for Fling when I finish it. I have a few books to finish up first!

    1. If you were in POrtree 30 years ago, I’m sure you would have visited the MacKenzie bakery. It was a popular spot. Your grandmother’s interest in reading coffee grounds reminds me of my mum and other Scottish women reading tea leaves and cards. They seemed to have a strong sixth sense. Do finish your book!

  2. I traveled to Skye in college and have wanted to go back ever since. My grandmother’s family always fascinated me, and I turned her stories into a manuscript (unpublished); your grandmother’s story sounds fascinating as well. I haven’t read your book but look forward to it!

    1. How great to hear from someone who has been to Skye. Were you in Portree? If so, did you visit the MacKenzie bakery? If you did, you would have met my cousin Douglas MacKenzie. I hope you’ll do more in terms of getting your manuscript published. Is it memoir or fiction? These stories are important to put out in the world. Let me know what you think of Fling! and its depiction of Scottish (and Mexican) life.


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