Nic Brewer's hotly anticipated debut novel, Suture (Book*hug Press), asks pointed questions about the cost of art—on artists, on their loved ones, and more—through fantastical storytelling that pushes the boundaries of magic realism.
Eva removes her eyes in order to make her powerful films, while artist Finn offers her lungs and heart. Author Grace uses her own blood as fuel for her writing software. These strange, gory, beautiful sacrifices on the altar of art either alienate Eva, Finn, and Grace from the people who love them, or drag their loved ones into the same terrible cycle. It's storytelling that crackles and pushes, with Brewer's confidence and creativity on display on each page.
We're excited to welcome Nic, who many in the literary community already know for her work as the co-founder of Frond, an online literary journal for LGBTQI2SA writers, and their work with the micropress words(on)pages, to Open Book today to talk about Suture as part of our Long Story interview for novelists.
Nic tells us about why Suture nearly went to print without any ending at all, the toughness of cutting her favourite character, and the heartbreaking story behind their thoughtful and kind dedication.
Do you remember how your first started this novel or the very first bit of writing you did for it?
This novel started as a university assignment! I was taking a class on satire, and we could either write a final essay, or write a satire, so I wrote “On Judging Art,” a story about the cruelty of trying to claim there’s any objectivity to art. (Can you spot where it ended up in the novel? Tell me if you do!) A few years later, a friend of mine prompted me to consider writing more stories in this world, and so Suture began. (You can also subscribe to my newsletter to get a more detailed journey of Suture! It took nearly a decade to come together.)
Did the ending of your novel change at all through your drafts? If so, how?
To be honest, I’m not even sure Suture had an ending until one of its most recent drafts (and I mean recent: like, weeks before it went to print). And that’s because the novel itself changed dozens of times. It started as what I called a “novel in fragments,” – a short story collection like K.D Miller’s All Saints where we can see that it’s all taking place in the same somewhere, but they never necessarily interact with each other – which didn’t have any ending at all, per se. I always wanted the end of Suture to feel like the start of something, and how I did that changed over and over and over again, until it finally found its way home to a real ending.
Did you find yourself having a "favourite" amongst your characters? If so, who was it and why?
I actually had to cut my original favourite character! She appears in the book as a mention (Mick Archer, a famous punk drummer), and I repurposed some of my favourite sections and traits of hers into the visual artist Finn, and Finn’s kid. I liked that she just didn’t care – I wrote her as this character that was completely the opposite of me, sloppy and brash and outspoken, and I loved her. My favourite character from the final book is filmmaker Eva’s wife Dev, because she’s based entirely on my sweet, perfect fiancee. The changes I made to Eva’s storyline (which made it one of my favourites) came directly out of the new happiness and love I found when I met my girlfriend, so I can’t help but love Dev.
Did you do any specific research for this novel? Tell us a bit about that process.
Honestly I didn’t, but can you imagine if I had? “How to remove a bone from the forearm,” “What does an eye socket look like,” “How much blood can an adult human lose.”
Did you celebrate finishing your final draft or any other milestones during the writing process? If so, how?
Because Suture really started to take shape after my friend died (see my answer to the next question), it very much became a book about the value of softness and kindness and small wins – about learning the value of those things, at least. And so I did celebrate, I celebrated many times in many small ways, from going out to dinner, to buying a fancy bottle of alcohol and making cocktails at home, to posting about it on social media. I have so much wonderful news to celebrate this fall that the big, final celebration of the book being real may be swept up into another party (a housewarming party, an engagement party, a 30th birthday party), but I will gather the people who love me and we will celebrate. Always celebrate.
Who did you dedicate your novel to, and why?
Suture is dedicated to a friend of mine who died by suicide exactly three weeks before I got the email from Jay telling me they wanted to publish my book. What followed was one of the worst years of my life, but the crushing grief and trauma of the experience completely changed my perspective of what is and is not important in life. So Suture is also dedicated to “anyone who needs it,” because I tried to write about the worst of it (of life, of living, of being alive) and about getting through, and I think that’s the kind of book that might have been lifesaving to me as a teen and a young(er) adult.
What if, anything, did you learn from writing this novel?
Not to be dramatic, but I learned how to be human from writing this novel. I cannot fully express how much of a different person I am now than I was when I started writing Suture, from my personality to my goals to my job to the people I love. Writing this novel connected me with many of my very favourite people (and still does!), each of whom helped me bring something new and necessary to the novel, and in doing so brought something new and necessary to my life: patience, gentleness, celebration, love, kindness. I suspect that when I’m older I’ll look back on the cringey, heartfelt way I talk about this book and I’ll scoff at my younger self, but right now, I am just grateful for everything that writing Suture has brought to and removed from my life.
Nic Brewer is a writer and editor from Toronto. She writes fiction, mostly, which has appeared in Canthius, the Hart House Review, and Hypertrophic Literary, among others. She is the co-founder of Frond, an online literary journal for prose by LGBTQI2SA writers, and formerly co-managed the micropress words(on)pages. She lives in Kitchener, ON, with her partner and her dog. Suture is her first book.