Newfoundland author Lisa Moore's gorgeous, moving, and whip-smart novels and short stories have gained a devoted following across Canada (and beyond), but her newest offering is particular exciting as it showcases a new aspect of Moore's impressive writing chops.
Flannery (Groundwood Books) is Moore's first young adult novel, and tells the story of the titular sixteen-year-old, a supposed love potion, and its disastrous consequences. Brimming with Moore's trademark wit and empathy, it's a coming of age story that is being hailed as "smart, bold, heartbreaking" (Kirkus Reviews).
Today we welcome Lisa to the site to discuss Flannery, and she tells us about Flannery's topsy-turvy heart, the young readers who helped shape the book, and her own favourite YA reads, including a famous fellow East Coaster.
Flannery's voice is so immediately real and relatable. How do you think Flannery would describe herself to others? Is there any of your sixteen-year-old self in her?
I think, like many young adults, Flannery feels things deeply and with intensity. She hasn’t had a chance to develop any callouses or corns on her emotions; instead, they surface fast, like a burning blush. She might describe herself as a romantic — she falls deeply in love; forgets the brakes. But there’s a kind of dramatic irony here, because despite her big, topsy-turvy heart and her willingness to believe in the people she loves, and despite the hurt she ends up feeling — despite all that — the reader knows she is as strong an ox. Flannery might not know it; but the reader does.
The power of love — both for good and for destruction — is at the centre of Flannery. What drew you to explore love in this way, and particularly through the device of the love potion?
The love potion was just gleeful play. I thought it would be so much fun to create a gag product in the form of a love potion for Flannery to sell at the entrepreneurial fair in her high school, and then hint that the potion might actually work.
Because, maybe, that’s what love is actually like — what are the odds of two people finding each other, understanding each other, having fun together, and actually falling in love? Falling so hard they stay together over a lifetime? Or even for a short time, but with a vertiginous depth? What are the odds? It would take some kind of magic. And yet it happens all the time, and to the most unlikely couples. But it’s not all fun and games. Love can be disorienting and life-altering in all the wrong ways — and sometimes it can cause a lot of heartbreak. Ugh, though! There’s no way to know how it will turn out in advance — so we have to dive in.
Was there any difference in your process in writing a young adult novel vs. an adult novel? Did you always envision Flannery as a YA project?
Yes, I always knew Flannery would be a YA novel. I had read a lot of YA novels when I was a teenager. And I’ve read a lot of them aloud to my children. This is the first time I’ve written a novel in the first person. I could hear Flannery’s voice so clearly. Often when I am writing I primarily “see” the action in the novel like watching a film. With Flannery, I could “hear” it. I could hear her humour and honesty in her voice.
Are there young people in your life who served as a test audience for you with Flannery?
Yes, I had at least three young readers who helped me with all kinds of details about high school life today. Things have changed since I was in high school. No more blackboards! But I think the essential things might be the same: the intensity of those early friendships, and the need for love. Especially romantic love. Then there’s also the kind of meanness that can burst out from nowhere very suddenly and ruin peoples’ lives.
What are some of your favourite YA titles?
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jacqueline Moriarty is a hilarious, beautiful book. Anne’s temper in Anne of Green Gables is still galvanizing and ultimately very funny. As is Jo’s temper in Little Women. These heroines broke the rules of their day, rules that required girls to be meek and polite and subservient. Those rules still require breaking, on lots of occasions, today. Jo and Anne both got themselves into trouble with their tempers, (and didn’t they both have terrible accidents with their hair??) but they also managed to say their piece and they were imaginative and independent and appreciated beauty.
What will you be working on next?
I am writing short stories now. I love the intensity of a short story. But I am also beginning a new novel. It will be a novel for adults — but I find myself sneaking notes for another young adult novel into my journal. I can’t help it!
Lisa Moore is the acclaimed author of February and Alligator. February won CBC's Canada Reads competition, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was named a New Yorker Best Book of the Year, and a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book. Alligator was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Canada and the Caribbean), and was a national bestseller. Her story collection Open was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a national bestseller. She lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.
Grace O'Connell is the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto and the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada). She also writes a book column for This Magazine.
For more information about Magnified World please visit the Random House Canada website.