Award-winning Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart talks her new novel, The Night Stages, her writing process and why she loves being in her 60s with Zoomer’s Mike Crisolago.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: Your upcoming novel, The Night Stages, brings four main elements together: rural Ireland, a mural in Gander Airport by Kenneth Lochhead, an Irish bicycle race, and a female pilot during the Second World War. What’s your process for combining these very different elements to form the story?
JANE URQUHART: It’s always difficult to explain because my books seem to come from 11 different directions at once. So writing them is a kind of act of faith that eventually it will be revealed to me what all these things have in common.
And what I learned is that I just have to trust that. That if I’m that interested, there has to be a reason and that that linkage will present itself as I work my way through the first draft of the book. The revelation takes place during the first draft as to what it is that links these things.
MC: Why did you choose to include the mural in the novel?
JU: I think a novel is very much like a mural. A mural is not the kind of work of art that you look at directly, all at once. You have a tendency to kind of read it from left to right. And I thought that it would be interesting to have somebody in front of a work of art for what would be considered a pretty long period of time – two or three days – examining the work of art and allowing it to come into their consciousness and reveal things to them about a story that they’re remembering. I was also interested in the artist himself, and so I wanted to follow his path to the mural, to a certain extent, and hopefully there would be echoes within his stories that would relate to the story of the protagonist.
MC: The World Wars play significant parts in a number of your best-known novels, including this one. Do those events represent something more significant to you?
JU: I think so because they were hugely significant events. But I believe it’s less about the wars themselves and more about what the wars caused to happen … I think that, generally, it’s the sort of echoes that the war causes, that have an appeal for me. I don’t believe I’ve ever written a real battle scene.
MC: Do you hope to one day?
JU: No, I don’t long to write a battle scene. [Laughs] I think that that’s better left to the real historians – the fact-driven people.
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