IFOA: What inspired you to write On the Shores of Darkness There is Light?
Cordelia Strube: I was sitting in a Tim Horton’s, people-watching through the window, and noticed a small boy with an over-sized head. He was gripping his mother’s hand as they walked, both of them ignoring the stares of passersby. In the mother’s expression I recognized a look all too familiar to mothers a.k.a. if you hurt my child, I will kill you. There was a grace and nobility about these two seemingly frail people, pushing courageously through their daily grind despite disability. Once home I googled causes for skull enlargement in children and Irwin was born. Then I started what if-ing, which I do constantly while writing novels. What if the sick child has a well sibling? What love and tenderness is left for the well sibling who will always, in the eyes of the mother devoted to the sick child, get better? How do the well and sick children feel about one another? I wanted to reveal this complex sibling connection from both points of view, which resulted in two protagonists in a two part novel.
IFOA: Why did you choose this title?
Cordelia Strube: It’s a line from the Keats poem dedicated to Homer who is thought to have been blind. We are blind to many things, and rarely see what we have. We fear the dark and crave the light, not understanding that we can’t see the light unless we’ve been in the dark. As Harriet, my eleven year-old protagonist who paints by observing how light interrupts her subject and curves into shadow, puts it, “It seems to her people rarely understand shadows; they forget that they are part of the light.”
IFOA: Tom Thompson is an inspiring figure to Harriet. Who is your favorite visual artist and why?
Cordelia Strube: I don’t have a favourite, although it’s hard not to love Tom Thompson or Van Gogh 24/7. But I also need Francis Bacon and Hieronymus Bosch who did not paint pretty. I have Munch days and Monet days, Picasso days, Henry Moore days, Turner days, Rodin days, it goes on and on. I made Thompson Harriet’s guiding light because he leads her to Algonquin Park.
IFOA: What amazes you about the work of the aspiring writers you teach at Ryerson?
Cordelia Strube:Young people who tear themselves away from the endless attractions and distractions of cyber space to construct a strong narrative amaze me. Writing well does not come easy for most of us. Students who show the necessary commitment dazzle.
IFOA: What are you currently reading?
Cordelia Strube: I have got two on the go: Redeployment by Phil Klay, a vet of the Iraq war. His multi-pronged stories jab at that cooked up disaster of a war with humour and clarity. I’m also loving Nicholson Baker’s Substitute about his year substitute teaching in the Maine public school system. As with Klay, the darkness of Nicholson’s prose is laced with sneaky humour. I need sly wit in what I read and write.
Cordelia Stube @ IFOA:
Peter Geye, Ben Sanders and Cordelia Strube will read from their latest novels and inspire you to discover new narratives. A Taste of Fiction takes place Thursday, October 27 at 8pm. For tickets click here!
Darren Greer, Anosh Irani, and Cordelia Strube present multifaceted and diverse stories about redemption and returning to face the past and/or the truth on Sunday, October 30 at 3:30pm. For tickets click here!