Claire Cameron, author of The Bear and an upcoming IFOA Weekly participant, answered our five questions.
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IFOA: The Bear is brilliantly told in the voice of your five-year-old protagonist, Anna. How did you manage to capture this perspective so convincingly?
Cameron: Writing the voice felt more like performing. I knew the character and the setting, Algonquin Park, so well that I could respond in an instinctual way to the obstacles I put in front of Anna. I’ve only recently become fluid enough in my writing to be able to do this.
It reminds me of watching others play the piano or guitar. If she practices for long enough, there comes a moment when a musician doesn’t have to think about the mechanics and can focus on conveying emotion. I wish I could do that with an instrument. For now, I’ll have to be content with the keyboard.
IFOA: You’re a collector of bear stories. What first sparked your interest in this animal?
Cameron: I worked in Algonquin Park, then as a treeplanter in Northern Ontario, and have spent time hiking and climbing out west, so I have seen a number of bears in the wild. They are amazing creatures that remind us of ourselves with their intelligence. But they also scare the heck out of us as we confront the idea that we may not be at the top of the food chain nor completely in control. I am fascinated by what this brings out in people. A bear story is often about much more than a bear.
IFOA: Do you have any rituals associated with your writing?
Cameron: I write in the mornings only. I sometimes get stuck on one song and listen to it over and over in a loop. I try not to drink too much coffee. I wear reading glasses and wooly socks in the winter. Sometimes I aspire to not wear my PJs.
IFOA: What do you read for pleasure?
Cameron: I just finished The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and can’t stop thinking about it. I read a lot of literary fiction, but also survival and adventure stories. Last year, I re-read Moby Dick and then went on a huge reading kick about Nantucket whaling, which led me to sea stories like The Life Boat by Charlotte Rogan. I love Farley Mowat. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is where literary meets adventure in a perfect fusion. It’s as close to a perfect book as I can imagine.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…
Cameron: When you’ve licked all the icing off your fingers, eaten the middle fluffy part and only have the one forkful from the top outer edge left. Why is it always so good?
Claire Cameron‘s debut novel, The Line Painter, won the Northern Lit Award and was nominated for an Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Award for best first novel. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, National Post and The Millions. She will present her buzzed-about new novel, The Bear, alongside authors Karen Russell and Helen Walsh on March 13.