Farzana Doctor: I have a love-hate relationship with all-inclusive resorts. As a child, they were cherished family vacations where I had my (usually very busy) parents’ full attention. As I grew older, I began to notice the problematic aspects of this sort of tourism—the racism, economic inequality, water and food waste and land appropriation, to name a few.
I went to an all-inclusive in Huatulco six years ago and couldn’t ignore my contradictory feelings. It dawned on me that a walled-in amusement park would make a great setting for my protagonist, Ameera, a woman who is trying to escape her Canadian life and find deeper meaning.
IFOA: Where did the idea for All Inclusive come from?
Doctor: While I was at that Huatulco resort, I found myself curiously observing one of the foreign tour reps. I don’t know why, but I wanted to ask her dozens of questions about her life in Mexico. In the end I was too shy. She became the inspiration for Ameera. My beach reading was Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which is where I first learned about swinger life. Maybe it was sunstroke, but the two ideas collided. Azeez and his story arrived more mysteriously (see Question 3).
IFOA: How did the overall writing process for All Inclusive differ from your last novel, Six Metres of Pavement?
Doctor: Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement seemed to “write themselves”; their scenes came organically and in linear order. I edited ferociously, but revised little. All Inclusive was different. I wrote episodically, got lost and had my finger on the delete key much of the time. I buried myself in “Third Novel Angst.” I forgot to listen to the inner voice that had helped me in the past.
Then one day, when I was ready to give up on All Inclusive, I heard a male voice telling me that he was my missing character. He shared his story and I cried because I didn’t want to write him. But eventually I gave in, deleted two other characters and their plot lines, and Azeez seamlessly inserted himself into the empty spaces.
What I’ve learned from this process is that it’s better for me to wait for a story to appear, rather than attempting to push it out.
IFOA: What time of day do you find best for writing?
Doctor: I like to edit the previous day’s work over my first cup of coffee, then do new writing for about an hour. I take my patient dog to High Park around 10:30am, and if I’m lucky, new ideas will arrive while she swims in the creek. When we return home, I might write again for an hour, depending on what other work I have to do that day (my day job is a part-time psychotherapy practice).
IFOA: What are you reading now?
Doctor: I’m reading Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, a tale about an Arab slave who is forced to be part of a Spanish conquistador expedition to North America. It’s a compassionate and compelling account of a history rarely told.
Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement, which won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She has been listed as one of CBC Books’ Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now and is the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant. She co-curates the Brockton Writers Series. Doctor presents All Inclusive, a story about a Mexican resort, the ghost of an unknown father and the tragedies we can’t forget.