Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Interview With Rebecca Babcock

Blaurock’s newest signing, Rebecca Babcock, speaks about her first book Every Second Weekend, about growing up in Alberta, and the sneaky ways that Canadians get what they want.

Blaurock: Every Second Weekend emerged over ten years, starting as a one-woman show, and then becoming a collection of stories.  Is the work at all autobiographical?

Rebecca Babcock (RB): No, not at all.  You become a bit of a crow when you’re a writer, picking at shiny things.  I’ve stolen anecdotes, stories from friends and family members over the years. The places and models for some people are from real life.  For my fourth birthday I did get a pair of ponies and I did have an older brother named Kent who passed away. I wanted to honour him in some way so I stole his laugh and his name and used it for the character in the book.

Blaurock: How would you categorize the book or describe the genre?

RB: It’s really a short story cycle.  I love the short story cycle as a genre...it’s a genre that lets you unfold a story in the way that memory works, in a way that’s not necessarily linear, that’s more made up of associations, and linkages rather than a linear progression through time.

Blaurock: Have you always lived in Halifax?

RB: I’ve lived in Halifax for 7 years and I’ve really fallen in love with it here.  I was originally born in Cold Lake, Alberta and I went to school in Edmonton.  I’ve discovered that it’s entirely possible to be homesick for a place and at the same time to never want to move back there.

Blaurock: Most of the book is set in Alberta, and its almost as if the province itself is a character in the book.  What was it like growing up in Cold Lake?

RB: I lived in a weird little cabin when I was growing up.  My parents were both schoolteachers and for whatever reason, they decided to build a log cabin in the middle of a forest.  There was no electricity and no running water.   We had an outhouse and occasionally the plumbing would freeze.  When it got really cold in the winter we worried about the goats in the barn so we would bring them inside and house them under the dining room table.  We didn’t really have TV so I grew up building tree houses and chasing chickens and eating dirt and riding ponies and hanging out with goats under the dining room table.  I also grew up with this presumption that this was entirely normal...I realized in my twenties that that’s just not the way most people live.

Blaurock: You recently defended a thesis on Canadian women writers and their views on racism and multiculturalism.  What drew you to that particular topic?

RB: Canadians are not particularly good at admitting when we’ve been shitty.  We have a tremendously racist and violent past, and that past is not as remote as we might like to think.  I think it’s so important to admit to those things, to talk about those things, and to write about those things.

Blaurock: Where did that stereotype come from that Canadians are too nice?

RB: I think it’s a particularly Canadian quality to deploy politeness or niceness strategically, and that’s not to say that it doesn’t come from a genuinely good place but sometimes I think that you have to mistrust people who are too kind, or too nice.  Canadians deploy politeness so manipulatively.  If you walk up to someone in the grocery store and say, ‘Get the fuck out of the way.  That last apple is mine,’ they’re going to put up a fight.  But if you do that politely enough and say, ‘Oh please, take that last apple, I certainly don’t want it,’ then nobody’s going to take that last apple.

Blaurock: Do you think Every Second Weekend has a message?  Is there anything in particular that you hope readers will take away from it?

RB: I don’t know that there’s a message per se, but we expect so much of the people that we love and sometimes unreasonably so, and most of the time that turns out so badly for ourselves.  Liz expects people to be the way that she wants them to be and not the way that they are. I think if one of the stories has a happy ending in the collection, I think it’s definitely Liz because she has this moment where she realizes that expecting someone to be a certain way is not going to make them that way.  I guess I wanted to make a comment on ways of loving people and letting go of the often compromised motives and unfair expectations that we have of each other.

Blaurock: Any closing thoughts you want to share with your readers?

RB: I loved writing this.  The characters, for all of their flaws, really stuck with me in kind of the same way as you get really attached to a television series and you can’t wait until the next week to see what the characters are going to do.  That’s what these characters were like for me.  I hope people enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  They’ve surprised me a lot of the time, they’ve made choices that I didn’t really see coming and I hope that they’ll be as full and surprising and complex and frustrating and believable to people who read it as they were to me.

1 comment:

Don French said...

Hi Rebecca new your parents and new Kent very well.