What inspired Here So Far Away?
Over the years, I'd heard stories about secret relationships, including a few that took an unexpected turn like the one in the story. I became interested in the question of what keeping such a big secret could cost you, especially if you're young and inexperienced and if that relationship might be considered inappropriate or even taboo.
Is this a true story? Are you George?
The rural valley where George lives is similar to the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, where I grew up, but all of locations and events in the novel are fictional and George is different from me in many ways. For example, I made her a person of supreme confidence. She not only has the advantage of fitting into a very homogeneous place, she's also conventionally attractive, popular, tough, and quick-witted. I wanted her to seem like an unlikely person to find herself on the outside, to being taken advantage of, and to potentially get her heart broken.
Is Francis a good guy?
You'll have to judge for yourself. I'm one of those detached gods who finds the moral predicaments of her characters amusing. Certainly, there were other ways I could have written Francis that might have been more straightforward but also a little less interesting to me because, as with George, I didn't want him to be quite who you'd expect to get into this situation. The tricky business was that I had to portray him as George would see and understand him, which is not necessarily my view of things.
Did anything significant change while you were writing the book?
Yes, I always imagined the final quarter of the story would be most of the novel, or at least half of it. Somehow it became the ending, not the story itself.
Why did you set it in the 1990s?
Events would have played out much differently if the characters had been able to communicate through text, social media, or a private cell call. In the 1990s, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to call the family landline and deal with whoever might pick up the phone. If you took a photo, you had to take it to a lab to be developed. That made a real difference to the plot. As a side note, it was also a time when people still felt pretty comfortable saying certain things that aren't so tolerated now, although there was a growing awareness that this isn't okay. At my high school, you had maybe a fifty-fifty chance of being called out for an offensive joke. So there are a few examples of that, just to be realistic about the time and place, which I hope aren't too jarring.
What does Bobby's band sound like?
Not quite like anything you've heard before, but they're definitely trying to be The Tragically Hip.
What was the hardest part to write?
From a technical standpoint, bringing all those plot threads together at the end. From a creative standpoint, probably the more romantic stuff. My writing group told me that any time I felt a scene was too schmaltzy that I should make it 200% schmaltzier. Apparently, I have a lower than average threshold for schmaltz.