November 18, 2018

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Two-book idea turns into trilogy

Award-winning Kitimat, B.C. author Eden Robinson had too much material for original plan

For B.C. author Eden Robinson, the promotion of her latest novel Trickster Drift — the middle book of her coming-of-age trilogy — has not been without its challenges.

“For the first two weeks, my feedback was ‘summarize your first book a bit better,’” recalls Robinson, laughing, by phone, prior to her Winnipeg appearance at McNally Robinson Booksellers’ Grant Park location Tuesday in support of Trickster Drift.

“There are some people who aren’t familiar with the series at all, and others who have read the first book but don’t remember it.”

The 50-year-old Haisla-Heiltsuk author burst on to the Canadian literary scene in a big way with her 2000 novel Monkey Beach, the story of a teenage girl with otherworldly powers and her quest to learn about the disappearance of her brother and come to terms with her own life in the process.

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For B.C. author Eden Robinson, the promotion of her latest novel Trickster Drift — the middle book of her coming-of-age trilogy — has not been without its challenges.

"For the first two weeks, my feedback was ‘summarize your first book a bit better,’" recalls Robinson, laughing, by phone, prior to her Winnipeg appearance at McNally Robinson Booksellers’ Grant Park location Tuesday in support of Trickster Drift.

"There are some people who aren’t familiar with the series at all, and others who have read the first book but don’t remember it."

Eden Robinson set the first book of her otherworldly, coming-of-age series in her hometown of Kitimat, B.C. (Red Works Photography)

Eden Robinson set the first book of her otherworldly, coming-of-age series in her hometown of Kitimat, B.C. (Red Works Photography)

The 50-year-old Haisla-Heiltsuk author burst on to the Canadian literary scene in a big way with her 2000 novel Monkey Beach, the story of a teenage girl with otherworldly powers and her quest to learn about the disappearance of her brother and come to terms with her own life in the process.

The book, set in Robinson’s hometown of Kitimat, B.C., and steeped in Haisla culture, nabbed B.C.’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for both the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and the Giller Prize. (A film adaptation of Monkey Beach, starring Grace Dove and Manitoba actor Adam Beach, recently finished shooting in Kitimat.)

In 2017, Robinson was awarded the $50,000 Writers’ Trust Fellowship shortly after the publication of the first book of her current trilogy, Son of a Trickster (which was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize).

The Trickster trilogy follows a troubled teenaged protagonist with mystical powers. This time around, it’s Jared Martin, a boy who leaves a stressful home life in Kitimat behind and ends up in Vancouver, only to find all manner of monstrous problems — family relations and otherwise — gravitating toward him there as well.

The Trickster trilogy follows a troubled teenaged protagonist with mystical powers dealing with all manner of monstrous problems.

The Trickster trilogy follows a troubled teenaged protagonist with mystical powers dealing with all manner of monstrous problems.

With a magical mother and Wee’git — a trickster figure — as his (mostly) absent father, Jared has trouble coping, as his past and the spirit world converge on him. As Robinson began writing Jared’s life on the page, she watched him change.

"He was very quippy and sarcastic in the beginning," Robinson says. "As I wrote deeper into the trilogy, I discovered a lot of the things about him that I wasn’t expecting — how big a heart he had, and the different ways that would get him in trouble. The third novel will take that further."

Robinson initially planned to write just two books about Jared.

"The second and third novels originally were one book," she said. "Once I hit 400 pages and I knew I wasn’t anywhere near the end, I knew things had to change," she says.

(The trilogy has since been optioned for a short-run television series.)

And while Robinson has found the process of writing a trilogy to be a challenging, sometimes difficult task, it’s one she has taken in stride.

"The big challenge is just remembering all the little details of the first two books," she says.

Following the promotional tour for Trickster Drift, Robinson plans on hunkering down to write the third book.

"The entire first and second books will be on note cards... I’ll be looking at who I bring back and who I leave in the first two novels," she says.

Eden Robinson at the Giller Prize Awards in Toronto last year for her book Son of a Trickster. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press files)

Eden Robinson at the Giller Prize Awards in Toronto last year for her book Son of a Trickster. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press files)

Once those details are ironed out, she’ll turn to the writing process, an undertaking she finds can initially be a bit difficult.

"When I’m trying to write my way into the beginning of a novel it’s frustrating," she says. "It’s like when you haven’t exercised all summer and then you get ready for a 5K. It’s a little painful.

"But once it’s cooking, it’s a lot of fun. Even if no one read anything I wrote, I’d still write. I love world building — there’s nothing else like it."

books@freepress.mb.ca

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson
Literary editor, drinks writer

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.

Read full biography

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