1. How did you conceive your first book?
My first novel, Nicolai’s Daughters began with a question: how would life be different or the same for each of my three main characters if they hadn’t been impacted by multigenerational trauma and the decisions of others?
2. What memorable or formative experience around learning to write springs to mind?
In the first draft you are telling yourself the story. Get the story down on the page. The next most important aspect is rewriting. As George Saunders notes in his book, A Swim in the Pond in The Rain, writing is rewriting.
3. What specific incident incited/inspired your last piece of work (of any form or length)?
My third novel, Finding Callidora was inspired first by my search for my own roots and secondly by something my aunt said when I told her I’d found distant relatives. She said, “why do you bother? There was a vendetta. That’s the past. Who cares about that now?” The word vendetta raised so many questions for me as a writer. It freed my imagination and created the novel, Finding Callidora.
4. What was the most satisfying aspect of your recently completed work?
I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many book clubs with my novels. I love the discussions and what people say about the book, even if they don’t like a character. That happened once but it’s a long story so won’t share it here. On the other side I was invited to a book club with my second novel, The Brink of Freedom, a novel that deals with the refugee crisis in Greece. At the end of the meeting, one book club member said, “you made me feel for people I don’t even see.” This is the reason I write, for the reader to understand something of “other”.
5. What writing rituals or behavioral patterns do you follow in where, when, or how you write?
I’m an early riser. I always write in the morning, usually when it’s still dark and quiet. It allows me to be quiet myself, hear what my characters say, see what they do.
6. How do other people contribute to your writing practice?
As I’ve mentioned before, readers who either invite me to attend their book clubs or take the time to write to me to say how a novel touched them really motivates me to do better. I’m also a member of a critique group. We meet monthly and review each other’s work. The feedback I receive during the critique group has been invaluable in improving my craft and getting my work out to the public.
7. What specific book(s) inspired your recent work?
George Psychoundakis was a resistance fighter during the Second World War. He was a shepherd, a war hero, and an author who served as a dispatch runner for the British behind German lines and later wrote about his experience in an excellent memoir entitled, The Cretan Runner.
8. As a writer, what are your obsessions?
God, what a question. I think overall I’m interested in why people do what they do. I don’t typically take anything at face value. I need to understand what made someone do this or that, who they are, what motivates them, what led them to be who they are. And I’m particularly interested in lives interrupted in some way and the impact of that interruption. Belonging/acceptance are also big obsessions for me. That’s a lot of obsessions
9. What are you working on now?
I’m generally a positive person. Some would say naïve. Whatever you call it, positive or naïve, I’m branching out this time with my new project. I’m writing speculative fiction. Set in 2056 and making use of the Gods of mythology who narrate and fiddle with what is going on with the protagonists (there are three main ones because there are always lots of voices in my head), the new project explores the walls that are built to separate countries. Would those walls exist if we didn’t have them inside each of us, separating ourselves from others? That’s the question I’m exploring now.
Stella Harvey’s short stories have appeared in The Literary Leanings Anthology, The New Orphic Review, Emerge Magazine and The Dalhousie Review. Her non-fiction has appeared in Pique Newsmagazine, the Globe and Mail and CBC. Signature Editions published her first novel, Nicolai’s Daughters, in 2012 and Psichogios Publications of Athens published the Greek translation in 2014. Signature Editions published The Brink of Freedom in 2015. Finding Callidora is Stella’s third novel. Stella founded the Whistler Writing Society, which produces the Whistler Writers Festival and other literary programming under her direction. She mentors students in The Writers’ Studio at Simon Fraser University.