Humour was abundant at the first Grimsby Author series event of 2017. The night began with Cordelia Strube reading from her book On The Shores of Darkness There is Light. Her enthusiasm and passion for writing, for her characters and for being true to herself in her writing was undeniable and was evidenced during both the discussion and the subsequent book signing.
Strube has written for 22 years including 10 novels, She has made 4 appearances at the Grimsby Author Series (this was the first time that I had met her)! She had previously shared her creativity as both an actor and a playwright. She shares her knowledge and craft of writing while teaching at Ryerson University and I can imagine that her classes must be very honest and a lot of fun!
Strube read the first chapter of her book and commented how many readers tell her that they identify with Harriet. She asked the audience if they felt the same way and why. The audience answered that despite her challenges that she was hopeful. Strube’s goal was to make her “spicy and a bit irritating” and did not want to “write a precocious, cute 11 year old”. She certainly succeeded with the development of Harriet, who hung out with a troubled shoplifter and a myriad of odd seniors at the Shangrila apartment building. She had been traumatized by the birth of her hydrocephalic brother who monopolized her mother’s attention leaving her time to dumpster dive, run errands for seniors and ingratiate herself to the neighbours. Strube thought that, maybe, readers identified with Harriet’s feelings one being an outsider, asking the audience whether anyone really felt they were an insider?
A question was asked about the origins of her strong dialogue and whether she hung around shopping malls for examples. She quipped “where else would I shoplift?” in reference to Harriet’s failed attempt as a shoplifter. Seriously, she admits that she looks around, listens on the subway and “sponges from something I have heard”. She listens for conflicts and intense cell phone conversations as she walks to work. She joked that she is the only person in Toronto without a cellphone giving her time to listen (which is so important for all of us to do more of)!
Strube describes herself as having a “fire in her belly” and “a singular vision” which has helped her survive as an author for such a long stretch. When speaking of this novel, she shared that she actually thought that it might not get published after her serious change of voice within the story yet she writes what she wants and does not worry about upsetting her readers. She does not think about marketing as she writes and honestly commented that she is not getting rich from writing so she is “going to write whatever the freak I want”. She feels so strongly about her work that she only wants to work with a publisher who loves her books and when it “is a miracle to be published at all, I write from the heart, unfiltered”. This makes me hungry to read more of her work!
Strube admitted to working on her next book which might “piss off a lot of people”. It is focused on PTSD and she laughed that the army might come after her. I am sure that there will be a future night in Grimsby chuckling about her experiences with her newest novel.
Time ran out before I got a turn to ask my questions but Strube was generous with her time during the book signing and when asked about the name of Gennedy she noted that she likes to find a unique name for her characters. Originally she was considering Gennady but people were saying it incorrectly so she changed it so it rhymed with Kennedy. We talked about how I felt that the book read like a YA novel that my daughter might like despite the x-rated words and experiences in the book. She shared that her own daughter has been reading her books since she was 9 years old and that the kids know this stuff and reading opens up opportunities for discussion. I will leave my signed copy out and see if my daughter picks it up since she seems to avoid any novels that I suggest opting to choose her own reads independently. Myself, I am curious to read more novels by Cordelia Strube!