Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hello, my name is Margaret Lindsay Holton, aka MLHolton.
Age is relative. Physically, I am 63.
Mentally, it’s hard to say. I can oscillate from 5 to 5000 in a nanosecond.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in the province of southern Ontario, Canada, and have lived there for most of my life. I moved from a rural sheep farm to the metropolis of Toronto in my late teens. Then, after 20 plus years of living in the city, I moved back to the country. I have also lived, studied and worked overseas in Switzerland, Spain and Scotland.
Before and during my university years, I travelled extensively throughout the British Isles, Europe, Greece, North Africa and Russia. After university, I travelled throughout Central America and the United States of America on month-long solo road trips. For the past few decades, I have taken shorter jaunts to islands in the Caribbean and have popped over to Bermuda.
I also own 25 acres of bush northeast of Gravenhurst and go there when I really need to ‘get away from it all’. In sum, I consider myself a Canadian, born and bred. I remain rooted to this land of my birth.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
All that readers really need to know about me, as an author, is that I have been writing, in one form or another, since I was nine years of age. I gave my first poem to my mum back then, entitled, ‘Flowers in May’. Since that time, I have written poetry, written theatrical plays, messed with screenplays, constructed literary essays, pursued local journalism, written two critically acclaimed novels, compiled and produced a social history during a papal visit to Canada, and crafted coffee-table photo books that highlight my two-dimensional artworks. I established my own private press in the early 1990s to produce my own titles when I feared that the Canadian publishing industry was going to be eaten up by global concerns.
I love playing with the written word: past, present and potential.
Overall, I am a seasoned Canadian artist, and author, of some local repute.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Gladly! I’ve just released my third novel, TRILLIUM, in an Artist First Edition through my private press. An triple-blend family saga, it follows the lives of three men who arrive and strive within the Golden Horseshoe region of southern Ontario, Canada. Good, bad, cruel and wonderful things happen to an evolving crew of complex characters over a 250 years period, starting in the 1750s.
The 100 copies of the signed Artist First Edition are now available via my website – https://canadadaphotography.blogspot.ca First come, first served.
An alternate print edition and e-pub editions are coming soon and will be available through most major on-line retail book outlets.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was very young. I wrote because it seemed a natural way to express my thoughts and feelings.
We are what we think. Expressing what we think through language is an immediate act of connection. Ideas and thoughts ebb and flow within the interchange of dialogue and conversation. Writing, fact or fiction, enhances the possibilities to connect.
I love the craft of writing as a manifestation of thinking. It demands a great deal. It also gives back more then it takes. As a lover of language, becoming a wordsmith was a natural evolution.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was very young. I often composed ‘outside’ of school-work as a child for my own amusement.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first published book was a novel, written when I was in my late 20s. ‘Economic Sex’ was published in 1985 by Toronto’s foremost literary press, Coach House Press. I composed that work in response to circumstances that surrounded a love affair. I felt, at that time, that certain things about the interaction between women and men needed to be stated. In retrospect, it was very much a book of its time. A young Canadian woman’s point of view was distilled and expressed in the 1980s.
My second novel, ‘The Gilded Beaver by Anonymous’, was written over a decade later. In that work I explored the dynamics of an intense male-female interaction again. I delved into the psyche of a fine furniture designer and her client, a cantankerous millionaire. The story documents their respective paths to a crisis. In so doing, the protagonist and antagonist discover more about themselves then either really wanted to know. That work won the Hamilton Arts Council Best Fiction Award in 1999.
Both these novels were ‘Canadian-centric’ and explored manners and mores of their day.
TRILLIUM, my third novel, is a bit different. Fundamentally, I am exploring the idea of ‘nature’ versus ‘nurture’: how do we become who we are? I wanted to work with a larger canvas populated with a greater diversity of characters to explore certain aspects of the evolving Canadian psyche. The time sweep is greater, covering 250 years, from 1750 to 2001. Within the work, key historical events are interwoven with innuendo, gossip and rumour. Those external factors shape and impact the characters’ development and their subsequent social exchanges. Beneath the continuum is the idea of connectedness.
We become who we are, for better and for worse, connected by the soil we stand upon.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
This story started taking shape in my mind over a decade ago. I did a rough outline and put the untitled project in my writing box to let it germinate.
In May of 2015, I was working on an article called ‘ The Boob Tube: Three Generations Talk TV ‘. https://raisethehammer.org/article/2593/the_boob_tube:_three_generations_talk_tv In the course of researching that piece, I got thinking again about the mental tools we use to remember memories, especially through generations. Today remembering is increasingly shaped by technology.
In February of this year, I dug out my older outline and started to write TRILLIUM …
To say more would give away some of the pleasure of discovery to the reader..
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I have been told that I PAINT in a ‘naive-surreal-folk-abstract’ kind of way. Others have hinted that I paint like an ‘outsider’ artist. I suppose all styles pronouncements are true in a way, in that their analysis reflects what others project onto my work.
My own aim overall, in any discipline that I work within, is authenticity. I must be true to me, how ever that may manifest, within the confines of the 5 to 5000 nanosecond. How others interpret, sanction or label what I do is really of little concern. I do what I must and produce interpretations of reality as I perceive it.
At core, this is my job as an artist.
The discipline of writing is always a challenge, regardless of the genre. It demands an attentive receptiveness to the nuances of the mind’s fluidity. Conversing with Self is an on-going journey of discovery. Dissecting long-held and unchallenged conceptions as well as expanding the possibilities of new thought is enjoyable. It’s fun to do. It is fun to explore.
As example, expanding new thoughts sometimes necessitates new language. I invented the word, ‘nwowness’, some years ago to amplify the IDEA of bliss and used it in a poem to make it better.
In this way, I have learned that, for me, playing with words through the filter of poetry is a useful exercise to limber up for the intense rigor of writing a novel.
Writing a novel is akin to painting. Words in paragraphs create scenes that consequently create painterly synapses in the readers mind. Forms, colours, shading, occur.
Once underway, the narrator’s ‘voice’ can shape-shift the ‘mental landscape’. Shifting voices within a work, via dialogue or through a narrator’s point of view, can be useful or it can be a disaster.
As a writer, you have to determine what best helps your reader understand what you are trying to convey. Too much can confuse, too little can bore.
After the sheer fun of it, this is the writer’s job: to communicate ideas.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
TRILLIUM is a fictional work. The cast of characters has been designed and developed based on known living and dead personalities that I have had the pleasure and pique to meet. I thought it important to root this particular story in ‘the real’. Meaning, the incidences that transpire in the story, and the emotions they evoke, have occurred at some point in ‘real time’. But overall, I would not make too much of this. This novel is a crafted fiction. I have drawn on an accumulated arsenal to shape it.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I do not have to travel to write. I have enjoyed travelling in the past, as an active spectator. Lately though, I am content to stay put and just observe what is happening around me. I do walk a lot and just look at what’s happening in my immediate vicinity.
I am equally as interested in what is being continuously projected at me by ‘screens’. Screen culture is redefining, in more ways then one, how we interact and SEE each other, good and bad.
I do have a desire to craft a screenplay that is set in Barbados. That one needs to be researched more thoroughly to be sure that I have the locations, costumes and characters correctly. To that end, I would likely rent a cottage or cabin on the island and spend a month to immerse my Self into the island culture, taking notes and photographs, talking to others and travelling around on foot. That work has been drafted in outline form, but to flush it out, I would need to understand local custom better.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did. This underlying visual of a man holding a grape cluster is from a painting I did several years ago. It works well as an image to amplify the story.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes and No. My primary aim is to offer a novel for enjoyment to the reader. To that end, I’ve tried to create a cast of characters that readers will like and dislike.
Equally, I have tackled certain controversial subjects that I hope add depth and breadth to the work. What readers actually take away at the end of reading the novel is unknown to me.
If I can generate within any reader just one ‘aha’ moment, this is good. I have reached them.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Of late, I have done little fictional reading. The last novel was Annie Proulx’s ‘Barkskin’. It was an engaging and resonating read that helped stoke my desire to attempt a broader historical fiction.
As for authors in the past who have moved me, there are simply too many to mention. My undergraduate degree was English Literature with a Philosophy Minor. I have read a great deal since then with favourites that come and go.
Recently, someone somewhere brilliantly said, “I am reading the internet.” There is so much material available on-line now. An infinity of interests, from multiple points of view, addictively seduce us. Readers constantly read, as I do.
The challenge is, in fact, to write a novel that will seduce people away from their screens. Have I succeed? I don’t know. I doubt it. As Marshall McLuhan prophesized decades ago, we are metamorphosing away from the written word to the visual punch.
Perhaps a producer will hear of my story, read it and see the innate potential for a TV series. If so, TRILLIUM might find a home between ‘Coronation Street’ and Netflix’s ‘Bloodline’. Competing families, over generations, are at the centre of both of those television series. Family dynamics also drive my novel. And Canadian statistics support me. A mature audience is there, waiting for this kind of broader, wider-ranging, generational work.
I did write this novel with a mature reader in mind. Highs, lows, ups, downs, light, dark, good and bad, : it is all part and parcel of the whole shebang of living. It is my hope that readers will appreciate the everyday complexity, yet often startling simplicity, of the varied and colour-filled human condition, from my point of view.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My god-mother. We were not related by blood yet she encouraged me every step of the way from day one.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as an aspect of what I do as a Canadian artist.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The temptation was to write a longer book. As it is, at 137,000 words, I feel I have tested the patience of contemporary readers for long enough.
I did write an alternate ending, filled with ambiguity, but I re-crafted that after a BETA reader, who I respect, suggested that the ending was a too open-ended ‘as is’. I changed it to be a bit more ‘up-lifting’. Hope remains, but it is infused with the complicated familial history that preceded it. Whether that is enough to gratify the needs of the reader, I do not know.
It is quite possible that this story could have a sequel.
At this point though, I have no intention of doing that.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned plenty. I had to do a great deal of historical local research at the onset to place the work in a familiar physical reality of time past and time present. I had no idea, as example, that Italians were incarcerated across Canada during WW2. That was eye-opening and interesting to learn.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Ah yes, the film version ,,,
I would like the actors to convey the inherent inherited ‘nationalism’ of the characters for believability. So, Irish-Canadian, Italian-Canadian, Canadian WASP, French – and First Nation, at the beginning.
Specifically, the red-head O’Sullivan twins should be actual twins and the raven-haired Hartford sisters should be offset-beauties. One is a mama’s girl, the other is a tom-boy. They are devoted sisters who we watch age from their teens to middle age.
The special and unique character of Anna Di Angelo would be tough to cast in youth and maturity, because, again, she must be believable. Instincts see a bright-eyed wholesome kind of girl who matures into a grandmotherly character would need two convincing actresses.
Ultimately, I would leave casting up to the director.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write because you must. There really is no other reason.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope you do enjoy this latest work. I look forward to your remarks, comments, insights and beefs.
— Maybe some would like to join the TRILLIUM reading group?
If so, feel free to link up through the Facebook fan page. (Link below.)
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am reading ‘The Old Ways’ by Robert Macfarlane, very slowly.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame.
It was the first book that exploded the idea of LITERATURE in my growing mind.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Perceptive social comics can make me laugh. Wit with wisdom is a lethal combo. Random events that upset my daily course can make me laugh at the capricious charm of Life.
Quiet acts of tenderness can often make me tear up.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would like to mess around in a kitchen and make apple pies with Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II. She is a most remarkable woman who has taken her role and duties very seriously. Yet clearly, she has an impish side. She may be The Queen but she is also a living breathing human being. As she has matured, I think she understands her governing and leadership role far better then most give her credit. She is not only a repository of all the history that has gone before her, but she is, through her own strength of character, establishing the role of the British monarchy for successive generations, mitigated through the increasing omnipresence of media. Like it or not.
I am aware there are plenty who are down on the royal family believing it an archaic institution of power that has little relevance today. But I respectfully disagree. Her story alone, as history and a template for the future, is revolutionary.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Yes. I love music, most kinds. I listen to almost anything and play an assortment of instruments, badly.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I seldom go to the cinema anymore. Why bother when creature comforts are 1/10th the price at home?
Instead, I flip around my tell-a-vision in the evenings. I do not have cable or satellite. I do have Apple TV, and like to pick-up local productions via a small indoor antenna.
I particularly enjoy wide-ranging documentaries about our collective home, Planet Earth. TVO, in Ontario, has excellent programming, most of the time.
Horror or ‘violence for violence’s sake’ films bore me. I cannot watch cop or hospital soaps. Mainstream sit-coms amuse in small doses. The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family reveal aspects of the American zeitgeist.
My one constant is Coronation Street. I’ve been watching that program for over a decade. It swoons from the sublime to the ridiculous within episodes and I enjoy the multitude of characters etched out over years of stellar performances and strong story-telling. As Corrie fans know, dropping into that fictional reality is like ‘visiting family’.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favourite food? Always love a hearty breakfast: fried eggs – sunny side up, bacon, hash browns, toast, jams, OJ, strong coffee.
Favourite colour? Oscillates. Cannot choose a favourite colour.
Favourite Music? Impossible to choose. Mahler to The Shadows to Don Ross to Shane Carruth to Maggie Rose to Bach. Round and round it goes.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
If I was incapable of forming sentences or thought structures I am guessing I would be gaga.
I have no idea what I would do if I was in that state of mind.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would go to our family farm and revel in the magnificent mysteries of Nature in that old familiar place. I would say goodbye to trees planted by our family decades ago and wander down to the bubbling waters of the artesian well at the very back of the back fields.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Nothing. I am going to be cremated and hurled into the out-island waters of Georgian Bay.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
MLHolton artist blog: https://canadadaphotography.blogspot.com
TRILLIUM – ARTIST FIRST EDITION from artist’s private press, of only 100 signed copies: https://canadadaphotography.blogspot.com/2018/10/trillium-new-novel-by-mlholton.html
TRILLIUM to PRE-ORDER the epub edition in Canada: link: httphttps://mlholton-author.weebly.com/
TRILLIUM to PRE-ORDER global e-Pub Editions: https://books2read.com/TRILLIUM
AUTHOR PAGE on AMAZON.COM: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0071LO2H8
TRILLIUM Facebook Fan Page: https://facebook.com/trilliumnovel
TRILLIUM on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TRILLIUMnovel
The more the merrier!
And all are welcome to the formal TRILLIUM Book Launch at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, [ https://www.artgalleryofhamilton.com/ ] on Thursday, March 21st, 1-3pm. $5 at the door. See you then!