Allan Stratton, author of The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish (readthe review here!), has agreed to indulge us with an exclusive look behind the scenes of his latest novel.
Q: The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish is set in the 1930s, but the issues and personalities encountered within are timeless – Did any current events, public figures, or modern societal trends influence you when writing this novel?
A: For sure. I think there are enormous social echoes between the Great Depression and our recent economic near-death experience. Miss Bentwhistle's original Ponzi Scheme at the Academy is a human-scaled version of the fraud and leveraging at the heart of the Wall Street collapse. And one can certainly see the power of today's media to shape discussion and opinion -- now television instead of print and radio -- and of the way in which entertainment is used to distract populations. There is also a need in tough times for people to have something to believe in, a truth used to great effect by charlatans; answering more directly might tempt libel. But as you correctly point out Lord Acton wasn't the first to note that power corrupts, and without celebrities we wouldn't have history. That's what I love about satire: you'll always be in step with the times if your subject is our boundless capacity for the venal.
Q: Those familiar with you and your work will know that Canada is central to much of your writing. What, do you think, would this novel be without Canada? The characters travel into the United States and a bulk of the novel takes place there. How different would the story be if Mary Mabel & Co. started out in the States?
A: I like starting in Canada for three reasons.
|Aimee Semple McPherson|
First, Aimee Semple McPherson was the model for Mary Mabel's rise. She was a Canadian evangelist from small-town Ontario who became one of North America's biggest stars; her temple in Los Angeles sat thousands and she was one of the first women to have her own broadcast license. Some details in the novel are direct from her story, such as her riding up the centre aisle on a motorcycle, followed by the LAPD, to arrest sin. It's that kind of detail that shows truth is at least as strange as the strangest fiction.
Second, Canada is such a contrast in image to the United States. It would be quite possible to set the London sections in a small city like Pittsburg, for instance, or the Cedar Bend sections in backwoods Maine, but I don't think Mary Mabel's rise would seem quite so meteoric.
Third, Canada allows for the British connection which is key to Miss Bentwhistle's story, one I won't comment on further at risk of spoiling surprises.
Q: The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish deals with some touchy issues and satirizes ideals many hold central to their beliefs. The novel is brave and unapologetic. Were you afraid to step on any toes? Has there been any backlash?
A: Oh gosh no. Satire is all about stepping on toes. Backlash would only come from a satire's targets, and who on earth would want to be aligned with them?
Q: On a related note, due to the satirical nature of the novel, this book will probably appeal to a certain demographic and disgust another. What kind of person do you envision reading The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish and enjoying it? Hating it?
A: I write the kind of books and plays that I'd like to see and read, and I imagine my readers and audiences as friends. So … I guess I'm writing for the kind of people I'd like to have as friends. Simple as that. And my friends come in all shapes and sizes, ages and genders, and blah blah blah.
Q: Just for fun: What are you reading?
A: Carl Hiaasen's new novel, Bad Monkey. He's a wonderful social satirist from Florida who writes great comic adult and children's "mysteries". I put mystery in quotes, because the villains are clear from the outset -- corporate magnates, environmental despoilers, and real estate agents. And they meet the most delicious ends.
Q: Are you allowed to give us a sneak peek of what you have coming next?
A: Yes. It's a YA Turn of the Screw called THE DIOGS, coming spring 2014.
Thanks again to Allan Stratton for the incredible interview. I really enjoyed learning more about this fantastic novel and the man behind it.
Buy Allan's latest novel, The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish April 7th, 2014 in print or ebook format from Dundurn.
Also, remember to visit Allan's site, allanstratton.com, and add him on Goodreads.