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the line painter

Lines marking the road.

Lines of a journey.

Lines on a map.

Things to be crossed, followed, broken and blurred.

As writers we deal with all kinds of lines, and everything we see between them.

A funny thing occurred to me in this interview, a certain subjective quality to literature. Those broken lines, what line a writer follows on the journey and the lines that the reader might pick up.

I followed a line of mild suspense, breakdowns in communication, fears, courage and misunderstandings. A line that felt a bit like a great Hitchcock film. Not an imaginary line; that story is certainly in there. Just not the full track of the book. There is another story. A story of love and loss, and a journey along 58 miles of highway to reconcile it all.

Not too shabby for a debut novel, an impressive debut from Claire Cameron in The Line Painter.

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LR: Welcome to Litpark Claire!

Here we go:

Your book joins a vast literary tradition of road stories, with some shades of Hitchcock along a scant 58 miles of the trans-canadian highway, how did you come to find that setting?

CC: I spent a few summers working just outside of Hearst ON, where the book is set. I spent a lot of time out in the bush, days off in the town and nights off in the bars. That’s how I got to know the place.

It’s funny you mention Hitchcock. Many people describe, talk about the mood in my book, that it’s dark and creepy. I think of it as a love story–or perhaps the end of a love story.

That is one of the things I love most about my book being ‘out there’. Everyone has a different take on the story, depending on the experience they bring to it.

LR: Your personal bio includes a bit of time with the Outward Bound program, what of those experiences resurfaced while writing The Line Painter?

CC: I imagine you are referring to the bear encounter in the story, which didn’t come from my time at Outward Bound, but it is a mix of two different experiences.

The first was when I was hiking on my own near Canmore, Alberta. I was a two day walk from my van when I rounded a bend into an alpine meadow and saw a Grizzly bear in the distance. It looked over at me. I immediately backed up, but that took me back around the bend, so I could no longer see the bear.

I decided to drop my pack, as it had all my food, and climb a tree. This is, arguably, a pointless thing to do. If a Grizzly wants to get you out of a tree, it probably can. I sat in the tree for hours, unable to see the bear and unsure about what to do. When I finally got the nerve to come down, the bear was gone. I kept walking and never saw it again. Later, when I was telling the story, I could see a lot of humour in the situation. I was scared to the bone and the bear, as with most in the wild, couldn’t have cared less. When I remember it, I can almost picture the bear looking at me and shrugging. It was such a big deal to me, but nothing actually happened. It was an adventure I manufactured in my head.

The second was when worked up in Hearst ON. I planted trees to make money during University. Treeplanting is something a lot of Canadian students do, you work 11 hours days, planting saplings and get paid by the tree. Our camp happened to be in an area where the park service released black bears, from down south, that had grown accustomed to garbage as a food source. I wasn’t there at the time, but a few of my friends had a bad run-in with a bear that was sick and desperate. Three of them ended up in a tree, with the bear snapping at their boots. It was a close call.

LR: You’re touring your book at Husky stations. How goes the reception to literature in truckstops?

CC: I’ve had a good reception so far. Some truckers read in their downtime. Others just want to stop and chat as they spent hours on the road alone. I have sold and signed 11 books in 6 hours. I think that’s pretty good going? I’ve also heard a lot of stories about life, love and loss. As a writer, you can’t ask for more than that.

There is always an excruciating first half hour when I first set up. After about half an hour, someone decides to break the ice. It’s always entertaining after that. I’ve posted detailed reports from each truck stop on my blog.

LR: The story seems to effortlessly move in and out of flashbacks as a part of the narrative. Was the writing linear as such or did the story grow as two separate narratives?

CC: I wrote the story as a whole to begin with. I tend to write a first draft quickly and impulsively. That’s how I find the heart of the narrative. Then I start to rewrite, endlessly. It was during the rewrite that I picked apart the two narratives and developed them.

I’m glad it seems effortless. It never feels that way when I’m writing.

LR: How’s Alun Piggins making out on your tour?

CC: Alun Piggins played at the book launch. He wasn’t available to come to the Husky Truck Stops, because it’s now on tour in China. Out of the two, I suppose I can see why he chose China.

LR: What do we see next out of you?

CC: I hope to find a US publisher for The Line Painter.

My next book is in my head, but hasn’t taken shape on the page yet. Most of my thinking happens this way, on the back burner, slowly simmering, for a year or more before I start to type.

LR: Best of luck with getting that US publisher, and getting the next book out of your head.

Thanks for coming to the park Claire!

Thanks so much, Lance.

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Bios:

CLAIRE CAMERON was born in 1973 and grew up in Toronto. She studied history at Queen’s University and then worked as an instructor for Outward Bound, teaching mountaineering, climbing and whitewater rafting in Oregon. Moving to London in 1999, she founded Shift Media, a consultancy with clients including the BBC, McGraw-Hill and Oxford University Press. Claire now lives in Toronto with her husband and son. The Line Painter is her first novel and was published by HarperCollins Canada in April. If you’re on MySpace, you can “friend” her here.

When not locked in the pantry evading anxiety attacks and sacrificing large quantities of peanut butter cups and Stewart’s Root Beer to the most recent copy of Writer’s Market, LANCE REYNALD can be found doing what most un-agented writers do all day; practicing signing his name with a Sharpie on 5X7 cards in hope that creative visualization will pay off in a book deal. Once the Sharpie huffing wears off he settles in to finishing up a shopable draft of POP SALVATION, the story of a boy who wanted to be Andy Warhol. He also distracts himself plenty with his blog at Myspace.

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Question of the Week: Near-Death Experience.

by Susan Henderson on May 21, 2007

Have you ever had a near-death experience? Tell me about it.

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Wednesday, Lance is back to interview Claire Cameron, author of THE LINE PAINTER. While you wait for the interview, you can “friend” both of them on MySpace.

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I got this cool news on Saturday night: Pulitzer-nominated author, Dave Eggers, picked something of mine for The Best American Non-Required Reading! Very happy! Next to Neil Gaiman, Dave Eggers has the greatest author-hair I know.

Oh, and hey, I have another interview up here. This time it’s about my experience as an editor – which, for many years, was all people knew that I did because I pretty much kept my writing to myself. Anyway, it’s short. Check it out if you have the time.

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