One Question Interview: Myna Wallin

21Jul10

Myna Wallin is a Toronto-based author and editor who published three chapbooks of poems before the full-length collection A Thousand Profane Pieces (2006).  Her novel Confessions of a Reluctant Cougar is new this year.

How did the plot develop, and is there an advantage to telling a novel in stories?

Confessions began as a collection of short stories. All of them had in common the same protagonist who experiences a series of comical romantic/sexual adventures with different men. Halli Villegas, publisher of Tightrope Books, approached me and thought the stories would make a great collection. Soon after she phoned me up with the idea they would work even better as a novel. It was just a question of finding a structure for connecting the stories and that wasn’t immediately apparent to me.

So I continued to chip away at it, linking the stories more and more. It wasn’t until she agreed to edit the book—coming up with a device of foregrounding one of Olivia’s boyfriends and keeping her other liaisons as back-story—that the plot of the novel was truly formed. There was one character, William, who Halli liked the most, and saw potential there to be explored. William is complex; he’s a romantic, an intellectual, and a devout Christian. I ran with it and created a through line of Olivia and her much younger boyfriend Will, who also serves to act as a point of comparison with the other men who appear throughout the novel.

I have edited other works of fiction, poetry collections and anthologies, but it’s fascinating to me how difficult, if not impossible, it is to edit one’s own work. Once I had Olivia and William as the central relationship in the plot, the story took on a life of its own. I had a lot of fun writing the novel after that, watching their relationship flower, lurch, and falter. Sometimes I laughed out loud while I was writing. Then I knew I was on the right track. As for there being an advantage to telling a novel in stories, I’m not sure. But that’s how it started for me and I found the process an exhilarating challenge.

More than anything, I see my writing as character driven, and I had such fun sending up the characters (a bisexual mime, a juggler, and a semiotics professor) and the situations that bring them together. I especially enjoyed looking at the modern-day Cougar, a much-maligned term for a woman who is part of the zeitgeist. There’s definitely more to her than the sexually avaricious stereotype would suggest. I see her as someone who isn’t willing to accept double standards, or the status quo, when it comes to male/female sexual politics. She’s out to define herself by her own standards, not those of society—so in that way I see her as a trailblazer.

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One Response to “One Question Interview: Myna Wallin”

  1. 1 Caitlin Decter

    W00t! Let’s hear it for the Cougar! Grrrrrr.


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