Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 12 - Amy McCulloch

Day 12. :) The second in the little string of June debuts. I've only known about this book for almost two months, which shows that sometimes that happens, but I'm glad I know about it now. :) Of course, it might have something to do with where this author currently lives. ;)

Amy McCulloch currently lives in the UK. Born in Kingston-upon-Thames, she and her family moved to Ottawa, Ontario when she was 11. There, she developed a love of all things geeky like science fairs, yearbooks, RPGs, and The Lord of the Rings. After graduating from the University of Toronto and traveling around the world, she headed back to London to work in publishing. She now works as a commissioning editor for HarperVoyager, the publisher's science fiction and fantasy imprint, and fits writing around it. Even though she's now in the UK, she's still a proud Canadian. Her debut YA novel, The Oathbreaker's Shadow, is set to come out on June 6, 2013 by Random House Children's Books UK and on June 4, 2013 by Doubleday Canada. You can find her at her blog and on Twitter (@amymcculloch). :)

In my final year at the University of Toronto, I took a Canadian Literature course – both to satisfy the requirements of my English specialist degree and because, well, I hadn’t read all that much Canlit and I felt like I really should read more. We whipped through several texts in a few months, including Stephen Leacock’s Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are?, and Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion – all classics! At the same time, I had just started what would become The Oathbreaker’s Shadow – my debut novel – and I was thinking a lot about what it meant to be a Canadian writer. After all, I’m a hodgepodge of culture: although I identify as Canadian, I’m UK-born, speak with a slight British accent, and am mixed race Chinese-Caucasian. My book is a YA fantasy-adventure inspired by Genghis Khan’s Mongolia. What is particularly Canadian about that?

Well, nothing, really, until further on into the course, when I realized that two of the main characteristics of Canadian literature were nature and wilderness. Canada is a big old country, with lots of open space, and a lot of our history involves the wild outdoors and how it shapes the people that live there. There is a huge theme of nature and survival running through the whole of The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, plus that all important search for identity. That might make it Canadian but, of course, it also makes it me.

The further away I get from uni, the less I think about literary criticism and how it relates to my book – heck, I’m just worried about regular criticism at this point! Still, with the surge of new Canadian YA coming out (as evidenced by Lindsay’s list!) I wonder how Canadian YA fits in within the broader spectrum of Canadian literature.

When I look at The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, I can see all the places that inspired it: the carpet-weaving cultures of India and Pakistan, the sand dunes of Namibia, the nomadic culture of Mongolia, the lost city of Petra. But at its heart, it’s still a thoroughly Canadian novel. There might not be any enormous, sand-dune-filled deserts in Canada (although the world’s smallest desert is in the Yukon – I visited it once!), but the themes of loss, search for identity identity and survival in harsh environments ground it firmly in that tradition.

Do you see any distinctive themes or characteristics of Canadian YA? Or think I’m describing just fantasy novels in general? Feel free to get in touch on my twitter (@amymcculloch) or in the comments.

Thanks so much to Amy for the guest post. Go check out The Oathbreaker's Shadow when it comes out in June! :)

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