Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves. Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.” E.L. Doctorow

Last Saturday I gave a reading to the on-line students in Simon Fraser University’s The Writing Studio program (TWS). Prior to any reading I practice my presentation, determining which sections I’m going to read and how I will introduce them. This was the first time I’d read from both my novels in one session.

I immediately noticed that two of my key protagonists in Nicolai’s Daughters and The Brink of Freedom were children who were left behind by a parent or parents.

Writing a novel can take years (or at least it does for me). My characters become family. Even when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about them. Then the novel is published. Yeah! Someone likes it as much as I think I do (this relationship with my work is complicated: sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it).

A tour follows. I’ve read at festivals, visited book clubs and schools, and when the promotion is done, I eventually put the novel away and start something new.  

As an author, I create new characters and throw different problems at them to solve.

Or at least that’s what I thought. Well that is until last Saturday. Themes of abandonment run through my work. I’ve never been deserted. At least, I don’t think I have.  And yet here I’d created two protagonists that had been.

My family immigrated to Canada when I was about the same age as my characters.

Leaving something you were so rooted in for something completely foreign can destabilize a person. I get that. But who knew the abandonment I was writing about and creating for my characters was touching something raw and still sore inside me.

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