In 2015, I won the NLCU Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers. It was a Cinderella moment for me, both instantly wonderful and bizarre. This is how the novel came into existence.
facts informing fiction…
The diaries spanned from Grade 7 to the age of 16, and they chronicled my parents’ divorce and my feelings on discovering my sexuality. There were so many confused feelings back then. I wish I could talk to that kid back then and say, ‘The world is crazy, and you are not.’
But while there are certainly similarities with the character Daisy, and of experiences I went through when I was that age, this fictional book is not about me.
growing up girl…
When I grew up, girls were still very much expected to be quiet, well-behaved and believe in God unquestionably. There was a lot of misogyny around. It was believed everyone was equal, when the reality was that girls were treated very differently to boys, and I wanted to address this within the book.
Daisy’s father abandons them, and her mother Sheila is an immigrant in Canada. Sheila doesn’t have a big support system, so the two really must hold each other up. But in the end, the women move on and evolve.
what’s in a name…
As for the naming of the characters, I was legally named Susan but have always gone by “Susie.” Growing up people were always telling me Susan is more conservative, but it never fitted my personality. So maybe there is something (subconscious) when the character ‘Sheila’ wants to be called ‘Shell.’ She doesn’t want to be that person sitting at the kitchen sink anymore. It’s a reinvention.
Sheila at first is incredibly lonely and suffering depression after going through a personal tragedy, and I have a huge amount of empathy for her. It’s realistic to experience a bout of depression, and it’s a part of life just as much as it is to be happy. We need the two as a balance to understand real joy.
becoming a social self…
We see the mother-daughter duo trapped in the suburbs—Sheila in a (toxic) relationship, Daisy in a school she is too smart for, and when they finally get out, there’s a huge sense of freedom. Sometimes when you go through trauma, it really pushes you to live a more extraordinary life. Characters like Wanda and Cora show Daisy there’s a different way to live.
Looking back to my own youth, while there were so many things wrong with this time, as kids we had a lot more freedom. We were able to have our own social lives that our parents couldn’t direct and—quite frankly—know anything about because of the lack of technology. I think such freedom was a wonderful thing because it allowed us how to shape our own identities. ■