Marianne Jones was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she lives with her husband Reg. Her work has appeared in Room, Wascana Review, Canadian Living, and Reader’s Digest, and won awards from the Canadian Authors Association, Writer’s Digest, and others. Her as-told-to memoir, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, won the 2015 Word Alive Press publishing contest. Much of her writing celebrates the unique beauty of Northwestern Ontario. She and her husband love music, live theatre and ballroom dancing. Together they have two daughters and two granddaughters. You can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/MarianneJonesAuthor
Shauna Kosoris: What was the inspiration behind Maud and Me?
Marianne Jones: Almost thirty years ago I was drinking my morning coffee when a picture appeared to me of a woman working in her garden and looking up to see Lucy Maud Montgomery, deceased author of Anne of Green Gables, watching her. The image was so compelling that I snatched up my notebook and pen and began writing, as though taking dictation. I had no idea where this was coming from, only that it was the most powerful experience of my writing life. After several pages, the images and dialogue stopped. I looked at what I had written and sensed that it “wanted” to be a novel.
Wow, that’s quite the fascinating experience. As that happened so long ago, and Maud and Me just came out in 2021, you’ve been working on the book for quite some time. What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
My lack of confidence.
So why did you choose to situate the book in Marathon, Ontario?
I apologize to people in Marathon for the negative feelings my protagonist Nicole has toward the town! I actually have nothing against Marathon. I just chose it as a representative of a small town along the north shore of Lake Superior. Nicole’s perceptions arise in part from her frustrations about the choices she feels were forced on her.
Both Nicole from Maud and Me, and Margaret, one of your protagonists from your Margaret and Louise mysteries series, are painters. Why does painting appeal so much to you in your writing?
Although I am not a visual artist, and have no ability in that direction, I do have a strong aesthetic awareness that is reflected in my writing. My mother used to pore over art books lovingly and show us the works of great masters. In my teens she showed me pictures of William Kurelek’s work. I had the opportunity to see some of Kurelek’s originals in Ottawa one year, and they were mind-blowing. My husband and I enjoy going to art galleries and revelling in the treasures there. We have framed prints and local originals hanging in every room. Perhaps incorporating visual artists in my writing is a bit of wishful thinking on my part!
Perhaps! Maud and Me is your first literary book. Do you think you will return to the genre?
I would love to, but it would depend on what ideas come to me.
That’s fair. Along with novels, you’ve written many different things, including poetry, children’s books, and plays. Do you have a preference for one form over the others?
I don’t think I have a preference. Each has its own reason for being.
Does your writing process change when moving from one genre to another?
Writing novels is the form that requires the most steady consistency. Getting down a narrative that lasts for 50,000-60,000 words demands a stick-to-it-iveness that extends over years. I suppose for that reason it gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment.
What are you working on now?
A play based on the life of L.M. Montgomery.
That’s exciting – good luck finishing it! To wrap this up, I’d like to ask you a few questions about reading. What book or author inspired you to write?
No specific book or author. I read continuously as a child, everything I could get my hands on. One day it occurred to me that books gave me so much pleasure that it would be a wonderful thing to write them myself.
Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?
And what are you currently reading?
I just finished reading Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman. It’s a delightful first novel about a quirky family in Dublin.