Eden Robinson is popping up all over the place right now, with the release of her much-awaited second book in the Trickster Trilogy, Trickster Drift (Knopf Canada, October 2018). She is also a prominent speaker at The Vancouver Writers Fest this Fall, where she can be seen at five different events. Whether this is your first introduction to Robinson, or you are already a fan, here are five facts to deepen your knowledge about this amazing author.
She Laughs a LOT
(image from Globe and Mail)
It may surprise you to know that Robinson is so quick to laugh, as she often describes herself as “a moody, grim writer”[i]. Her books are filled with dark humour, gritty settings, and have been described as belonging in the “Canadian Gothic” genre.
Perhaps it is because humour is often a way to soften difficult topics, like the ones she writes about, or maybe she was just born to laugh! Either way, “ask anyone who has interviewed her or heard her interviewed, gone to one of her readings, met her even in passing: author Eden Robinson has the best laugh in the business. Unbridled, loud, contagious.”[ii] Robinson is definitely an author to meet if you have a chance, to experience her vibrance in person.
The Supernatural is in Her Blood
Okay, that may be dramatic. But Robinson is very aware of what influences her writing, from where she writes, to her teenage obsessions. One of these obsessions was reading Stephen King. She says, “I remember reading Stephen King forever because his horror seemed to encapsulate my teenage experience.”[iii] Also, she notes that “I was born on the same day as Edgar Allan Poe and Dolly Parton: January 19. I am absolutely certain that this affects my writing in some way.”[iv]
Is it superstition? Maybe… but she grew up with the supernatural entwined in her life, so it is an important part of her experience. “The stories I was told growing up were full of supernatural creatures who were described the same way you’d describe your neighbours…. I tend to view the supernatural characters (in my writing) like the other characters, prone to idiosyncrasies and family squabbles.”[v]
She Moved Back Home
“Robinson grew up in Kitamaat Village on Haisla territory where she now lives and writes.”[vi] Despite having spent a lot of time in Vancouver and elsewhere, Robinson is concerned about her culture disappearing, and is making it a priority to try and learn the languages her parents never taught her as a child: Haisla and Heiltsuk. Like many residential school survivors, her parents believed that learning proper English was the key to a bright future.
Now, there are fewer than 100 fluent speakers of Haisla left, but she says that “people my age who would be learning Haisla are struggling in the work world. That's taking second place to bills and food."[vii] So, Robinson is doing what she can to learn the languages, while also using her celebrity to draw attention to the issues affecting her community, such as “the high levels of pollution caused by the aluminum plant near Kitimaat.”[viii]
The Long Life of Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach (Vintage Canada 2001) has become a staple in Canadian High School classes, perhaps because of her ability to so honestly portray modern Indigenous life. In Monkey Beach, “Ancient rituals are shown as part of the reality of a modern Indigenous community, along with Kraft Dinner and TV soaps and the legacy of residential schools”.[ix]
The book is currently being turned into a movie, and teenager Corbin Basso from Prince Rupert is playing the character of Young Frank. Basso is of Haida ancestry, and is “really excited to be part of Monkey Beach and working with all the amazing actors and directors.”[x] With scenes being shot in Kitmaat Village and Kitimat, perhaps he will even get to meet Robinson herself.
She is a VERY Slow Writer
Robinson admits that when she was younger, she could write for 12-18 hours at a time; now, however, she says that “I can write for four hours max before my back gives out, my eyes cross and my latent carpal tunnel starts to twinge.”[xi] Still, even with her epic writing sessions of yore, she says that “a book every five years is my top speed.”[xii]
“Monkey Beach took ten years to write,”[xiii] and Son of a Trickster began in 2008 as an idea for a short story, “but it turned into a novel and then it kept expanding.”[xiv] It finally was published in 2018 (Vintage Canada) as part one of three. Clearly, Robinson’s process is working, as each of her books has been nominated for (or won) literary awards. With the Trickster books being a trilogy, however, we won’t have to wait for too long for her next book… We hope!
Sometimes, knowing more about an author will change how you interpret their work, and will give insight into the books you have already read. Hopefully, learning about Eden Robinson has added an extra layer of love for her stories.
[ii] Globe and Mail
[iii] CBC Books
[iv] Penguin Random House
[vi] Room Magazine
[vii] Globe and Mail
[viii] The Canadian Encyclopedia
[ix] Penguin Random House
[x] Interior News
[xi] Nineteen Questions
[xii] Nineteen Questions
[xiii] Room Magazine
[xiv] CBC Books