Corinne Demas is an award-winning author with 30 books to her name, including five novels, two short story collections, a memoir, a collection of poetry, and numerous books for children, as well as two plays. Her short story Thanksgiving inspired by the return of adult siblings to their childhood home for Thanksgiving is the winning entry for the 2014 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award. We speak to Demas about her writing projects, past and future.
A: What was your inspiration for Thanksgiving?
CD: Thanksgiving began with the pies. Every Thanksgiving, when my large extended family gathers, we each bring part of the meal. I bring pies: apple crumb, pumpkin and pecan. They’re not homemade, but no one minds, since the pies come from the bakery at a local orchard and are better than anything I’d bake. The pies inspired the end of my short story. I pictured a family sitting around a table eating pies for dessert, and no one talking about the issues that had been simmering, beneath the surface.
Thanksgiving is not about my own family, but as is the case with all my fiction, (and probably true of most fiction writers) some of the characters are drawn from people I know. Because I’m an only child, I’ve always been interested in observing the way siblings interact, and I often write about them in my stories. Adult siblings gathering in their childhood home for Thanksgiving – when patterns of the past reassert themselves and old loyalties are strained – seemed like fertile territory for a short story.
A: How have you developed your writing style?
CD: My writing style was no doubt shaped by working on newspapers when I was younger – where brevity and economy reigned. My writing has developed over time, primarily influence by my reading. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the short story, and for several years I read short stories and tried to analyse what made the good ones work. (Favorites include: Chekhov, Mansfield, Welty, and Updike).
Because I write in several genres, I like to think I don’t have a single style, but rather adapt my style to the type of writing I’m working on at the moment. In my novel The Writing Circle, I had to write sections of manuscripts supposedly written by the six different characters who are the members a writing group. It forced me to think about their styles (which differed from the style of the narrator of my novel.) It was fun, for instance, to write in the style of my character, Chris, who is working on a fast-paced detective novel, and then shift gears and write in the style of Adam, the youngest (and yet unpublished) member of the writing group, whose prose is verbose and self-indulgent.
A: Why do you choose to write short fiction?
CD: I love short fiction! It’s an exciting challenge to see how much you can do in a small space. And it’s invigorating to think about having that short, concentrated intimate relationship with a reader. Poe described it so well in his review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales. He speaks of the advantage of a tale that can be read “in a single sitting”and writes, “During the hour of perusal the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control.” Short fiction offers a particular pleasure for a writer because it’s possible to think a story through in your head and set it down on paper, start to finish, all in a single day.
A: What do you hope your readers will gain from your writing?
CD: I hope my readers will believe in my characters and empathise with them – even the characters who seem, at first, unlovable. And I hope there will be aspects of my fiction that will connect them with something in themselves—awaken old memories, rekindle dreams.
A: Have you got any current or forthcoming projects?
CD: I just sent my agent a new novel, tentatively titled Irrevocable. It’s a cross-over young adult/ adult. Like my young adult novel Returning to Shore, which came out last spring, this is a coming-of-age story, but my main character here is more cynical and wry.
My new picture book, Are Pirates Polite? is being published by Scholastic in a year. Like Pirates go to School, which came out two years ago, it’s in rhyming couplets. An entirely different style from my novels and short fiction, for sure!
For more information about Corinne Demas’ writing visit www.corinnedemas.com
The Aesthetica Creative Writing Award opens in January 2015. For more information visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/creativewriting
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1. Agne Stasiauskaite, Bibliography. Aesthetica Art Prize 2014 longlist. Courtesy of the artist and Aesthetica.