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Interview with Pauline Holdstock, author of The Hunter and the Wild Girl

The Hunter and the Wild GirlAfter a successful hardcover run, Goose Lane Editions is pleased to have recently released the trade paperback edition of Pauline Holdstock's award-winning 2017 novel The Hunter and the Wild Girl!

While she currently resides in parts unknown, we managed to reach Ms. Holdstock for a brief email exchange on her novels, her writing process, and what may be coming soon from this prodigiously talented author.

Please enjoy, and don't forget to order your copy of The Hunter and the Wild Girl from Goose Lane Editions, Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, or your local independent bookstore.

About Pauline Holdstock (from her website):

Pauline HoldstockPauline Holdstock is an award-winning Canadian author, originally from the UK. She writes literary fiction, essays and poetry. Her novels have been published in the UK, the US, Brazil, Portugal, Australia and Germany. In Canada her work has been shortlisted for awards such as the Best First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. 

Into the Heart of the CountryBeyond Measure, and The Hunter and the Wild Girl were all placed on the annual Best Books lists of national newspapers. Beyond Measure was the winner of the BC Book Prize Ethel Wilson Award. The Hunter and the Wild Girl won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.

What was the impetus behind The Hunter and the Wild Girl?
LanguedocI'd say the driving force behind the book is most certainly the dense, shrubby landscape belonging to a part of France I know well, the Languedoc. A feral child could live undetected there for years, as did the historical 'wild boy' of Aveyron. Such a child presents the perfect opportunity to explore themes of liberty set against social constraints.
But there's never a single impetus for a novel, not for me anyway. There's only a striking confluence of divergent ideas.
“A collision of divergent ideas.” Is that how you approach your work? Is writing, for you, a heedless trek into the unknown, or a planned adventure?"
Let's say a 'headstrong' trek, since I'm always aware of the dangers of heading out without a specific destination. But, despite cursing the day I set out in this way, I do it time and again. A planned adventure would be painting by numbers and would bore both me and the reader.
I like the book to evolve as I write. Experiences along the way, especially during research can suddenly yield a character or floodlight a scene. For instance, I already had the girl in flight across the landscape and I knew I needed a hunter but I also knew he was absolutely not to be in pursuit of the girl. It was when I read the caption beneath the portrait of a devastated man that I knew I had my hunter: "Albert Eriksson, tinsmith, café owner, hunter and fisherman, who shot his only son by accident at a duck hunt."
Many reviewers have referred to Wild Girl as a 'fairy tale' of sorts. Do you care for that comparison?

I do. Fairy tale is my first influence, my first love. I like the way the narrative of the tale has a directness and an inevitability to it. I like the rhythms of its language. Though Wild Girl is not a fairy tale — there is nothing that can't be explained — I did want to allow space for the imagination to create a kind of potentiality around the girl. Both her origin and her ultimate fate are for the reader to determine. And even as her story is unfolding, she's being recast as legend by the local community. I think it's that aspect that reviewers have responded to. Fable, though, might be more accurate. A reviewer on the NP99 list described it as 'a provocative fable on what it means to be a human being.' I liked that, too.

When I hear 'fable,' I think of Aesop and morality tales. Do you plan such a tact, or (if there is a moral to your stories) is it more an indirect result of the writing? What moral do you hope people take away from Wild Girl?

The Lion and the MouseI was thinking of a less stringent usage. Fable simply as tale.  I would never presume to attach a moral. The world is too complex, too unpredictable.  The tale for me is simply a tool for examining how we might live in the world. In this case, how is the hunter to live, imprisoned by grief? How can the unsocialized girl live in society? Does she have to? That last question, in today's world with our lives so interwoven, so shaped and governed by society, could only have one answer. So you see why, for me, the girl had to acquire a certain otherworldly quality in order for the reader to examine that question. Society offers support, but with that come terrible constraints. We lose our right to live an unmediated existence.

The questions I wanted to raise in this book have to do with the sacrifice of liberty. Even the son, who is only glimpsed, knows the longing for it when he watches the hawk soar and envies for its unfettered freedom.

Aside from your 1994 novel House, you've set your novels in the past. As you've said, the story is "a tool for examining how we might live in the world." If this is a concern, what is it about the past that entices you, rather than the present?

Setting my novels in the past allows my imagination greater rein in my treatment of a theme. I can shed my present concerns and distractions. To set a novel in the present would be for me a Herculean endeavour. I'd not be able to keep my self, my every response to the world and its dilemmas, from intruding. I would be the bore at the party. Working in a historical context is a way to lose myself and then, in the process, to discover new ways of looking at the world and the problems it presents.

Can you talk yet about your next book? Or would that jinx it?

Of course it would! I'll just say that it's set in the twentieth century. So in a way, you could call it another historical novel, though I think readers will be surprised. It surprises me every day.

Thank you very much, Pauline!

author Goose Lane Editions Interview Pauline Holdstock The Hunter and the Wild Girl

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