Irish by birth and Canadian by choice, Joan B. Flood is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and “even a poem or two.” Her first novel, New Girl (Musa Publishing, 2012) is a contemporary coming-of-age novel for young adults. She has contributed to several anthologies and her story “87” won honourable mention in The Binnacle’s Annual International Ultra-Short Story Competition in 2012.
Joan B. Flood graduated from The Writer’s Studio at SFU in 2008, after being encouraged to apply by a friend who attended a reading event of TWS graduates. Recently, Flood has been a contributor for CanadianLesFic.com, a new site to promote the writing and reading of lesbian fiction.
The Peak: What inspired you to begin writing and telling stories?
Flood: I began telling stories at a young age. My mother and father took us out for walks and on the way home when we were all tired and whiney my Dad would say “shorten the road,” which meant we had to tell stories.
In school I began to write in earnest. I had teachers who encouraged me so I kept doing it. I didn’t begin to write fiction until much later in my teens. As a teenager I read Edna O’Brien’s Country Girl. I had never read a book before that had a young female protagonist whose point of view [and motivations] were central. At that time I thought about writing stories.
As I was writing New Girl I recognized a lot of the influence of Edna O’Brien. Also I was lucky enough to grow up in a nation of natural storytellers so every family gathering had stories.
P: What was your experience in TWS like?
F: I was [initially] in the Creative Non-Fiction section and Wayde Compton was my mentor. After a few weeks I felt I was in the wrong group. I had no interest in writing about the kinds of things other folk wrote about and did very well. Memoir didn’t interest me, articles about Facebook and such didn’t interest me.
I really struggled for a while. Then I went to a session with Steven Galloway along with my cohorts. They were all amazed and couldn’t understand how anyone wrote fiction, but I got this great bubble of excitement. So I switched to writing fiction.
[The Writer’s Studio] taught me how to take my writing seriously, how to develop discipline, and most of all introduced me to so many other writers, from my year and other years, that have become mainstays in keeping me on an even keel with writing.
P: What is the story behind New Girl?
F: I never intended to write a Young Adult book, nor a LGBT book. I did some bookkeeping at a wonderful place called Academie Duello [local swordplay school]. Late in the afternoon young people came in for the youth class. Often they came early and sat around talking.
It struck me that although the world they inhabit is very different from the one I grew up in, the issues they face are really similar, how to fit in, who to trust, what do they want, how to deal with the hurts and joys of their days. Gradually the characters in New Girl came to mind. I wrote a couple of paragraphs that then became the story.
It grew into a LGBT story because I became intrigued by what was going on between Carly and Jane [two of the book’s characters] and decided to explore that. I did a quick search of the young folks reading materials and found that many of the LGBT books dealt with the paranormal and/or coming out, and romance. I think I got a bee in my bonnet and thought I wanted to write about some of the real issues facing young people and put out some alternative scenarios, write the book I’d wish had been there when I was growing up.
P: What projects are you currently working on or participating in?
F: I have a few things on the go. Novel writing is a long, lonely business so to amuse myself I’m doing these flash fiction pieces. I am working on two stories, likely novels; one is about three women, family, and secrets. The other is a speculative fiction story set in some other world and time.
Also, if all goes according to plan, I will be one of the mentors at SFU’s Southbank Writing Program in Surrey this summer. I’m really looking forward to that. Working with writers on their work is rewarding and rich. I learn so much about writing that way — it’s a totally selfish act.