Volume 96, Issue 57
Friday, January 10, 2003

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Couples who write together, stay together

By Kelly Marcella
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo

When it comes to Canadian literature, Farley Mowat holds a very specific and influential place in the canon – and his wife Claire is marking out her own place in the Canadian tradition.

In his latest literary effort, High Latitudes, Canadian author Farley Mowat chronicles his trips to the Canadian Arctic, creating a wonderfully colourful memoir of the characters he met on his journey.

"All of the people in it are interesting to me, or I wouldn't have written about them. Each one is different, and each one has a different appeal," Farley says.

"If there is an intrinsic message [to the book] it would be: take a good hard look at what we have done to the world we live in since 1966," he says, explaining that the chronicles in High Latitudes help to show the remarkable changes humans have made to the world over the years.

Farley is quick to point out, however, that this novel is by no means pushing any particular cause, nor does it have a specific message to it. It is simply a return to his original and proper role as a storyteller.

The author of over 30 books, Farley's works often deal with environmental issues or have strong connections to the natural world.

"I'm more interested in people and how they interact with the natural world," he says. "My interest lies with people in the natural condition."

In the introduction to High Latitudes, renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood discusses the importance Farley has had on Canadian literature. Nonetheless, Farley says his reputation is not something he ever considers when writing, nor does he see it fit to accept such high accolades.

"In point and fact, I'm outside the Canadian literary tradition. I've never been a favourite of the literati. I've always been involved in writing what I call creative non-fiction, and there is no role for that in our categorizing system," Farley explains, noting he does not fit into the basic fiction and non-fiction categories of literature.

However, this is not something that concerns Farley. "I'm not highly regarded by most academics and that does not cut me to the quick. As long as I have a readership, an audience, that is what I'm concerned about. I'm a storyteller and I tell stories as best I know how, to as wide an audience as I can reach," he adds.

Farley's wife Claire is also a successful writer, penning books for both youth and adults. Her young adult fiction trilogy The Girl From Away, about a young girl's life in Canada, has been highly successful.

Claire says she enjoys writing for different audiences. "The two are very different types of writing. The two books of non-fiction that I wrote were for adults, and the three novels were for young adults – they were all a lot of fun," she says, explaining that she enjoys being able to write a wide variety of styles.

"Writing the way we do it – writing about what we want, when and in whatever method we choose – is far more fun," Farley adds.

Neither Claire nor Farley say that they attempt to write from a specifically Canadian perspective, but, rather, write what they know and have experienced.

"We don't know any other way to do it. If somebody told me to write an Italian story, I couldn't do it," Claire says.

"We support each other in many different ways. I get a lot of assistance from Claire, and she gets some from me. It's a mutual enterprise," Farley says.

They both agree that knowing someone will read and hopefully appreciate their works is the most rewarding aspect of authorship.

According to Farley, however, the key to being successful at anything, including writing, is in the action. "It's a matter of doing – that's the most important thing," he concludes.

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