Amelinda Bérubé, author or spooky YA novels The Dark beneath the Ice and Here There are Monsters, shares her favourite plot twists, books and characters, her interest in unreliable narrators, and her love of the Canadian landscapes that inspire her stories. 20 minutes.
Read the full transcript:
[1:10] Interview with Amelinda Bérubé
CA: Do you have advice to young writers on how to begin?
AB: I think my best advice would be just get going…. And when you are looking for that place to come in…you want to get as close as you can to… the point where everything changes…
[2:45] CA: Do you have a favorite plot twist, either from your own work or from another work of fiction?
AB: My favorite thing that I’ve come across lately is a book called Rules for Vanishing. …
[3:25] CA: And do you have any favorite techniques or something you could recommend to young writers for building tension?
AB: One thing that I would recommend is look at a scary movie… what steps does it take to move from everyday life into this really heightened state of suspense?
[4:45] CA: Do you have a favorite first line?
AB: … the opening paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House is just …] perfection. …
[5:00] CA: How do you feel about endings where the good guy loses, or sad endings?
AB: … Here There are Monsters does not end happily. …. you can end in defeat, you can end in bittersweet or sad feelings, but you have to end with your character having a way out of the woods. … You can’t just grind somebody into the dirt and leave them there.
[6:20] CA: Do you find yourself editing yourself while drafting or do you do a full draft and then go back and revise?
AB: Mostly it’s just a free for all when I first write. … I feel like I’m a much better rewriter than I am a writer. … And I found owning that kind of liberating. … you don’t have to like it; you just have to do it.
[8:20] CA: Do you have a favorite point of view to write from?
AB: … For YA… I find I fall pretty naturally into a first-person present… especially for something spooky, what it really highlights is how subjective the experience is. …
[9:00] CA: Have you ever written an unreliable narrator? …
AB: I feel like in a way, all first-person narrators are unreliable.… I don’t think anybody clearly knows their own motivations … that’s one of the things that I think fiction is all about, is sort of like exploring all the murky false consciousness that is involved in being a person.
[10:40] CA: Have you ever written about siblings?
AB: … Here There are Monsters is … about sisters who kind of have a toxic relationship… And I have another book that I’m working on that also goes into that territory. …
[11:20] CA: And monsters, you’ve written about monsters.
AB: Oh yes. … I find that monsters are a good way to talk about… the things that are really scary about people. They’re sort of funhouse mirrors … they reflect back to us the things that we can’t really talk about in ourselves.
[12:00] CA: Did you tell stories around a campfire as a kid or have another off the cuff storytelling experience?
AB: … I’ve never been an off-the-cuff sort of person. …
[12:45] CA: Do you ever write short stories?
AB: I’ve written exactly 1 short story since high school. …
[13:25] CA: And do you have a favorite scary story? …
AB: … I really do love The Haunting of Hill House. … It’s kind of surprising how scary it is, given the scary elements. …But I’d also talk about… Rules for Vanishing. …. And there’s a Frances Hardinge book called Cuckoo Song which is really more of a dark fantasy than it is horror, but it’s so scary. …
[15:00] CA: And do you like scary movies too?
AB: I find as I get older, I’m too chicken for them. …
[16:25] CA: Do you have a favorite setting from fiction, either your own or another book you like?
AB: I’m always most interested in the Canadian landscape. There’s Eden Robinson. …Any place where you’re in the spooky woods, I’m all about. But I love to recognize those woods. I love to know that this is, I guess, a place close to home. …if I look at like what I want my career to be as an author, and specifically as a Canadian author, like I just want to jet set around the country and find all the spooky places and write about them.
[17:30] CA: And characters, do you have a favorite fictional character from your own book or from another book that you love?
AB: I think probably I mentioned Lois McMaster Bujold before. She has a series about this fellow named Miles Vorkosigan. …. He’s so amazing. …
[18:40] CA: Finally, are there setting or character exercises that you might recommend to young writers to help develop those things?
AB: … think of settings that you’re familiar with, that you know well enough to describe in very concrete terms using all your five senses… first of all just describe the place in as fine detail as you can and try to sort of capture the feeling of the place. And then … make it spooky. … there’s different things that you highlight for each mood….
[20:45] Amelinda Bérubé introduces herself
AB: I’m Amelinda Bérubé. I have two books out at the moment. The first is The Dark Beneath the Ice and the second is Here there are Monsters. I write about ghosts and monsters and other things that go bump in the night. And I live in Ottawa. And I guess I like to read pretty much anything and everything, but I’m most attached to books that scare me, or books that make me cry or books that make me laugh. I guess basically I’m looking for anything that makes me feel something.
[21:30] Find out more about Amelinda Bérubé
You can hear more creative writing advice from Amelinda Bérubé on Cabin Tales Episode 3: “Spooky Stories are all Around Us,” about getting ideas; on Episode Four: “Bad Things Happen,” about plotting; and on Episode 8, “The Never-ending Story,” about revision. You can find out more about Amelinda Bérubé and her books from her website at MetuiteMe.com…. Amelinda says she lives on Twitter, so follow her there @metuiteme. Or subscribe to her newsletter to keep up with all her latest news, insights, and reading recommendations.
[22:45] Thanks and coming up on the podcast
I’ll be back next week with leftovers from my interview with Wendy McLeod MacKnight, novelist for middle-grade readers who joins us from New Brunswick.
I’m Catherine Austen. Thanks for listening.
Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use).
Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at www.catherineausten.com.
Visit the Cabin Tales home page.
Amelinda Bérubé is a freelance writer and the author of the YA novels The Dark Beneath the Ice and Here There Are Monsters. A mother of two and a passionate gardener, she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, in a perpetual whirlwind of unfinished projects and cat hair. Find her online at www.metuiteme.com.