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February 14th, 2016 by SPiN

The Dirty Dozen, with June Hutton

When Lila Sinclair arrives in a rough frontier mining town in 1922, the wild events that welcome her beg to be reported. The trouble is that Lila’s dead uncle’s newspaper has shut down and the only person who can help her revive it lives in neighbouring (and forbidden) settlement of Lousetown. Determined to get the paper running again, Lila braves danger, stigma, tough business negotiations and more to see her dream realized.

Inspired by real historical figures, June Hutton‘s Two Gun & Sun (Caitlin Press) is part history, part Western and part story of a woman finding herself (and love) in a tough, unpredictable environment.

OPEN BOOK TORONTO talks to June today as part of our Dirty Dozen series, which invites writers to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. She not only shares funny and interesting stories, but also a series of her own original sketches and a surprising fan letter.

June tells us about how sketching helps her writing process, sneaking incognito bodice-ripping scenes into her work and the trick to a great gin and tonic.

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    1. When I was a young child I almost drowned after I fell over what was then a sheer drop-off at the north end of Vancouver’s Trout Lake. I recall the ethereal green light and what I thought were black weeds snaking out from the underwater dirt cliff. I stopped struggling, mesmerized. My grandfather saw them too and seized them, pulling me out by my hair.
    1. While building the otherworldly setting of my novel Two-Gun & Sun, sometimes words failed me. I found myself filling a notebook with strange sketches until I got the image right in my head, then I hit the keyboard again.
    2. Spectral themes emerged in my first novel, too. Underground’s protagonist Al Fraser walked through time, zombie-like, shrapnel moving under his skin like bugs.
    3. The way to succeed, I’ve been told, is to stop with all that literary stuff and write commercial fiction. Like what, I want to know, a bodice-ripper? So I purposely sneak quirky bodice-ripper scenes into my writing. Just because. There’s one each in both of my novels. Go see.
    1. In journalism school we planned a front page for returning students with the headline “Welcome Back”. Somehow, ongoing discussions determined that the accompanying image should be a back, then a bare back, and finally a bare backside. My friend Terri and I were talked into the jobs of model and photog. I won’t say who did what. And nope, lost the photo long ago.
    2. After months on the midnight shift at Canadian Press, I leapt at the chance to become a reporter for The Whitehorse Star in the Yukon. I returned to the north several years later to motor along the Teslin and Yukon rivers in a 2-crew boat as research for Underground.
    3. I rode in the sidecar of a motorcycle through the streets of Shanghai as research for Two-Gun & Sun.
    4. The best fan mail I have ever received was an enthusiastic two pages long, hand-written, from a prisoner named William from the Thunder Bay Jail. Underground had touched him because it reminded him of his grandfather’s experiences in the B.C. interior. I love that.
  1. My aunt, Patricia Stevens Barker, is one of Vancouver’s unsolved murder cases. I still miss her, and turned my grief into a short story called “Next of Kin”.
  2. I was released from my temporary job at the Province newspaper for accidentally flopping two lines of type in a one-paragraph story. The big deal? The lines contained the judge’s and the accused’s names. Oops.
  3. While I’m not much of a cook, I make a great Gin and Tonic. The trick is to keep everything icy cold. Fill a glass sleeve to the top with ice, add a wedge of lime, squeezed, an ounce or two of gin — from a bottle kept in the freezer — and fill with chilled tonic water. Voila!
  4. My advice for every writer who has suffered from stage fright and dry mouth, which is most of us: Since you can’t bring your G&T onto the stage (can you?) and not all venues supply water, try tucking a sliver of candy-coated gum between your cheek and teeth. You’ll salivate like crazy. Just try not to chew.

 

Source: The Dirty Dozen, with June Hutton

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