Last night, I read at Russell Books on Fort Street. I walked there through puddles and headlights, and went down a set of stairs to find book heaven. Complete collections of original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys hardbacks, signed first editions, leather-bound compilations of Edwardian children's magazines, gorgeous glossy cookbooks, the deep smell of old paper. And us, four contemporary writers, reading for the damp crowd among the stacks. Lucky to go first, I then got to sit back and listen to Matt Rader read from his quietly menacing island story "The Laurel Whalen," from his collection What I Want To Tell Goes Like This. Chelsea Rooney followed with a searing excerpt from her novel Pedal, describing a woman at Vancouver's Wreck Beach observing a pedophile trying to control himself, and Lee Henderson finished with a piece of The Road Narrows as You Go, about a young 1980s cartoonist desperate to know whether she's Ronald Reagan's illegitimate child. All gripping.
So: very different subjects. But we all seemed to be talking about the past and its influence on the present. The way people from our pasts control us still. I thought about how Dan's older brother Israel, who dies young, affects him throughout my book--that idea was a huge part of my understanding of Dan's character.
I also thought about ghosts quite a lot last night here at the Empress Hotel. Lovely, old, slightly creepy, with miles of corridors, arched and barrel-vaulted ceilings, and imposing carved cabinets at random intervals. Tonight I'm leaving the bedside light on.