Author Bridget Canning dazzles with her acclaimed debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes
Bridget Canning has had the kind of year a debut novelist would dream of. A finalist for the coveted Winterset Award, Atlantic Book Awards and inaugural NL Reads and with bountiful heaps of praise to spare, Canning’s The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes is a brave and unshakably confident statement of an author operating well beyond her career mileage.
“It feels surreal,” says Canning in a sitdown with The Herald. “When the novel came out, and I think this happens with a lot of writers when they publish something, you’re happy and excited, but you also feel really vulnerable.
“I remember when it first came out I talked with Lisa Moore and Robert Chafe and asked, did you feel when you publish something that your guts are just hanging out where everyone can see them? And they said yeah, that’s how you feel.”
Of course, Canning is far from a novice to the literary world. The author and educator has been short-listed for The Cuffer Prize and won awards with the BC Federation of Writers Literary Writers competition and Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters awards. She was one of five winners across the nation selected for Women in Film and Television Vancouver’s From Our Dark Side genre concept competition. So praise and accolades are nothing new, but never the less impactful.
Praise for Wanda Jaynes
“I think in the long-term it reinforces what you do,” she says. “I think your initial reaction is you get this kind of oh my god, no, fraudulence or impostor syndrome. In the long-run it feels like an honour and reinforces what you want to do.”
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes surrounds a woman in the midst of a personal and career crisis. When a routine trip to the grocery store just so happens to coincide with a gunman firing on the premises, Wanda’s life is changed forever.
“When I was thinking of this very modern day issue – we hear about all of this fear on mass shootings – it’s kind of like what would it be like if it happened here?” Canning explains.
“I think St. John’s is more of a big town than a large city. I wanted that feeling of it happening in people’s backyards. It’s not rooted in history, but I still think we can talk about modern day things and encompass them in what we see as our own identity, or the way we see ourselves and the way we want to be seen.
‘Things That Scare Me’
“I tend to write about things that scare me,” she adds. “I write about things that scare me and things that make me mad. It is very prevalent now, and it’s a topic now, but unfortunately this has been a topic for awhile and it’s not going away and it’s not being solved.”
Canning cautions that although Wanda Jaynes is an undeniably strong and inspiring lead character, she did not set out to design the typical super-woman. More-so, to create a complex, flawed, and entirely human protagonist.
“I have a few issues when people talk about ‘strong female characters.’ I think that’s from growing up in the 80s and early 90s there was this push that women have to be absolutely everything and balance a home life and work life and be fit and dress well and be healthy and this kind of super woman. It’s not real and it’s putting a lot of expectations. It’s putting a lot into that idea that a woman is either an angel or a monster,” Canning says.
“For me when I’m creating a female character I want her to be a human being and want her to have flaws. In that way I hope she’s empowering, because I’d hope people can see what she is doing right and what she is doing wrong and still be vouching for her and cheering for her, even when she’s messing up. I think if you look at strong male characters they are always deeply flawed.”
The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes is available now wherever local books are sold. For more on Bridget Canning visit breakwaterbooks.com