Writing World: Megan Gail Coles

Writing World: Megan Gail Coles

Author Megan Gail Coles releases Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club

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Local author Megan Gail Coles launched her most recent work, Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club at Eastern Edge on February 7.

Coles sat down with The Herald just one day before the official book launch, to chat about her 2019 offering, described by publishing company Anansi Press as “a blistering Newfoundland Gothic for the twenty-first century.”

Proud Newfoundlander

There’s no doubt that Coles is a fiercely proud Newfoundlander, whose love of her homeland runs deep. It is often the proudest Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who hold the harshest criticisms for this island – most of us either remember or fantasize about better days on The Rock.

Coles is quick to note that her use of the word “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians” includes anyone who chooses to make a home on the island, explaining that “if you’re here now, investing your time and energy in making NL a better place, than you are a Newfoundlander or Labradorian,” in her mind.

In Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, Coles explores her own observations about life in Newfoundland and Labrador – her likes, dislikes, ideas, aspirations, and more – told through an intricately woven web of unique characters.

“When I was developing the characters, I wanted to incorporate all the different experiences I think are really relevant experiences in our province,” Coles said, noting that there are no Labradorians at the forefront of the novel, as she felt like she was not the right person to write the story of a Labradorian.

“In this novel, I tried to have a balance between rural and urban, between male and female and non-binary, people from different marginalized groups, from different classes, from different backgrounds, because we often can’t see ourselves in each other and it’s so frustrating, when everyone is working under the same conditions – especially in the book, because they’re literally working in the same restaurant.”’

Microcosm of the Rock

The setting is the Hazel, a fictional up-scale restaurant located in St. John’s, and it works as “a microcosm for Newfoundland, which is a microcosm for Canada,” she said.

“One of the reasons I set it in a restaurant is because it is a place where, if you go into any fine dining restaurant in St. John’s, any evening, you will find people of every single class,” Coles explained.

“The best table in the house is usually occupied by the wealthiest person in the house, and then the hierarchy is basically well established inside the service industry, right down to the dish pit. The person in the dish pit is unfortunately living this alternative reality to the people in the dining room. They are so far apart.”

Bridging that invisible yet obvious gap seems impossible, but Coles argues that it isn’t, if we experience a major shift in political power dynamics. She added, however, that change begins with the people of Newfoundland who want to see change.

“When I’m advocating for equality and opportunity in my own work, it’s because I know how far a person can come in just one generation,” she said, explaining that in her family, there’s only one generation between being a writer, and being illiterate.

‘Might Hurt a Little’

Conversation flowed into how much can change in a short period of time, speaking from multiple points of view – family relationships, evolving urban landscapes, global accessibility, and blossoming opportunity. It was a bright and positive conversation – an interesting contrast to Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club, which Coles explains in the opening pages, “might hurt a little.”

The book manages to offer a blunt but necessarily harsh dose of reality, through fictionalized Newfoundlanders. 

“We’re so great, we’re so funny, and our province is so beautiful, and you know what? That’s all true. We are great, we have a wonderful, morbid sense of humour, and the province in gorgeous. That’s no less true because there are other true things about us.”

More conversation flowed about hardships on the island, highlighting some grim events from recent years – darkNL, Muskrat Falls, the Snelgrove trial, and more. 

“Everything that happens in that restaurant in this one novel, is talking about all these things, and yeah, it is hard – I never said I was writing an easy book, and whenever anyone tells me they’re going to read it, I tell them to pace themselves, and stop if they need to. I know people are going to binge-read the thing, and I don’t necessarily encourage it. Have a self-care plan in place for after,” she explained, in a serious tone.

“I often think of the novel as a rally cry. I don’t want people to feel threatened, because people in Newfoundland feel threatened as it is, and I don’t want them to think that I don’t love them. If I didn’t love them, I would live in Montreal,” Coles said with a laugh.

“I chose to be here, because this is where I need to be, and I wrote this book because I want everyone to snap the f*ck out of it and treat each other better, and I think we can do that, if we work together. We have all the skills, the insight, and the intellect, that if we open our hearts up, we can … focus our energy on what really needs to change in our province, then I think we can have a future that everyone can feel safe and happy inside of,” she explained.

A Better way Forward

“We can think of a better way to live,” Coles said confidently. “We’re resource-rich. Everybody in Newfoundland should have a really nice standard of living.”

“I want people to have nice things. I want people to have a beautiful home and a reliable truck. I want them to be able to go on vacation, to buy birthday presents for their children … I want every Newfoundlander and every Labradorian, regardless of where they started out from, to be able to have the same standard of living that anyone would expect in 2019.”

“The future has to have enough space for all of us to voice our own personal truths and narratives, and that’s who the book is for – the book is for anybody who wants to see everybody OK.”

Megan Gail Cole’s “Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club” is available wherever local books are sold.

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