Author Trudy Morgan-Cole draws on her past to create her latest St. John’s love song
St. John’s own award-winning writer Trudy Morgan-Cole will be releasing another works of historical fiction this fall, calling the locally based novel “a love song to my neighbourhood.”
The highly anticipated Most Anything You Please hits shelves on October 6. With less than a month to publication date, The Herald squeezed in some interview time with the busy author, blogger, podcaster, teacher, and mom, to learn about her latest creative endeavour.
“Stories take a really long time to develop for me — they often end up including elements that have been in the back of my mind for years,” Morgan-Cole said, attributing her four years of working on Most Anything You Please to brainstorming, instead of her many accolades and interests.
This story was borne of a Facebook conversation with an old friend, also from the Rabbittown neighbourhood in St. John’s. The pair was discussing a former local corner store, but drawing a blank on its name, Morgan-Cole recalled.
“That led to a whole conversation among several people about corner shops that we remembered, and it got me thinking about how when I was growing up in the 70s, every corner in the neighbourhood had a corner store,” she said.
“Those stores all either closed, or turned into something else. I thought that the story of a family-owned store, and the family who owns it over four generations, would be an interesting way to examine a changing way of life in St. John’s,” Morgan-Cole explained.
“The story begins in the 1930s and ends in the 1990s, and over those decades, we see the lives of the Holloway family, of the neighbourhood, of the city and of Newfoundland itself change in so many ways. The story has its roots in the shop, but the shop and the family are affected by everything from the arrival of American servicemen 1940s, to the cod moratorium in the 1990s,” she said. “That corner store is an anchor in the neighbourhood for … six decades as Rabbittown, and St. John’s itself, grows and changes around them.”
Grow & Evolve
Of course, the Holloway family, and their store, did not actually exist in local history. In this novel, the reader follows these fictional characters and their fictional yet based-in-reality backdrop, as they grow, and evolve, the corner store serving as the setting for their life story.
“The four main characters in this novel are members of the Holloway family: Ellen, who opens the store in the 1930s; her daughter Audrey who works there through most of the following decades; Audrey’s son Henry, a musician, who wants a completely different life for himself, and Henry’s daughter Rachel, also a musician, who tries to pull together the different threads of her family’s life and experiences,” Morgan-Cole explained.
In Most Anything You Please, the author uses her personal memories, such as Rabbittown in the 60s, to build her characters, adorning them with small details like a love of country music, which Morgan-Cole enjoys herself. Situations and feelings from the author’s life also seep into her writing, such as a touching scene in which a character is dealing with the death of a relative, which Morgan-Cole was also going through while writing this novel.
Know Them Inside & Out
“I never write characters that are “based on” real people,” she mused, noting that she would feel too constrained by the real person. “I have to feel like characters are completely mine, to do with as I please, so I can know them inside and out.”
Though fictional, the story and its characters are definitely easy to relate to – even in present day, many of us have a connection with the the workers at our local corner store.
For this writer, it’s Caines convenience on Duckworth Street – I see them more than I see my own family.
The Herald had to ask if Morgan-Cole has any similar connections. “Probably my oddest and most long-lasting relationship that relates to a corner store is actually with my hairdresser, oddly enough. When I was growing up, one of the three stores that were all within a half-block of my house was Mrs. Bennett’s store,” she explained. “When I was still in high school in the early 80s, it became a hair salon … I got a perm there when I was sixteen. The same woman still owns and runs that shop, and does my hair, today,” Morgan-Cole said. “We reminisce about the old corner shops and how the neighbourhood has changed, and I talked to her about this book when I was in the very early stages of writing it.”
“There’s a strong local pull,” Morgan-Cole said of the book as a whole. “But there’s also something universal, in the family saga, in the hopes and struggles of each of the characters, but also in that story of the rise and fall of the family-owned business, the mom-and-pop store,” Morgan-Cole said. “How many neighbourhoods have boarded-up shops that used to be the lifeblood of the community, but were squeezed out by chain grocery and convenience stores? I hope lots of people will find something to relate to and love in this book.”
Calling her latest book “a love song” to her neighbourhood,
Most Anything You Please is “for Newfoundlanders, townies and Rabbittownies in particular,” but really, it’s for any person who has a knowing smile established with the clerk at the local corner store.
Most Anything You Please is available for pre-order through Breakwater Books, and can be purchased wherever local books are sold on October 6.