Celebrating the arts in Brome-Missisquoi
Writer Meghan Redmile grew up immersed in the stories of her family’s past. As a self-proclaimed history nerd and vintage lover, she poured through their photo albums in awe, amazed at the fashion and music of past generations.
It was only natural that the Cowansville-based author turned to writing historical fiction, blending untold Canadian history from the Great Depression era and WWII with explorations of feminine interiority in her first novel Hold On. While classified as fiction, the plot is based on the true story of the disappearance of her great aunt, who was last seen by her then-seven-year-old daughter in 1947.
After coming across a photograph of the missing woman in an old family photo album, Redmile began searching to find out what happened to her relative, leading her down a too-crazy-to-be-true path of familial secrets and historical chains of events spanning across Canada that was eventually turned into a book upon the insistence of a friend.
As a writer, Redmile is focused on honouring feminine narratives that history textbooks often leave out. Often the stories from the Great Depression and WWII centre the experiences of men, erasing the lived experiences of women who were alive during this time or reinforcing their domestic and maternal roles.
“We need strong female leads, not only in life, but in books as well,” she says. “So I take great care when creating my characters, knowing as an author and a woman, that I have to provide my readers with them.”
Her novel Hold On was followed up by a much-anticipated sequel, Let Go. As an Anglophone author working in Quebec, Redmile has had challenges finding places to stock her book and hold launch events, but finds herself in a supportive community of local English-language authors around Brome County, particularly at Brome Lake Books, where her books are available.
Both of her Redmile’s novels were self-published, as she wanted complete independence over her story and its representation. Understandable so, given that its events were based on factual events that had very real consequences for the women in her family. Some of the people affected by her aunt’s disappearance in 1947 are still alive today, so Redmile wanted to honour their stories as soon as possible instead of chancing the long route of traditional publishing, which as an undiscovered writer, could take years before seeing a bookshelf.
“I’m not ashamed to say that I’m self-published,” she says. “I know that some people say that you’re not an author if you’re not traditionally published, but you’re an author if you write, even if it’s for yourself.”
Self-publishing has become somewhat of a radical act for writers, breaking down barriers for minority writers who may be held back due to a number of reasons. Redmile is happy to see publishing open up more to women, and is a strong advocate of supporting female Canadian authors. As part of the team behind the annual Knowlton Literary Festival, she aims to foster community and create bonds between local writers and readers.
Redmile’s latest manuscript sees her shifting gears to take on a male perspective as she takes up the eyes of one of her male characters from her first two novels, set in the same time period. While it was a challenge to write from a different gendered perspective, Redmile rose to the challenge, drawing on her own grandfather’s experiences during the war to construct a credible voice.
“I basically took all the best parts of the men in my life and kind of created this great guy, but also pulled things from myself as well that went into him,” she explains, speaking to the creation of her male protagonist. “I didn’t want this guy that knew it all to join the war. I needed doubt. I needed to show his sensitive side. I didn’t want to have a cookie cutter male lead.”
A final draft of the novel has been finished, and she is currently in the stages of querying for a literary agent with the hopes of sending it to a traditional publisher.
To find out more about her work, visit https://www.meghanredmile.com/ or stop in to Brome Lake Books for a physical copy. Her books are also available on Amazon in print or e-book format.