Hey there everyone.
So happy you could all join me again to celebrate the end of another working week with some fantastic writing (and reading) shenanigans to sweetly serenade us into the weekend.
Tonight, we are very lucky to have esteemed photographer, artist, filmmaker and writer Margaret Lindsay Holton spend some time with us to discuss her latest novel release.
I actually interviewed Margaret back at the beginning of 2018 about her striking ‘Pinhole Photography’ techniques, which you can find out more about here:-
So without further ado, let’s get better acquainted with her latest novel release, as always thanks for reading folks and have a relaxing time 🙂
Hi there Margaret, thank you for joining us once again, this time round to discuss your latest novel release, along with your passions, influences and writing experiences.
Let’s start first with your latest novel release ‘TRILLIUM’, which spans 250 years, set on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, with the interweaving of three distinctly different families. Can you tell us more about the plot and themes of the book, along with how your protagonists lives intertwine with each other.
Hello David – Thanks for having me on again!
I call, TRILLIUM, my third novel, a hybrid historical fiction.
It is an historical work that starts in the mid 1750s in the backwaters of North America when a young fair-haired British foot-soldier crosses over the Niagara River. Over the next 250 years, his family establishes a peach farm beneath the brow of the Niagara Escarpment. The second ‘seed’, Franco Di Angelo, an illiterate peasant boy from Sicily, arrives to make his way in the growing port city of Hamilton. Franco works the canals, he works the rails, he works in the factories until finally, he too, meets a woman and starts a family. The final ‘seed’ that takes root in the late 1880s is the wily Irishman, Paddy O’Sullivan. Paddy has a certain charming blarney-way of milking blood from a stone. Over a very short period of time he builds a land-holding empire and takes on his bosses’ daughter as his wife. For the next century or so these men’s three families bump up and off each other in love, lust and simmering feuds.
Beneath it all is the defining aspect of ownership. Who owns what? Who wants what? And who, by any inalienable Right or Law, gets it? Private property, real and imagined, is a blessing. But, equally, it can be a confining curse. The IDEA of ‘ownership’ – of land, women, children, husbands and employment – weaves throughout. Integral to this concept is the idea of natural and nurtured ‘bonds’ of kinship.
Early on, in the writing of this work, I became fascinated by the notion of natural families as well as nurtured bonds of ‘fellowship’ over time. How do we become who we are?
It seemed impossible to address this question without providing generational context. One man’s actions performed over a hundred years ago can impact another family’s destiny. Offspring have to live with consequences, for better or worse. That seems to be how Life works, like it or not.
I consider TRILLIUM a ‘hybrid’ because woven throughout this cloak of historical fiction are several provocative concepts. As example, as readers, we experience characters falling in and out of lust and love. Traditional puritanism clashes with smouldering perversion. Attitudes and morality are questioned. Equally, we bear witness to the reverberating familial tragedy of early death and physical hardship as a result of the two Great Wars because tragedies linger. Grief marks people in a indelible way. So much so, that the impact of a random injustice is far greater then the blessed heartfelt joy of sporadic bliss. Thus, as humans, we ebb, we flow, with highs and lows. All of it shapes our distinctive cultures and larger civilizations.
In this work, I wanted to create a broad portrait that looks at a number of different ways that people survive. Hard work, from dawn to dusk, while laudable in its own right, is seldom enough. Other strategies must be used to generate ‘advantage’. The union of marriage, as example, has long been a family’s economic plan for long term betterment. Men and women alike often choose their partners based on much more then just ‘lust’ or ‘looks’. Alliances are formed. Blood feuds develop.
If you could invite any one of your characters to dinner, which one would it be and what would you cook for them?
Ha! One of the families in this story is deeply Sicilian. They are Old World Italian islanders. Johnny Di Angelo, born and raised in Canada, is a handsome and cheerful man-about-town who works hard to elevate himself from the muddy ethnic-ghetto of his rural youth. He’s quick witted and a natural storyteller. I would be tempted to invite him over for a bottle of vintage VQA merlot and top it off with a BBQ of exotic and mouth-watering Thai food…
I also have a certain empathy for the two Hartford girls, Faith and Hope. Faith is more wholesome then the more sophisticated Hope. Both girls are a product of their privileged upbringing and are trapped too by circumstance, but, even so, they remain engaging and ‘open’ to what life flings at them. As women in a man’s world, we’d have a Girls Night Out. No cooking or washing up!
If your novel was to be made into a film (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
For fun, I’ve inserted ‘types’ to give you a sense of the three families over the generations…The hardest one to cast would be the simpleton savant, Anna Di Angelo. She would need to be imagined and understood in her youth as well as her ripe old age. A younger version of Sophia Loren would have made sense, but today? Hard to say.
- Hartfords — Name the celebrities!
- The Di Angelos – Name the celebrities!
- Finally, typecasting of the O’Sullivan Clan – Name the celebrities!
(Note: Women are noticeably absent from the O’Sullivan clan for reasons that become apparent in the reading. If readers have other ideas of who might be a good add-in after a good read, please include it in the comments below! It is a large ensemble cast.)
What are your own views on audiobooks as a storytelling platform and will you be looking to get your book made into an audiobook too?
As Marshall McLuhan predicted, I too believe we are moving away from a ‘literate’ society to a ‘visual’ and ‘audio’ culture. Better to be on the cusp of the wave than wallowing in the trough…So, I have no problem with audiobooks, per se. They are especially a blessing for the bed-ridden or ill.
And, yes, I hope to do this. At the moment, I am considering a male voice actor and a classically trained composer. I do not have the budget of Harper Collins, but I’m thinking of this more as a joy-filled experiment. We will all be learning how to do the story justice on route.
What would you choose as your own personal mascot or spirit animal when it comes to you and your style of writing?
Court jester or fox.
In order to have as wide and as open a perspective as possible, one must invariably be a bit of a loner and outsider. An ‘outsider’ perspective makes it easier to dance amongst the moving parade and then slip away…to write.
What do you think most characterizes or defines your writing? Do you have any writing quirks or themes that constantly crop up in your stories?
Tough question. It is hard to know what defines my own writing, because, in part, I think it depends on what idiom you are looking at. My poetry or spoken-word pieces, as example, are very different from my longer journalistic items or literary fiction novels. I do seem to re-visit the IDEA of ‘borders’ or ‘boundaries’ and how they manifest internally and externally.
It’s also been said that good stories are fundamentally about three things: God, Sex and Money. Speaking for myself, I do contemplate the spiritual within and without. The wide world of sex intrigues for a myriad of reasons, and money, quite simply, makes the world go around…It is easy to pretend that these ‘things’ do not matter but I tend to agree that there wouldn’t be much of a story if ONE of those elements was missing.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
I think it is most difficult to convey a wide breadth of thought succinctly. For myself, I often ‘see’ before I can ‘say’. Translating that kind of perception into literate and entertaining words takes practice. Humour helps. Humour can ‘jump-the-shark’. But it is very difficult to be a good humorist. In that, punch lines work for a reason. The mind does a kind of spasmodic flip in ‘the reveal’. Good humor, when delivered well, is both ILLUMINATING and TRUE.
I am lucky that I do have a very visual imagination. I ‘see’ before I ‘write’. If I stay true to what I see and just write it down as it’s evolving within my mind, I can stay pretty much on track. I have been told before that there is a ‘filmic’ quality to my narratives so this innate ability might explain that observation.
Overall, I love the resonance of words, I love how single words can convey so much when delivered at the right moment. Whether it is descriptive or within dialogue, playful word-smithing with precise punctuation is a joy.
Who are some of the authors, musicians, poets and/or historical figures that inspire you?
My undergraduate degree, taken at the University of Toronto with an independent study year at the University of Edinburgh, provided me the leisure to absorb different talents. Today, a few stand out for their insight, candour and sheer dexterity. As authors, John Berger, Ezra Pound, Wassily Kandinsky, John Michener and Canadian short story writer, Alice Munro, reverberate.
My musical tastes are so varied it is impossible to single out one or two particular musicians. My ear is always listening for the next riveting and resonating riff…
Poets? I did like many of the English Romantics and the American 19th century poets when at college. Today, I like the playfulness of ‘unsung’ poets like Robert Service and those who can whip up a good limerick or haiku. I’m not so keen about ‘slam’ poetry. Some of it can be poignant but the delivery is too often an assault. The ‘in-your-face’ rants grow tiresome.
As for historical figures, I’m quite taken by the fortitude and grace of the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II. What an amazing KIND of life she has had – so public and yet, essentially, so very, very private too. Just IMAGINE being in her shoes for awhile. She’s been PUBLIC for nearly a century. Lordy! What a woman.
Other then that, I’m inspired by the likes of biologist Jane Goodall. She has managed to jack-knife her singular passion into a noteworthy global cause that speaks ‘Truth-to-Power’ in more ways then one. Her sensible ‘life-affirming’ values affixed to all the planets miraculous species is very grounding. Her vision is invigorating and enlightening. We could all use a few more clear-eyed, straight-shooting types like her in our anxious world right now.
Do you listen to music when you are writing and if so then what type of music do you listen to?
No. Music is too distracting and it’s also too influential. I refrain while working but I may listen to music after the fact to loosen up and drift.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
It varies. I did a lot of research for this last effort to get historical and geographical details correct. But, at a certain point, because it is a work of fiction, I put the facts aside and just worked the main narrative over them. As example, in this instance, it was impossible to ignore the impact of the two World Wars.
Aside from that, I think it’s important to also add authenticity to the character’s actions and motivations. In TRILLIUM, I had to learn a great deal about wine-making without swamping the story in redundant trivia. (Even so, I did add a few items that I found of particular interest, like the potential yield and profit from the mere cultivation of a five acre vineyard. No wonder it’s so popular!)
In my prior ‘contemporary’ novel, ‘The Gilded Beaver by Anonymous’, I drew more on my own lived experience to fictionalize it and didn’t need to create a specific historical framework.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
Ha! – I like thinking and talking to my Self! — Seriously, I really do enjoy my own company.
The act of thinking and the act of writing are a substrate of virtually everything we do. Well-written words can connect us in ways that overcome our self-imposed prejudices and barriers. Well-chosen words, like seductive music, link us at a very basic level. Good writing can be more potent than sex.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
The best way to overcome a creative slump is to do something else. Take a break. Step out of the hum-drum and try something extraordinary or outside of one’s comfort zone. Go outside. HIKE, don’t walk.
As for ‘Writer’s Block’, I’m lucky that I do not feel the necessity of writing ALL THE TIME. I did have a bit of blockage with TRILLIUM, primarily because I did not know how to start. The outline of the story sat in my writing box for over a decade. Then, one day, quite by accident, I found the ‘get in’ key.
I realized that industrial innovations have thoroughly transformed our lives. Automobiles, televisions, cell-phones, and ‘the pill’ have re-defined HOW we live on this amazing planet. With those innovations in the back of my mind, I was able to begin … Broadsheets predated newsprint. Radio predated black and white television. Video games predated the internet, and so on. These are factual chronological inventions that have transformed our culture.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t smoke. Smoking is an addictive habit that ruins your health. Any short-term pleasure is not worth the long-term damage. I know of too many good folk who smoked. It killed them in the end.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
I am a ferocious consumer of ‘media’. I like to know what’s going on in the world from multiple points of view. As example, I just finished listening to Will Durant’s audio book, ‘Lessons of History’, for the second time. I believe I could listen to it again. Certainly, it is dated, in part. He’s got an ‘old boy’ attitude about women and education. But his erudition, his THOUGHT landscape, is so stimulating, it’s easy to overlook his failings. I also admire his discipline to self-educate.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
I hope to start the audio version of the book soon. I am also compiling a online monograph of my painted works over the past 4.5 decades. Counting just my 2-D works, it’s nudging 600 items. Hope to have that done mid-summer.
For fun, I’m also investigating the IDEA of turning TRILLIUM into a film or TV series. Whether that comes to fruition or not is kind of immaterial. At the moment, it’s just fun to be learning ‘new rules’ about a ‘new group’ – from the quintessential outsider’s point of view. If it works, great. If not, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. There’s always something else to explore and learn…
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
Follow your heart moreover then your mind. When your gut tells you something is not right, believe it. Let yourself be lead by the higher intuitive power.
I remember some years ago being told by a very famous writer then I couldn’t possibly write with the voice or the perspective of a man. I was shocked. He, this great author, had written from a woman’s point of view for decades, and yet, here he was counselling me to not write from a MAN’s point of view…My gut reacted with a knot and my mind followed suit. It was utter nonsense. Listening to what your body is telling you.
Aside from the gaffs and goofs, writing out one’s thoughts really is SUPER FUN to do. Keep at it.
And that’s a wrap!
Thanks for having me. Also, if Googling me, please use my entire name to find me, Margaret Lindsay Holton!
Margaret Lindsay Holton is an award-winning, multi-disciplined, Senior Canadian Artist, who maintains her artist’s studio on the Hamilton beach strip of Lake Ontario.
You can find out more/contact Margaret via the following Social Media channels:-
Amazon Author Page:- Margaret Lindsay Holton – Amazon (US)
Author Website for TRILLIUM:- TRILLIUM Author Website
Facebook:- TRILLIUM Novel Facebook Page
Goodreads:- Margaret Lindsay Holton (Goodreads Author)
Twitter:- @TRILLIUMnovel (Twitter)
Website (for all of Margaret’s creative pursuits):- canadadaPHOTOGRAPHY – Web Site of Canadian Painter, Poet, Photographer, Filmmaker & Author – aka Artist, Margaret Lindsay Holton
Wikipedia:- Margaret Lindsay Holton (Wikipedia)
You can buy Margaret’s novels here:-
You can buy Margaret’s Artbooks, CD’s and DVD’s here:-
You can buy her Spoken Word/Musical CD directly from Bandcamp here:-
Watch her film ‘The Frozen Goose’ – OFFICIAL TRAILER & FILM here –
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you are a photographer that has released/published at least one book/collection of photographs then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.