2018 FEATURED AUTHOR: Elle Wild

(This is second of Galiano Island Books features on authors attending the 2018 Galiano Literary Festival February 23-25 on Galiano Island. Tix still available (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com.)


The Galiano Island #LitFest is excited to welcome novelist Elle Wild.

Elle grew up in a dark, rambling farmhouse in the wilds of Canada where there was nothing to do but read Edgar Allan Poe and watch PBS mysteries. She is both an award-winning short filmmaker (Diary of an Alien, Swimming Lessons) and an award-winning author.

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Pls enjoy Kris‘ inteview w/ Elle

KK – Have you ever been to Galiano Island before?

EW – No, I’ve never been to Galiano Island before and I’m very excited to see it. I live on another island in the Salish Sea, and have heard wonderful things about Galiano, its lit fest, and the bookshop on the island. Can’t wait!

KK – What’s it like where you live?

EW – My island is quite small but populated with wonderful, eccentric people and a children’s theatre that is quite magical, and my son loves.

In summers everyone kayaks and eats ice cream on the docks. Winters are a good time for art. I loathe the rainy season — I’m not one of those hardcore outdoorsy types that will hike in the rain. I’m trying to convince my family to do a house swap in the winters with someone who lives somewhere tropical, but they’re not having it. Still, even I have to admit that the storm watching is pretty mesmerizing here.

I am really looking forward to visiting Galiano Island! My family arrived from England (I’m Canadian, but my husband is British) three years ago, and haven’t done much island-hopping yet. I’ve heard a lot about Galiano, the Inn, and the bookstore, and it sounds idyllic. I’m pretty much sold on any place with a good bookshop.

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KK – Do you go to a lot of these writer workshops and literary festivals?

EW – I did offer a public writing and editing workshop via the Vancouver Public Library last year, which was fun. Since then I’ve also been running weekly writing workshops for kids. (I’m quite passionate about early literacy.) Last year I participated in WORD Festival in Vancouver via Crime Writers of Canada, but to date have focused more on contest-related travel rather than literary festivals, (though I would like to do more festivals going forward).  I was in Toronto for the Arthur Ellis Awards in the spring and then in August, as a winner in Women in Film & Video Vancouver’s “From Our Dark Side” contest, was sent to Montreal to pitch my novel as a film (with the kind support of Creative BC). The great thing about the From Our Dark Side experience is that Women in Film hires a designer to create additional marketing materials for the five winning stories to pitch them as films, so I came away with a poster for the film/tv series and a series of meetings with producers in the industry.

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KK – I love the poster. What a cool artifact to take away from the contest! Did you have The Big Screen in mind when you were writing?

EW – Thanks! The poster was designed by Vancouver designer Sara Bailey, who also did the strangethingsdone.com site. I’ve worked with Sara for years in the ad industry and always get her to do my own design. She is soooo talented.

Originally, Strange Things Done was written as a screenplay, which was shortlisted in the BlueCat Screenplay Competition in Hollywood and the Creative World Awards (back when it was titled “Midnight Sun”). I had planned to make it my feature directorial debut, as I was very into directing short films, but then I got pregnant. I realized I had to make changes to allow myself more control over my time, which the film industry does not allow women (or anyone, for that matter), so I enrolled in UBC’s MFA Creative Writing program to rework the story as a novel, and applied for an Artist in Residency position in the Yukon to both immerse myself in the world of Dawson City and take the time I needed to focus on reinventing the story in novel form.
The fact that I am now pitching Strange as a screen project again is kind of funny, especially when people ask me what makes me think I can write it as a screenplay.
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KK – Pls tell me about your latest book and about your writing career more generally?

I’m working on my second novel at the moment, which is a literary mystery/feminist thriller set in Victorian London and Dorset. I don’t like to say too much about my work until it’s complete for fear of jinxing it. It’s a bit like Fight Club for me: the first rule of writing the book is not to talk about it (until it’s done).

With regard to my background, I have always been a storyteller, but I’ve worked in various fields, including film, advertising and radio. I had written a feature screenplay called Midnight Sun, which had been shortlisted for a couple of awards and I’d planned to direct it, but then I got pregnant and realized I’d need to hold off on directing for a bit because I just wouldn’t have enough time. The great thing about writing, though, is that you have complete control over how and when you do it. So, I enrolled in University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program and reworked the debut screenplay as a debut novel, and it won “Best First Novel” at the Arthur Ellis Awards 2017. I should say here that I am deeply indebted to my mentor at UBC, Gail Anderson-Dargatz (Cure for Death by Lightning), among others. Having good sounding boards during the writing process is so important, and the UBC writing program was immensely helpful with that.

KK – Your experiences with Hollywood and the long path to gain creative control of your own work is fascinating and inspiring. What else did you learn about the film and TV industry that would be useful to writers and storytellers?
Really? I don’t feel inspired by my (albeit limited) experiences with Hollywood at all. In fact, I feel quite depressed about them. I’ve learned that the film industry is deeply sexist, and that it’s extremely difficult for women to make it as directors.  If anything, I’d say I feel inspired by the #MeToo movement, because it’s so great to FINALLY be able to talk about the issues more openly, and there seems to be more hope and support for women storytellers and directors at the moment at the funding level in Canada.
This time last year I was feeling very inspired because I’d been named one of five winners in a Women in Film & Video Vancouver contest called, “From Our Dark Side”, to pitch my story (a film/tv series based on Strange Things Done) to producers at the Frontieres festival in Montreal. The project had been chosen by a very high-profile jury, including Hollywood filmmakers like Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street). Telefilm Canada took the five winners out for a meal. Before the festival in Montreal, another very high profile filmmaker in Hollywood contacted me via my agent and said that he wanted the project. There were discussions with my agency, a verbal agreement was made with my television agent, and finally a contract was sent out. We never heard from the filmmaker again.
This is the second experience like this I’ve had in the film industry, so I’ve learned the hard way not to believe in verbal agreements. The last time, I was actually sent a contract by the production company, signed it, and sent it back, but the other party never signed. I’ve heard that sometimes Hollywood does this just to tie a project up, so that it’s not being pitched to other competing production companies…. At any rate, if there is ever a next time, I won’t buy into any of it until the ink is dry on both signatures on the contract.
I still have one session left this weekend with my infinitely wonderful mentors at Women in Film about the Strange Things Done film/tv project, and I feel fortunate to have their support, but it remains very difficult for women to make it in the film industry in key creative roles. I’ve learned this time and time again. To date, none of the projects in the From Our Dark Side project, written and directed by women, have made it through to screen.
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KK – Your Yukon residency sounds like the experience of a lifetime. Too cool. I often daydream about spending time up there. What was your day to day life like? You started a Yukon daily satire news site while there?
Well, it was two months after I got married and I was two months pregnant when I was assigned an Artist in Resident position in the Yukon (in Dawson City), so that definitely colours my memory of the experience. There was no way in hell I was going to turn it down, because it was a huge opportunity to focus on my art, and per my comments above, it is very challenging for women filmmakers to bring their stories to screen. My routine was mostly to wake up in the dark, try not to awaken the Italian upcycled-bag-artist who I shared the Maccaulay House with (courtesy of the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture, who kindly sponsored both positions), and then I’d throw up a couple of times.
Then I went to work.I’d take a break about 10am when the sun came up to have some breakfast and throw up again. Maybe watch the snow a bit, try to think of more words for “cold”, and have a hot cup of tea, mostly to warm my hands up. At some point during the day, random Dawsonites would show up to say hello, and sometimes they brought freshly baked bread or treats, or just came in for a coffee. I loved this about Dawson — people really do that stuff there.Sometimes, the Writer in Resident at the Pierre Burton house (sponsored by Writers Trust of Canada) would stop by to see if we wanted to take a work break and go for a walk and a chat. Sometimes I’d watch the garden of white plastic bags blooming into art in our snowy garden. In the evening, (both because I’m a lousy cook and because I had a crazy pregnancy craving for hotdogs and beans at the time), I ate protein-rich junk food out of a can and hung out with my roommate at the local pub until, in a fit of disappointed sobriety, I freaked out over the cigarette smoke (because I was pregnant) and trudged home through the snow.On some evenings, in return for my free accommodation at Macaulay House, I screened my short films for Dawsonites as the “public art performance” that was part of my contract. At times, when I got even fatter and could not be convinced to leave the Macaulay House couch, my bag-artist-roommate and I would binge watch episodes of Deadwood and count the number of times Ian McShane would swear in any given scene.Then, we’d worry about whether or not the house was haunted, because the Artist in Residence before us had created a coffee table book based on the “Hauntings of the Macaulay House”. The house made a lot of strange creaking and banging noises, and the fire alarms or radios would randomly sound in the middle of the night, or the lights would flick on and off. I had the room with the infamous “haunted mirror closet” which the artist, Jude Griebel, had talked about in a parting message to us, so that was unnerving. But all in all, it was a wonderful time of creativity, friendship and art in a spectacular setting.Wow. Looking back on this, I realize how perfect life was. It was heaven. Truly. (Except for the… disturbances. I could have done without the whole “haunted” thing, though I suppose it did have entertainment value.)
With regard to The Dawson Daily, the online “fake news” site, that came later, when I was getting ready to market my book. I realized that even if a book is fortunate enough to win awards, most readers might never hear about it unless you have a huge publisher with a big marketing budget. So, I consulted with some old friends in the advertising industry, Sara Bailey and Sarah Fowles. We came up with the idea of bringing to life the fictional newspaper in the book (Strange Things Done) to help create a little buzz before the book launch. Sara and Sarah also brought their colleague, editor David James, on board to help make a book teaser trailer. I found myself heading back to the Yukon to shoot the trailer, and then worked with David to create a “Blair Witch” style video trailer which launched on The Dawson Daily news site.

Pls plan to join us and buy your #LitFest tickets today! (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com and enjoy this gallery of images of George at previous years #LitFest.

 

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