Today we’re chatting with Jenny Ferguson, author of BORDER MARKERS. Jenny happens to be a Pitch Wars 2015 alumni (and 2016 Pitch Wars mentor!), and we’re so excited to have her on the blog to tell us more about her debut novel. So, without further ado, here’s what Jenny had to say about her book, the inspiration behind the story, and her opinion on metaphorical snacks.
First of all, what is BORDER MARKERS about?
I am not good at this question. How about I let you read the blurb, something a group of skilled people came up with!
After the accidental death of a high school-aged friend, the Lansing family has split along fault lines previously hidden under a patina of suburban banality. Every family’s got secrets, but for the Lansings those secrets end up propelling them away from the border town of Lloydminster to foreign shores, prison, and beyond.
Told via thirty-three flash fiction narratives, fractured like the psyches of its characters, Border Markers is a collection with keen edges and tough language. It’s a slice of prairie noir that straddles the line between magic and gritty realism.
See, I feel better knowing you read that and I didn’t mess it up by trying to do something I’m terrible at. I’m a storyteller, not a story-summer-upper.
What inspired you to write this book?
Through one of those silly acts of fate, I ended up living in Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan, Canada, for two years in the middle of my high school career. A rough move, to say the least. It gets cold that far north in Canada—the kind of cold where you need to plug cars in so that they’ll start in the morning. Once, I drove half way across town with a 50 foot extension cord trailing behind me on the icy roads—but that’s another story.
The other act of fate that turned me into the woman who would write Border Markers was that my parents enrolled me in the local Catholic high school so that I could continue my French Immersion studies, and not the public high school, where I would have been a lot more comfortable. But after all, I’d been studying French since kindergarten: I probably shouldn’t quit just because we moved to what I considered the frigid, middle-of-nowhere.
In the end, I really ended up loving Lloydminster, the people and the places, despite the town’s many problems.
And now we’re going to time warp a few years: I’m back in Toronto, and I’m working as a clerk in a busy maternity ward, and I get an email that sucks the air out of the room.
A friend of mine has been attacked on the street.
My friend dies later that night.
For a long time, I’m wrecked. For a long time, I don’t know how to process. When I can, I know that the town of Lloydminster, this place I thought I didn’t belong to, was the right place to go back to in order to move forward.
Of course, Border Markers is fiction. But the emotion and the weight of life in the pages comes from the town, from its people—and yeah, I’m one of them even if I don’t live within those borders today.
Places imprint themselves on you, and you imprint yourself on those places, as it should be.
What imprint do you hope your book leaves on your readers?
Always, always, always I hope that my book—and any other books I publish—hit a reader in the feels. Literature, in my heart, is always about transmission of emotion and experience. And by experiencing these things, we change. This is something I believe: Books change people, and by changing people, they change the world.
Okay, re-reading that, I come across as someone who has lofty goals. But, hey, that’s not a bad thing, right?
Do you have any writing rituals? Beverages, snacks, walking three laps around the room counter clockwise before you sit down at your desk?
I have to write alone. I guess you could say that I can be alone in a room full of people, but I need to feel isolated, and I need to feel empty.
That doesn’t mean I don’t snack. The empty feeling is more metaphorical. You know writers, we like metaphors. But not metaphorical snacks. That’s not cool.
The last three books you read:
Other than my Pitch Wars slush pile? Haha. Okay, then we need to wind back to my lovely vacation to Croatia/Montenegro this past June:
Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS
Louis Carmain’s GUANO: A NOVEL (translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins)
Matthew Heiti’s THE CITY STILL BREATHING
Coke or Pepsi?
When I’m bad, coke with a squirt of lime, over ice. When I’m good: water with the same lime over the same ice.
What’s your best piece of advice for writers?
You have to love the process, even when you hate it. Because the process is writing. Publishing isn’t writing. It might be part of writing, but it’s not the whole thing. Oh and I’m going to add in a second, but related, thing: mental health breaks. Take them when you need them. Enjoy the time away from writing, from the process, so you can come back to it and still love it.
Thank you so much, Jenny, for being on the blog today! Congratulations on your debut!
BORDER MARKERS is now available to order on Amazon. And starting today, you have a chance to win a copy! Enter Jenny’s Goodreads Book Giveaway by clicking on the widget below! (Also, we’ve been told if you visit Jenny’s website, there just might be another surprise giveaway.)