Piers’ Desire is my third novel. It was inspired by the people and places I came to know while living in the South of France from 1998 until 2004, when I moved back to Montreal.
If you go by the old adage that people are either cats or dogs, I’d have to say I’m the former. Place has always been important to me. I’m a turf writer. When I moved to La Roque Alric in 1998, I felt quite displaced at first. Tried to write a novel set in Toronto, but nothing came of it. Then after a couple of years, I took a trip to Croatia, and when I came back to La Roque it all seemed quite familiar. I decided to look for a story tied to my immediate surroundings.
This novel came together like a bird’s nest, woven from bits and pieces of lives around me. There really was a defrocked monk in our tiny hamlet of 58 people. When I met Gwyn Campbell in 1997, his best friend was a wonderful woman, Nini Albertini, his landlady in Avignon. She kept asking me when I was going back to Canada. We did get to know an amazing local landowner from the north whose passions are growing olives and the Second World War. Our village had a Moroccan couple whose son is a bit of a wild card. The house in which the story takes place is an amalgam of one on rue des Griffons, and another grander town house, known in French as an hotel particular, on rue Violette.
I started writing Piers’ Desire in 2000 shortly after the publication of my first novel, Jump, which is about a woman who abandons her life in Montreal for love and travel. Her story is different from mine in many ways, yet of course there are obvious similarities. At 44, after running a theatre company for nearly a decade and raising my daughter Fiona on my own, I felt the need to strike out and create a new life, as did Myra in Jump. I was leaving Montreal when I wrote it, exhausted by the struggle to create theatre in what seemed like an indifferent environment. I actually lived the story while writing it. Both the main character and I were both set on moving to Toronto. Myra headed to Mexico and I ended up in France.
In 2004, I was well into writing Piers’ Desire when Gwyn (my reason for being in France) got a job at McGill University. Quite unexpectedly, I found myself back in Montreal. Another displacement, an interruption in writing. It threw me off, inspired a whole new story which turned into Matters of Hart, published in 2005. A return to familiar turf, the tale begins at Hart Granger’s 50th birthday party, a big bash organised by his ex-wife Sandrine in her third-storey condo somewhere on the Plateau Mont-Royal. Late in the party, a dark-haired stranger turns up, claiming to be the son of Hart’s mother, the child she put up for adoption before she was married to Hart’s father. (Displacement was my theme in those days.) Meeting the stranger sends Hart into a tailspin. Matters of Hart investigates the true meaning of brotherhood.
I was born in Belleville, Ontario, and grew up on a farm in Prince Edward County. These days are revisited in an essay called “Departure and the Eternal Return: Imprints of a Country Childhood” in Country Roads, Memoirs from Rural Canada, edited by Pam Chamberlain, published by Nimbus Publishing of Nova Scotia.
The Rover, an independent review of art and culture. >www.roverarts.com
Launched in October, 2008, as a platform for some of the great writers and would-be writers of Montreal. A forum for high-quality critical writing about the arts of Montreal.
Micro Montreal, a monthly column in The Gazette, profiling interesting people and places. Elspeth Cameron, Kent Stetson, Chris Kline, Len Blum, Bain St. Michel, Ann Diamond, Daniel Sanger, etc.
BIOGRAPHY of Quebec author Marie-Claire Blais. Extension of the author profile How to Read a Masterpiece, published in The Walrus magazine, 2009.
NOVEL: The World is Your Oyster, a novel about literary life and viticulture in Prince Edward County.
Born: Belleville, Ontario.
Education: Nicholson College, Carleton University (BA), University of Toronto (MA) Sorbonne (French language and literature).
L’Affaire Tartuffe, or the Garrison Officers Rehearse Moliere, Signature Editions, 1993,1997
Woman by a Window & Celeste, Signature Editions, 1996
Venus of Dublin, Signature Editions, 2000
White Brush Red Wine Death in a Paris Café http://www.gregorhiltner.com/films.html
Fiona Ackerman, daughter, painter. www.fionaackerman.com
Gwyn Campbell, husband, professor and writer www.indianoceanworldcentre.com
Rover column: NOTEBOOK www.roverarts.com
Other Works, further biographical details www.marianneackerman.com