Greenwood is a multi-layered story of one family and their enduring connection to the place that brought them together. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
Greenwood is a family epic that spans over 120 years, and centres on one Canadian family’s relationship with trees. There are environmental activists, timber tycoons, tree scientists, and reclaimed wood carpenters in the Greenwood family, and the narrative itself is structured like the rings of a tree and is told in nested narrative rings. The story is about betrayal, greed, charity, love, hope, environmental degradation, and most of all, it attempts to question the idea of family lineage as being a simple thing.
What inspired this novel?
This book’s somewhat unique narrative structure came to me after I had cut down a small tree on my property and looked at the rings of growth in the stump. I realized then that a tree tells its own story with its rings, layer by layer, and that I could use that idea to give shape to the novel I had just begun to write. It turned out to be a pretty good way to tell a story.
Can you tell us about your research process for this book?
There are five different time periods presented in this novel, so that means I engaged in five different sets of research. I read many books and firsthand accounts of things like the Great Depression in Canada, the nascent environmental movement on the West Coast of North America, tree biology, subsistence woodcutting in rural Ontario, and wheat farming. There is a carpenter character in this novel as well, and during the writing of this book I built a small house on the forested island where I live. So I suppose you could call that a kind of research?
What do you hope the reader will take away from this book?
Delight. And some amount of illumination with respect to the human being’s interconnectedness with the natural world, and our interconnectedness with each other as well.
What is something that has really influenced you as a writer?
The big collection of books in my childhood home. I grew up in a small working-class city in a remote part of Canada, but my parents were unique in that they were avid readers. And though things were difficult, I was lucky to be able to escape into that bookshelf, and always find fresh marvels and delights as I grew.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
My daily writing routine consists of dropping off my sons at school then returning home to my little writing cabin, which is thankfully beyond the reach of my wifi, then sitting in my chair for five hours or so, broken up by tea breaks and occasional walks in the woods. Anything that happens or doesn’t happen while I’m sitting there is completely dependent on forces beyond me. I’ve learned not to be too stressed about things like daily word count, as long as I’m sitting there. I’m currently working on a new project that I’m not yet sure is viable, so I’m not at the liberty to discuss it, given the prospect of complete embarrassment if (or when!) the idea reveals itself to be fatally flawed. Fingers crossed.