From Pg. 6
But this was the snow of her childhood. Joyful, playful, bright and clean. The more the merrier. It was a toy. It covered the fieldstone homes and clapboard homes and rose brick homes that ringed the village green. It covered the bistro and the bookstore, the boulangerie and the general store. It seemed to Constance that an alchemist was at work, and Three Pines was the result. Conjured from thin air and deposited in this valley. Or perhaps, like the snow, the tiny village had fallen from the sky, to provide a soft landing for those who’d also fallen.
How well I remember the snow of my youth, in the Laurentiens of Quebec. Exactly as Constance has described. They’re becoming rarer now, so I wanted to capture not just the event, but the feeling. Such peace. Everything white, and clean, all sounds muffled. People sometimes ask why I live in a climate that can be so harsh. Besides the obvious answer that it is home, I also love four distinct seasons. And very few seasons are as distinct as winter. As beautiful. And, as brutal.
From Pg. 2
She’d spent hours sewing it. Time she could have, should have, spent wrapping Christmas gifts for her husband and daughters. Time she could have, should have, spent baking shortbread stars and angels and jolly snowmen, with candy buttons and gumdrop eyes.
Instead, each night when she got home Audrey Villeneuve went straight to the basement, to her sewing machine. Hunched over the emerald green fabric, she’d stitched into that party dress all her hopes.
In this scene I needed to do several things. A certain mis-direction (’nuff said), create a contrast between the Christmas treats and her obsession, and of course, the mystery. Why was this dress so important to her that she was willing to give up so much for it? We find out later, why. And what sort of person Audrey really was. (’nuff said).
From Pg. 17
She’d arrived a self-sufficient city woman, and now she was covered in snow, sitting on a bench beside a crazy person, and she had a duck on her lap.
Who was nuts now?
But Constance Pineault knew, far from being crazy, she’d finally come to her senses.
Ha. Again, the ongoing themes of perception and perspective. Who’s to say what is crazy? Who is mad? Is bonding to another living creature the act of a lunatic, even if that creature is a duck. Or Ruth? And again, the theme of home. Of that miraculous, magical moment when we look around and realize, this is where I belong.
From Pg. 10
It was the mad old poet, but it was also the Virgin Mary. The mother of God. Forgotten, resentful. Left behind. Glaring at a world that no longer remembered what she’d given it.
Ruth. The description of Clara’s painting of Ruth as Mary first appears in A TRICK OF THE LIGHT. I wish I could say it was planned, but it wasn’t. I simply wrote it. It seemed right and appropriate. When I talk to emerging writers about the process I try to stress that we all do it the way that works for us. There’s no right or wrong way to write a book. But for me, I have to plan each book just enough so that there is a momentum forward. Themes I want to explore. Like belonging. Like madness. But I’ve learned I need to hold onto those themes, onto the characters, lightly. So that there’s room for inspiration. For those grace notes. I consider first writing about Clara’s painting of Ruth just such a moment. When despair meets hope.
From Pg. 15
But Isabelle Lacoste had been in the Sûreté long enough to know how much easier it was to shoot than to talk. How much easier it was to shout than to be reasonable. How much easier it was to humiliate and demean and misuse authority than to be dignified and courteous, even to those who were themselves none of those things.
I think you might know that I belong to a 12 step programme, and what Isabelle describes was one of the first things my sponsor taught me. (Though it took a while to sink in!) Just because someone pushes, doesn’t mean I need to respond. No one else gets to dictate my reaction. Only I do. It gets worse…if I want to consider myself a decent person, I need to act with decency. Huh? Easy enough to do when people are being nice. A whole other thing when the effluent is flying, in my direction. Rage might be justified, but it’s rarely necessary or constructive. Isabelle knows this, but it’s one thing for the characters to know, a whole other thing to act that way.
From Pg. 1:
Miss Jane Neal met her maker in the early morning mist of Thanksgiving Sunday. It was pretty much a surprise all round. Miss Neal’s was not a natural death, unless you’re of the belief everything happens as it’s supposed to. If so, for her seventy-six years Jane Neal had been walking toward this final moment when death met her in the brilliant maple woods on the verge of the village of Three Pines. She’d fallen spread-eagled, as though making angels in the bright and brittle leaves.
First line of first book. This wasn’t how it originally started. Still Life first started with Jane waking up and making breakfast, but then I realized I wanted to start with both her death, then get to know her life. And I also wanted very clear, immediate sense of place and season.
From Pg. 27:
‘Three Pines … Three Pines,’ he repeated, as he tried to find it. ‘Could it be called something else?’ he asked himself, unable for the first time with this detailed map to find a village. ‘Trois Pins, perhaps?’ No, there was nothing
I’d searched most of my life for ‘home’ and when I found it in Quebec, it felt like magic. It was so important to me to bring that sense of belonging, of Fate, of gentle magic to Three Pines, right off the bat. That it was only ever found by people lost.
From Pg. 44:
Sun poured in through the stained-glass boys in uniforms from the Great War, scattering blues and deep reds and yellows across the pine floor and oak pews. The chapel smelled like every small church Clara had ever known. Pledge and pine and dusty old books.
Haven’t gone back to this passage in 15 years. I hadn’t realized I put in the stained glass boys so early in the series.
From Pg. 51:
Once his eyes adjusted to the inside of the Bistro he saw not the one largish room he’d expected but two rooms, each with its own open fireplace, now crackling with cheery fires. The chairs and tables were a comfortable mishmash of antiques. A few tables had armchairs in faded heirloom materials. Each piece looked as though it had been born there. He’d done enough antique hunting in his life to know good from bad, and that diamond point in the corner with the display of glass and tableware was a rare find. At the back of this room the cash register stood on a long wooden bar. Jars of licorice pipes and twists, cinnamon sticks and bright gummy bears shared the counter with small individual boxes of cereal.
This is so funny! As the series progressed, my image of the bistro evolved. I now see it, and describe it, as one large room, with huge open fireplaces on either end. And yet, so much else is still the same. The long wooden bar. The licorice pipes!
From Pg. 53:
‘A Scotch, please, Marie,’ said Ruth, suddenly deflating and sinking back into the chair. ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me.’
She sounded to Gamache like someone used to apologizing.
‘I suppose I could blame Jane’s death for my poor behavior, but as you’ll discover, I’m just like this. I have no talent for choosing my battles. Life seems, strangely, like a battle to me. The whole thing.’
Again, I see the beginning here, of Ruth, and her evolution. Later in the series she becomes less obviously vulnerable. A person not at all used to apologizing. And yet, the core is here….a woman who sees life as a battle. A woman who does not overtly apologize, but whose amends are more subtle and perhaps, therefore, more powerful. Love seeing this ‘early’ Ruth and knowing who she became.
From Pg. 82:
‘They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.’ Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. ‘I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. And one other.’ Gamache thought for a moment but couldn’t bring it to mind. ‘I forget. But we’ll talk more about it tonight, right?’
‘Right, sir. And thank you.’ Oddly enough, she realised she meant it.
After Gamache had left, Nichol brought out her notebook. She hadn’t wanted to take notes while he was talking. She figured it would make her look foolish. Now she quickly wrote: I’m sorry, I don’t know, I need help, I forget.
This brings back memories on so many levels. When asked in events to recite the four sentences, I almost always forget one, as Gamache does here. Those sentences came from the very first time I met Michael. He opened a meeting by reciting them, and I thought….what an extraordinary man. But, on another level, in the book, I knew I wanted some humor, and it just seemed so human, and yet silly, that Nichol would think ‘I forget’ is a sentence that leads to wisdom.