The Chat: Trevor Corkum Interviews Farzana Doctor

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This week on The Chat, I’m pleased to speak to award-winning author Farzana Doctor about her fantastic new novel, All Inclusive. The book in part tells the story of twenty-something Ameera, a Canadian expat living and working in a Mexican all-inclusive resort community. While balancing the demands of her resort job, Ameera explores her growing interest in the swinging scene and her complicated desire to connect with her unknown birth father.

The Globe and Mail calls All Inclusive “an ambitious and thematically voracious novel on love and the wounds we didn’t know we had.”

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Farzana Doctor is a Toronto-based author of three novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement (which won a Lambda Literary Award in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award) and the recently released All Inclusive. She was named as one of CBC Books’ “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now” and was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Grant (2011). She curates the popular Brockton Writers Series and was recently voted Toronto’s best author in Now Magazine.  

Thanks as always to Publishing@SFU for their sponsorship of The Chat.

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THE CHAT WITH FARZANA DOCTOR

TC: How was All Inclusive born?

FD: There were a few sources of inspiration, but probably the most pivotal was the birth of Azeez. This character came at time when I was considering giving up the book; I’d written most of Ameera’s scenes, but something about her backstory wasn’t “working.” One day, I heard a voice in my head telling me about a missing character. It went on to describe what had happened to him. At first I resisted this “voice”; I wasn’t sure I wanted to write the story. But then, I relented. I threw out other characters and their stories, and Azeez’s fit almost seamlessly in the spaces left behind.

I think most writers live with, and listen to, spirits. I was lucky enough to be able to hear the one that saved this novel.

I think most writers live with, and listen to, spirits. I was lucky enough to be able to hear the one that saved this novel.

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TC: All Inclusive is set largely at a Mexican vacation resort. Thinking about the setting of your book, how did you go about building your fictional world? Was it important to you to replicate the specific details and energy of a particular resort? Or did you begin with a location in mind and then fictionalize or alter it as you wrote?

FD: I visited an all-inclusive in Huatulco six years ago, and was very awake to its beautiful and disturbing aspects. It dawned on me that a walled-in amusement park would make a great setting. That particular resort served as a template for Atlantis (the resort in the book), but in order to make some scenes work, I fictionalized.

 

TC: One of the things that impressed me most about the book—and that is so unusual in Canadian fiction—is the remarkable range of diversity you explore in your characters. We meet characters across the sexual and gender identity spectrum, as well as those from various class and racial backgrounds. The book’s protagonist, Ameera, often finds herself “in-between” or in process and dialogue with various parts of her own identity. Can you talk about diversity in the book, and how important it was for you to portray such a range of characters?

FD: Thanks for the compliment! Some of this was intentional. For example, I wanted to disrupt stereotypes about swingers and Mexican resort workers and so I was conscious about ensuring that they were diverse in terms of class, gender, race, and sexual orientation.

However, most of my diverse characters develop more organically; I live and work and play in a world with people who look and sound like the characters in my books.

With Ameera, I wanted to explore experiences that are so common for mixed race, diasporic, and bicultural people. We are often navigating multiple cultural and racialized moments and experiences.

 

TC: Without giving too much away, the book also explores the legacy of the Air India bombing, a tragic and defining event in Canada’s history, but one which, especially in earlier years, was often ignored or misunderstood by the Canadian public. How and why did you want to explore the legacy of the Air India disaster? What type of research was involved?

FD: It was important to me to make a contribution towards remembering this important event. There have been few works of fiction that address it and fiction is a wonderful way to raise awareness and build understanding and empathy (these are some of the main reasons I love to read fiction).
I read as much as a could about the bombing and watched films. One source that was particularly useful to me was Air India 182, a CBC documentary directed by Sturla Gunnarsson.

 

TC: In addition to being a writer and therapist, you’re also a teacher and facilitator of creative writing. Can you talk about a common writing myth that you disagree with passionately?

FD: Oh, there are so many!

One myth I believed when I began writing was: good writers can turn out pretty work on the first try.

I recently heard Kerry Clare say, “Imperfectionism is permission to get things done.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. I allow my early drafts to be very ugly and only get perfectionist when editing and revising.

 

ALL INCLUSIVE BOOK TRAILER

 
December 16, 2015
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