Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Canadian Historical Fiction Interview with Cathy Marie Buchanan

Taken from Cathy's website
Welcome and thank you Cathy for participating in Canadian Historical Fiction Month here.
What inspired you to write historical fiction novels?

In 1973, my childhood family of seven made a two-month camping sojourn into Mexico.  It was the first of the many extended, far-flung treks my family would undertake.  Those early experiences made me into a lifelong traveler (I’ve visited close to forty countries) and a person who takes deep pleasure in immersing herself in a culture other than her own. Each of my novels—The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls—and in my current work in progress are historical fiction.  I expect my desire to create another time and place stems from my love of experiencing new cultures.

How much research went into your stories?

For The Day the Falls Stood Still I researched for about four months before putting fingertips to keyboard.  For The Painted Girls the upfront research was about six months.  And then, of course, I was constantly turning back to the history books as I wrote.

Who was your favourite character to write?

I had a lot of fun writing Antoinette, the real life sister of Marie van Goethem, who was the model for Edgar Degas’s famous sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, the inspiration behind The Painted Girls.  I am likely more aligned with pensive Marie in temperament, and I sometimes wonder if I enjoyed writing brazen, impulsive Antoinette so much because she is an alter ego of sorts for me.

I really loved that you chose to write a story based around Niagara Falls, what brought you to write about that specific place?

Born and bred in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I grew up amid the beauty of the Niagara River and awash in the lore of William “Red” Hill, Niagara’s most famous riverman.  I’d see the rusted-out hull of the old scow still lodged in the upper rapids of the river and be reminded of him rescuing the men marooned there in 1918.  I’d see the plaque commemorating the ice bridge tragedy of 1912 and know he’d risked his life to save a teenage boy named Ignatius Roth.  I’d open the newspaper and read a story about his son Wes carrying on the Hill tradition and rescuing a stranded tourist.  When I set out to write my first novel, Red Hill’s life and the beauty of Niagara Falls were natural places to find inspiration.  

I have read both The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls, which one did you enjoy writing about more and why?

That’s a tough question. I’d say I enjoyed writing the first draft of The Day the Falls Stood Still more than the first draft of The Painted Girl, mostly because, at one point, while writing The Painted Girls, I was overcome by the idea that the novel was too ambitious.  They are many experts who know far more than I about Edgar Degas, Emile Zola, the Paris OpĂ©ra and the history of ballet.  My primary sources were mostly French, I was writing about a culture other than my own, and it seemed I was in over my head and opening myself up to harsh criticism.  That said the rewriting process for The Painted Girls went much more smoothly than it did for The Day the Falls Stood Still.  I was rewriting that novel for two and half years, something I hope to never experience again.

Thank you so much Cathy, and I am excited to see what you come up with next!


  1. Thanks for the interview and for spreading the word. Much appreciated.

  2. I've actually never heard of this author! Probably because I'm not Canadian, but still! I adore historical fiction - one of my favorite genres! This is a new book and a new author for me. Great post! I'll have to look up Cathy's books :)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!



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