Scotiabank Giller Prize Spotlight: Cedar Bowers

September 18, 2021

Cedar Bowers’s novel, Astra has been longlisted for the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Cedar Bowers’s fiction has been published in Joyland and Taddle Creek. Astra is her first novel. With her husband, novelist Michael Christie, and their two children, she divides her time between Galiano Island, where she grew up, and Victoria.

What/who inspires you to write?

My unquenchable thirst to understand people is what turned me first into a reader, and then, eventually, it’s what inspired me to try writing. The sad truth is, there aren’t enough hours in this life to truly grasp what makes the people we meet—and even those we love—really tick, but fiction provides us with a remedy for this lack of time by giving us a fast track into folks’ hearts. While reading we get to examine and question why people act how they act, why they say the awful things they say, and why they love who they love, with more intimacy and intensity than we’re often allowed in real life. While writing, I get to explore these curiosities of mine to an even deeper extent. I get to follow my characters down a rabbit hole and pry into every nook of their brains. Though I’m equally repulsed and astonished by what I find there, this exploration is an endless learning experience and the greatest joy. So who? People.

Where is your favourite place to write?

Anywhere that is quiet. Anywhere that I’m alone. Yet this is a luxury that doesn’t come consistently or often enough, so I learned early on to give up on a favourite place and to just write wherever. In the back seat of my car while my kids are at an activity. In the park. On the couch early in the morning before anyone is awake. Or if all else fails, with sound cancelling headphones on, white noise cranked, and my back to the kitchen.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Fight Night, by Miriam Toews, and I’m currently reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.

What would your job be if you weren’t an author?

I still do contract transcription work and I can’t yet imagine a life without jobs, but in my last year of high school I took the required “Career and Personal Planning Class” where we answered about a million multiple choice questions on old clunky computers. Once we were done, our results were printed. The computer thought I should be a hairdresser or knife maker, two fabulous suggestions because I love to work with my hands, so I’ll go with that.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

Astra explores the subtle impacts we have on those around us, often focusing on how judgment and manipulation can be wielded to the detriment of others. My greatest hope is that readers walk away with a renewed understanding that there’s always much more to anyone’s story, and, possibly, that we should all stop gossiping about each other so much.

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