This week in the Indie Reading Room is Newfoundland-based author Heidi Wicks whose debut novel Melt (Breakwater Books) is one our top picks this year for anyone looking for a story about friendship growing pains and the ups and downs of being an adult. In the novel, we follow the lives of best friends Jess and Cait from their teenage years into their late thirties—through fake tans, kids, jobs, heartbreak, and changing paths—against the backdrop of Newfoundland in the ’90s and present day.Scroll down for our Q&A with Heidi where she tells us more about the novel, what her characters taught her, and how Newfoundland inspires her work. Then, head over to the ALU Instagram for Heidi’s reading from her book. Bonus: get 20% off Melt right here on All Lit Up with promo code READINGROOM until October 8!
All Lit Up: Tell us a little about your book and how it came to be. Heidi Wicks: My book, Melt, follows the friendship of two women who’ve been in each other’s lives since they were young children. There are two timelines in the book—the late ‘90s when they’re in high school, and in the late 20-teens when they’re in their late-30s. They’re each experiencing challenges with relationships/marriages, divorce, death of a parent, loss of employment, parenting, and how to navigate these problems and make peace with their past selves.
ALU: Tell us about the cover design of your book.HW: I absolutely LOVE my cover! Rhonda Molloy did it (she’s the graphic designer with my publisher, Breakwater Books). I told her the colours I wanted incorporated, which are the pink and orange of a vibrant sunset in Newfoundland, along with sweeping blue waves. It’s sort of an art deco-y representation of the sea and shorelines and sky I’d look at after an evening hike on Signal Hill, where parts of my novel are set. Someone also recently pointed out that the waves also look like women’s hair, which wasn’t intentional but I love that.ALU: What, outside of literature, inspires and informs your work?HW: I’m very inspired by the landscape and nature here in Newfoundland—very steep and rugged cliffs and coastlines, rushing, crashing water that looks tropical green in some places, a raft of bitches (otters) you might find swimming in the bay when you’re out for a hike, the dramatic skies, that can go from black/gray to bright blue in the duration of a half hour, the jaw-dropping sunsets and moon rises we can get here, watching a pod of whales spit and sphoosh from their blow holes, watching gannets dive like war bombs…the contradictions in weather patterns here remind me of human emotions. I am also very inspired by film, and when I write scenes, I watch them as if they’re being acted out in a movie. And I’m a big fan of mind-bending, non-linear stuff (my favourite movie ever is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).ALU: What’s a book you recently read that you would recommend?HW: Bridget Canning’s Some People’s Children—is a coming-of-age story (one of my favourite genres) about a girl in a small town who’s finding her own identity and carving herself out from the expectations placed upon her by the small-minded (some of them) mentality in her community. I read it very quickly. It’s smart, witty, and moves at a great pace.ALU: What did the main character in your book teach you? HW: I have two main characters in my book—Jess and Cait—and both of them taught me how to make peace with your past self, warts and all. They’re about deciding which parts to take with you, and which part to treat like knits in your hair (pick them out and throw them away!). Our negative qualities can be combed apart, and parts of them can become positive. Like, if you’re strong minded and stubborn (like Cait is), then maybe you have to get more in touch with your compassionate side, without losing your resilience. And if you’re softer and more focused on pleasing people and you’re a creature of habit (like Jess), maybe sometimes you have to do something non-traditional to bring you back to life after a loss. I think as we age and grow, we become increasingly familiar with, and forgiving of, our younger selves and that’s what I learned from these women.
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Heidi Wicks has written for The Telegram, The Independent, Newfoundland Quarterly, CBC, and The Globe and Mail. In 2019, she won the Cox and Palmer Creative Writing Award, and the Landfall Trust’s Writing Residency at Kent Cottage in Brigus, NL. She lives in St. John’s.