Our Pride interview series continues with Edmonton-raised, Vancouver-based author and artist Glen Huser and his historical novel Burning the Night (NeWest Press). As the novel veers occasionally into memoir, Glen shares the parallels between protagonist Curtis’s life and his own, coming out to friends and family later in life, as well as their shared passion for painting.
All Lit Up: How is your queer identity reflective in your writing process? Would you say your writing is overtly or covertly queer?Glen Huser: Much of my writing (fiction) evolves from personal experience. As a young person, I believe I knew I was gay (born in 1943). But in small town Alberta and then Edmonton, I kept that side of myself hidden as I went to university and became a teacher. I didn’t want to be “different” – even had a long-term relationship with a woman, and adopted a child. Acceptance grew, though, in those final decades of the 20th century, and in the 1990s I came out to myself and my friends. I think my family had pretty much known for years — and there was no backlash there. Probably as a result of this guarded early life and my slow movement toward acceptance, I would say my writing could be described as more covertly than overtly gay.ALU: What’s a piece of LGBTQ2S+ literature that you heartily recommend?GH: Humour has always been important in my writing. When I read Stephen McCauley’s The Object of My Affection, I felt I was in touch with a kindred spirit — a funny guy who was a teacher and had a best friend who was a girl. Liked the film starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, but the book is better.ALU: Which, if any, queer writers influenced your writing of this book?GH: I suppose we are influenced by everything we come across — and I am a prolific reader — but I don’t think any one particular author influenced the genesis of Burning the Night. That said, if there is something of the essence of Allan Hollinghurst among its spill of words, I would be very flattered. Not a gay writer, John Fowles’ structure in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, with the back-and-forth of historical and contemporary scenes, is something I greatly admired.ALU: Is there anything you would like readers to take away from Burning the Night?GH: So much! I’d love it if readers came away feeling they know me — there are flashes of memoir throughout. Like Curtis, its narrator, I grew up in a small Alberta town, went to university in Edmonton and became a teacher in the city. Also, like Curtis, I am an artist and studied for a year at the Vancouver School of Art. It would be great if readers are drawn to the art world of then and now — particularly the art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. I am a fan of historical fiction and I hope the historical sequences, particularly the closing sequence set in Halifax during World War I, resonate with readers.
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From his earliest years, Glen Huser has loved to write and read and draw and paint. That’s when he wasn’t losing himself in the dark cocoon of a movie theatre or picking out old-time radio standards and Broadway musical hits on the piano. As a teacher and school librarian for a lengthy career in Edmonton, he worked his passions for art and literature into school projects such as Magpie, an in-house quarterly featuring writing and art from students. His first novel Grace Lake was shortlisted for the 1992 W.H. Smith-Books in Canada First Novel Award. He has written several books for young adult readers including the Governor General’s Award-winner Stitches and the GG finalist Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen. Short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines, most recently Plenitude and Waterloo University’s The New Quarterly. Glen’s current home is Vancouver where he continues to write as well as pursue interests in art and film studies.