GERARD COLLINS is a Newfoundland writer whose first novel,nbsp; Finton Moon , was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and won the Percy Janes First Novel Award. His short-story collection,nbsp; Moonlight Sketches , won the NL Book Award, and his stories have been published widely in journals and anthologies. He lives in southern New Brunswick.
The Hush Sisters by Gerard Collins ~ Genre: Gothic Fiction
***49TH SHELF UTTERLY FANTASTIC BOOK FOR FALL***
Sissy and Ava Hush are estranged, middle-aged sisters with little in common beyond their upbringing in a peculiar manor in downtown St. John’s. With both parents now dead, the siblings must decide what to do with the old house they’ve inherited. Despite their individual loneliness, neither is willing to change or cede to the other’s intentions. As the sisters discover the house’s dark secrets, the spirits of the past awaken, and strange events envelop them. The Hush sisters must either face these sinister forces together or be forever ripped apart.
In The Hush Sisters, Gerard Collins weaves psychological suspense with elements of the fantastic to craft a contemporary urban gothic that will keep readers spellbound until the novel whispers its startling secrets.
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Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born at the cottage hospital in Placentia, Newfoundland. I grew up in Bond’s Path, just a five-minute drive from that hospital. Placentia, or Plaisance in French, was the original French capital of Newfoundland before the English triumphed in battle and moved the capital to St. John’s. I was the youngest of five boys, and my only sister was born five years after me. I attended a one-room schoolhouse for the first few years, and we didn’t have a telephone until I was in high school. To this day, I despise telephones. I can remember having to break the ice in the well a few yards from the house in order to haul water from the well for tea on winter mornings. In my high school years, and for a couple of years after, I hauled a lot of water and wood.
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
There are at least fifteen different answers to this question, and they’d all be fine with me except for the fact that each one means my last day on earth. I’m a “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” sort of person, and I have always known I would kick at the darkness even when death was inevitable. It’s all a part of my underdog complex, I suppose, but it’s also a part of the fact that I love this life, this earth, and the people in it, for the most part, and I can’t imagine not savouring every last breath. That said, I’d probably like most of all to spend my last day at The Brazen Head pub in Dublin – it’s the oldest pub in the country, supposedly – having a few pleasant pints, a good supper, and writing all day long. Maybe a music session in the evening.
Who is your hero and why?
I don’t really have heroes, but there are lots of people I admire. The closest thing I have to a literary hero would be Stephen King who started out as a teacher, with not much money, and just followed his heart and did the one thing (writing) he knew he was good at, and made a great life for himself. Margaret Atwood is another one I admire greatly because it’s harder to be that successful as a Canadian writer, but also – and especially – because she speaks truth and wisdom. I could just listen to her talk about literature and life forever.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I wouldn’t want to be world ruler because I know I would throw myself into the job every minute of every day and never have a moment’s inner peace. I’d be kind and as wise as I could manage to be, but I’d be a dictator when it came to doing the right thing. I can see all sides of an issue, but it would likely come down to doing the greatest good for the greatest number, with allowances for differences as long as those difference weren’t born out of ignorance or arrogance.
I do have this streak of letting my neighbour go to the devil in his own way. In other words, if someone is determined to self-destruct, and I know there’s not much I can do about it, I’ll just let him or her do that. But if I know there’s good to be done and that I can actually affect someone’s life for the better, I’ll usually take it upon myself to do that.
If there were one world ruler, then global warming might be easier to tackle, as would the economy, which might be a hybrid of socialism and capitalism. I think we could share with each other and not let money be the main factor in such decisions. World poverty would have to be tackled and would be easier under a single world ruler, and I think we could also do something about inequalities of all sorts, particularly regarding gender, race, and economic class.
Looking back on what I just wrote, it sounds like I’d be a boring ruler, but I do know that I have a keen sense of humour, though it can be a dark one. So, if the state had enemies – as I’m sure it would – I’d have patience, kindness, and tolerance up to the point where I couldn’t afford to anymore, and then I’d devise a scheme for doing away with those people, perhaps not literally, but at least in a funny way that was not without a touch of irony.
What are you passionate about these days?
Mostly about writing. I’m keenly aware that we only get so much time on this earth, and I’m determined to make the most of it. Writing isn’t just work to me – it’s also play. It’s me being at my very best, and so it can feel selfish to want to do it all the time, or to talk about it to other people all the time, but, really, I’m just trying to figure things out, which is what I was born to do, apparently, even if I never really figure anything out. It’s the process that matters, and it’s the process that I’m passionate about – that, and just living the best life possible. So, travel, good food, good company, and good beer are a necessary part of that for me – as long as there’s writing, which includes moments to stop and not think about anything. Maybe, ultimately, I’m passionate about peace of mind, which largely eludes me.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I try and lie still for a few minutes, to not think about anything. That rarely works or, if it does, I fall asleep. Sometimes, the world can just be a bit too much for someone who suffers from post-concussion syndrome and just needs a respite in order to reset and move on. But I also love playing guitar and singing, which I don’t do nearly often enough, especially with my partner Jane, who is a lovely harpist, pianist, and singer, as well as writer. We enjoy the traveling, pubs, singing, and all that stuff together, so sitting by a crackling fire and playing music together is about as good as it gets. There’s TV sometimes, too, and for me it can be something like CNN or, more likely, something like Game of Thrones or The Crown – lots of underdogs in those shows. I love movies but can barely find time for them these days. Same with books – I love reading, but I don’t find nearly enough time for them unless I force myself to make time. I guess what I’m really saying is that I work most of the time but when I do relax, it’s with something mindless that doesn’t require anything of me.
How to find time to write as a parent?
For most of my life, I wasn’t a parent, but finding time for writing has never been easy. I often teach university English – on campus in St. John’s for two decades and by distance these past few years – and during the semesters, I focus almost exclusively on that. Nowadays, I offer writing retreats and workshops, mentoring, and all sorts of things related to writing. But only writing is writing. Somehow, despite all that and a few medical setbacks (not “health,” per se, since I’m completely fine now) from which I had to recover, plus major changes in my life in every single way (which includes separation, divorce, moving away from Newfoundland and my job, friends, and just about everything I’d known for so long, then settling into a new place where I lived for six years in a cottage by a lake in the woods, learning how to be an effective teacher by distance – somehow, I still have managed to write three books of which The Hush Sisters is one, and there are two others waiting for publication. This past August, I moved into a huge farmhouse with my partner, and she already had two kids, one in university and another now in his last year of high school. But they’re pretty self-sufficient. I like to eat meals together and watch some shows together, and that sort of thing. Teenagers take up a lot of space and tend to make some noise – which is all fine and natural – but I have an office space upstairs and far away from everything so I can focus on my writing and other work there. I’m pretty lucky in that way.
As for finding time to write, I will say that it is definitely harder for female parents to find time. But I also have to say that it’s never easy for anyone and harder for some. The world doesn’t want you to be a writer. It’ll throw things at you, give you things, set traps of distraction everywhere. Children, I’m sure, demand your attention in an urgent and necessary way that’s not like anything else. But there are all kinds of emergencies – though I also say only the end of the world is the end of the world, and the only things that are matters of life and death are a) life and b) death – just as there are jobs, social gatherings, weddings, funerals, dishes, vacuuming, TV shows to watch, and all sorts of things, and most of them wonderful. But only writing is writing, and if you are really going to make a go of it, you have to make time for it.
If you don’t make time for writing, then writing isn’t as important to you as some of these other things or, more to the point, writing isn’t as important to you as not writing. If there’s a choice to be made, sometimes, at least, you have to choose writing. Even children, after a certain age, are able to take care of themselves to a degree. But then it’s a matter of what you do with your time – and not just writing when you have the time, but writing when you actually feel up to it, when you can muster the creative energy to do a decent job of it and give yourself something to revise later.