A query we get is about how the writers managed in being part of this collaborative creation. We asked them just that and here are some of their comments.
How did writers react to the idea of a collective novel?
“When I first heard about this project, I thought it was a bit wacky. Could this work? Would it add up to a novel in the traditional sense of the word? I would have pressed the ‘delete’ button on my email program if I hadn’t noted the names behind the idea. I knew Marjorie Anderson from the Dropped Threads project and Deborah Schnitzer from her own writing and work in Winnipeg. They were both serious women. Not at all “wacky.” … I`m convinced now that At the Edge may be off the wall, but the idea works. “
"I've always been fascinated with the important notion of voice in fiction. Here we have a novel that is also an anthology of different narrative voices all contributing somehow to a whole. Will the whole be more than the sum of its parts? Will the finished novel be a collection of individual voices or will the combination result in some sort of collective voice -- a 'village voice' speaking to an invisible audience?"
Why did writers decide to send in a chapter submission for the novel?
“I love irregular ideas of authorship. I love books that make me think differently about who an author is, how a book gets made, and how a reader takes part in making a story. I thought the idea of a collaborative novel – and a mystery at that! – was such an original concept, and I immediately wanted to take part.”
“I decided to participate in this novel because collaborative novels are rather a rare form for a writer to be part of. I also enjoyed working on an ‘open ended’ short story that was going to become part of a bigger project, and I was interested to experience how the project would be slotted together once everyone had submitted their stories. I loved, too, the idea of the various ‘voices’ that each writer brought to the project while working within the parameters of certain ‘rules.’
“I’d been messing around with a novel revision when I learned about the submissions call for “At the Edge.” I’m not someone to look gift procrastination in the mouth, so signed up immediately. I was glad I did. We were handed a bare bones set and asked to explore it by putting characters into a brisk fall morning full of crackling energy and possibility. A threat hid in the centre of this expanse, a shadow beneath the sunshine. The hook for me was that the shadow wasn’t mine: having another writer taking the role of fickle fortune created interesting tension. My characters had to live their day with fate moving around them, just as we each live our days without knowing their ends.”
How did writers feel about not having their names attached to their chapters, and having their characters “lifted” from their stories and appear, somehow, in other chapters?
“I love the concept of (temporarily) withholding the authors' names from the chapters; not only will this create buzz, but I can't wait to see how many friends and family members "see" themselves in other authors' work!”
“The insertion of other authors’ characters and their situations into my chapter was much less intrusive than I anticipated, although I confess I entertained thoughts – delightfully obsessive thoughts – as to how one of my characters would avenge those intrusions.”
We made the Novel-in-Progress (before the final chapter was added) available for the contributors so they could see how their stories were situated in the whole. What were some of their reactions?
“When I received the novel-in-progress and read all the stories of people moving through that brisk morning, I saw a living city that my characters couldn’t see from their context. Here again the sense of unfolding mystery and everyday reality mixed. Stories touched each other and then swirled away again, interesting people brushing against each other’s lives. And out there, the shadow lurked for all of them…”
“I was impressed with the compilation when I saw it without the final chapter. Yes, there were a few more characters than you would find in your standard novel. And yes, the writing style did vary from chapter to chapter. But that is exactly what had me turning the pages. This was a new kind of novel.”
“There’s so much variety in the book. A wealth of different stories and approaches. It reads like a book of short stories that is really a novel and vice versa. People crossing and re-crossing each other’s’ paths, and that’s how it goes. It is a mosaic, a kaleidoscope, a unified pattern consisting of wildly disparate parts. It is an invitation for you, dear reader, to get in a car and to get on the road and to realize that travelling in one car is always, at least where this book is concerned, going to be travelling in all cars. That is the beauty of the book: you get to hitch a baker’s dozen of rides or more for the price of one.”