This page has moved to a new address.

Interview with Tanis Rideout

Leonicka Valcius: Interview with Tanis Rideout

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Interview with Tanis Rideout

Climbing to New Heights: Tanis Rideout discusses her debut novel Above All Things

(This article first appeared in On the Danforth magazine, Summer 2012)

Better known for her poetry, Danforth writer Tanis Rideout is making her prose debut with her novel Above All Things. The protagonist is what Rideout calls, “the last great British gentleman explorer.” In 1924, George Mallory and his team departed on an expedition to climb Mount Everest. By some accounts Mallory reached the summit, but he never came home.
Above All Things has two narratives: the rousing adventure of Mallory's climb and the patient domesticity of his wife. “[It became a] sort of a love triangle between him, the mountain, and his wife,” Rideout explains. The wife's narrative provides the best insight into Mallory's character. Her role helps to show a more personal and intimate side of Mallory and to cut through the hero mythology that surrounds him.

Rideout grappled with the fine line between fact and fiction when she wrote “Arguments with the Lake”, an unpublished collection of poetry about Marilyn Bell's swim across Lake Ontario. “I got an email from her daughter shortly after the poems were on the CBC. That sort of drove that home to me... There's a person out there and I've taken their name and something that they've done and proceeded to use it for my own ends... there is an anxiety and discomfort around that.”

When writing Above All Things, the distance of time makes fictionalizing Mallory easier but she still strives to be true to the character. “What I'm doing is fiction... I don't know these people and I won't know these people so they kind of have to take on their own life and sometimes in order to do that you have to turn toward fiction.”

Rideout's inspiration for Above All Things came when she worked at an outdoor equipment store after she graduated university. One of her co-workers was an Everest fanatic and showed her a video about Mallory's expedition. Rideout was instantly captivated by the physical and obsessive nature of the journey.

“What is it that makes a person do something that extreme and that dangerous and that physically impossible? ...You don't just decide to do it; you have to keep deciding to do it.”

“There's a similar drive around writing,” she added. “You have to be obsessed to bother.” It was that drive that kept Rideout going during the long process of getting Above All Things to the bookstores. After collecting documents and researching Mallory's life, Rideout wrote the first draft over the course of a summer six years ago. Three drafts and several revisions later, McClelland and Stewart picked up the manuscript for publication. With the book set to be in stores in June, Rideout can finally relax. “It's becoming a very real thing now... it's starting to feel like there will be a book as opposed to this stack paper that's been following me around.”

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home