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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Does your Mountie want a poutine? or, Cultural Flavour in Literature - a guest post by Krista D. Ball

Most of last summer was spent writing my now-released novella, Spirits Rising. A goodly chunk of that writing time was spent asking Liana questions on Twitter. Do you know what a toque is? How about poutine? What about a Mountie?

Spirits Rising is set in Newfoundland, an isolated island off the coast of Canada. It's the youngest Canadian province, having joined in 1949. We don't even speak "regular" English. We have a very distinct accent. Don't believe me? Go watch this:

No, they aren't exaggerating. Yes, I talk like that. Well, more to the point I used to talk like that and still do when I go back home or get drunk/angry/get on the phone with my mom.

Ok, done watching? Great.

The culture of Newfoundland is different. Not urban vs rural, Canadian vs American different. I'm talking aliens vs Earth different. I wanted to capture that in the novella without overwhelming people. I grew up eating cod tongues, cod cheeks, caribou, moose, salt cod, lobster, and salt pickled beef. We don't drive on state highways. We drive on the TransCanada - even though an ocean separates us. We fly Air Canada. How on earth could I write a story where I'd have to explain everything?

There is a fair bit of pressure as a non-American write to Americanize fiction. There is a famous review on Amazon where the reviewer complains about British characters in a novel. And yet, I wanted to write the story in my home province, where icebergs and whales pass us by and where thousands of people were looked after and cared for after 911 diverted their flights without asking for a penny back.

So I did it. I went easy on the accents and used a main character who wasn't from The Rock to help guide people through the geography and the culture. It was a balancing act and sometimes I succeeded, whereas other times I know I failed. Regardless, I didn't just write what I knew; I wrote what I loved. Home.

Krista D. Ball was born and raised in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, where she learned how to use a chainsaw, chop wood, and make raspberry jam. After obtaining a B.A. in British History from Mount Allison University, Krista moved to Edmonton, AB where she currently lives with her partner, two crazy but likable step-boys, seven cats, and a very understanding corgi.

Like any good writer, Krista has had an eclectic array of jobs throughout her life, including strawberry picker, pub bathroom cleaner, oil spill cleaner-upper and soup kitchen coordinator. These days, when Krista isn’t software testing, she writes full-time in her messy office.


  1. Thank you for stopping by. One day I'll be brave enough to give the poutine a try. :o)