Gil Adamson: On Writing the Genre-Bender

Award-winning author Gil Adamson shares how her novel took a thirteen-year, genre-bending journey to publication.
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Gil Adamson is the critically acclaimed author of Ridgerunner, which won the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was named a best book of the year by the Globe and Mail and the CBC. Her first novel, The Outlander, won the Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing, the Amazon.ca First Novel Award, the ReLit Award, and the Drummer General’s Award. It was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, CBC Canada Reads, and the Prix Femina in France, longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and chosen as a Globe and Mail and Washington Post Top 100 Book. She is also the author of a collection of linked stories, Help Me, Jacques Cousteau, and two poetry collections, Primitive and Ashland. She lives in Toronto.

gil_ADAMSON-credit to (c) Jean-Luc Bertini. 2019

In this post, Adamson shares how her novel took a thirteen-year, genre-bending journey to publication and more!

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Name: Gil Adamson
Literary agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group
Title: Ridgerunner
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Release date: February 2, 2021
Genre: Literary
Previous titles: The Outlander
Elevator pitch for the book: November 1917. Notorious thief William Moreland, known as the Ridgerunner, is burgling mining towns and logging camps throughout the Rocky Mountains, determined to steal enough money to secure his young son’s future. But his son, Jack Boulton, enraged at his father’s actions, has other plans for his own future.

ridgerunner_gil_adamson_book_cover

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What prompted you to write this book?

I love literary westerns, as well as vintage child’s adventure stories (like Treasure Island) and crime novels, everything from the modern writers (Attica Locke, James Sallis) to the old noirs. Stories with big stakes, exciting and occasionally terrifying, where children can be major characters who carry the story. I wanted to see if I could write something that used those wonderful elements together, a genre-bender, I guess. Ridgerunner is the outcome.

(Cross-Genre Fiction: Using Research and Imagination in Hybrid Genres)

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

It took thirteen years. And yes, certain elements of the story changed along the way, but the central image of a child, Jack Boulton, alone in the woods and happy to be there, never changed. That kid was always there, fully formed and ready to go.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Most authors this year will say: learning to use a webcam, to handle a Q&A, to somehow make the virtual event almost as intimate for the viewer as if it were an on-stage event. For me, add to that two major fiction award nominations and one win (The Writers’ Trust), and the fact I’m shy and a bit of a hermit, and you have one pretty shocking launch season. In a good way.

(Crossing Over)

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Too many to list. But my favorite surprises came in the form of suggestions from my editor, Janie Yoon. Just offhand comments that blossomed into scenes I hadn’t planned. Like that a certain character used to be in law enforcement, “So,” as she said, “he’ll know how to get information out of people.” Doesn’t that sound like a scene waiting to be written?

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they will feel like they are on an adventure, one that takes them out of their everyday lives. One that makes them think about human connection, family, love, and what freedom means to them.

Adamson_1:28

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Self-edit until you think the thing is perfect, and then do it some more. You wouldn’t send your kid to school half-dressed, so don’t do it to your manuscript. I did that once and never will again.

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