‘Upon Reflection’ is J. McDonald’s debut piece. Having spent an inordinate amount of time and money on reading the works of others, this new Canadian author decided it was time to try to give back to a community that has provided countless hours of enjoyment.
McDonald has a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in English, a Bachelor of Education degree, and recently completed a Master’s in Novel Writing. When not chained to a computer, video games and movies are usually the order of the day.
What inspired your story ‘Upon Reflection’ in The Book of Demons?
When I was first asked to contribute a piece for the book, I began researching some common myths and superstitions that I might be able to use for inspiration. Growing up, I’d heard the common saying, “break a mirror and you’ll have bad luck for seven years.” As I dug into the origin of this ominous prognostication, I learned that some believe your soul is what’s reflected in the mirror — and fracturing the soul would make it impossible to truly be whole. Intrigued by this idea, I decided that instead of a clumsy accident, I wanted the fissures in the mirror to be the result of choices that Western morality would frown upon.
How long did it take to write?
I’ve been working on my first novel for the past few years and have a terrible habit of procrastinating when there isn’t someone else’s deadline holding me accountable. Adam had given us a generous amount of time and I feared that my negligent nature would rear its ugly head again. Determined to do better, I forced myself to finish the story during my two week winter holiday. It was a very interesting time of year to be thinking of demons instead of seasonal festivities.
Tell us about your writing process…
In my Master’s in Novel Writing program, I conducted a considerable amount of research on the idea of gender, but particularly focused on stories that did not disclose the gender of their lead character(s). I began playing around with creating characters with no assigned gender and then surveying my classmates as to what they pictured when they read about those people.
Originally, I had tried to eliminate any traditionally binary factors that might clearly indicate to the reader whether a character was written with a specific gender in mind. I quickly learned that this was a mistake. The ultimate goal of my refusal to assign genders to my characters is for the reader to recognize that gender is ultimately irrelevant. Like other labels that are used to divide people into sub-groups, gender labels do not define who a person is or what the sum of their experiences equals. It was with this goal in mind that I began to purposefully weave elements commonly associated with multiple heteronormative individual groups into a single character.
The challenge of writing my protagonists in a way that leaves the reader open to picture them in any physical human form they choose has been invigorating. I hope that my readers enjoy the freedom of choice, but that they also feel empowered to reflect upon the choices they make and the motivations behind those choices.
‘Upon Reflection’ is a small sample of what I’m experimenting with. I you’re interested in a deeper dive, I recommend checking out the first few chapters of my novel in progress, The Pale: Diary of the Dead, on my website.
Thanks to J. McDonald