On November 21st, author Nathan Whitlock was at Peterborough’s own Take Cover Books, promoting the launch of his third book Lump. Whitlock described this novel as his “favourite” of all his books, about “relationships”, “class and privilege”, and “the power that we have over people, and we don’t even realize it.”
Whitlock introduced himself, expressing his gratitude at the presence of multiple people, explaining “one of the least fun parts of being an author is going and doing an event, and it's just you and the owner, and maybe like one person who thought they were going to a Michael Winter event.”
Michael Whitlock explained that due to the similarities between his name and Michael Winter’s, as well as their both being Canadian novelists, this is a common occurrence. He shared one of his favourite Goodreads reviews, where “literally the entire review of the book was ‘I bought this thinking it was by Michael Winter’, which is super helpful when looking forward as a writer.”
Whitlock explained that he had started working on this book many years ago, following early career advice to “be writing your next book before your first book comes out.”
Whitlock began writing Lump in 2016 a time during which he was meeting fellow parents who were “politically progressive” and had houses “powered by renewable energy” and thinking “but you’ve got that nanny who’s really working hard and running your kid around and depends on you for their immigration status and you don’t seem to be fully aware of this power dynamic?”
This realization brought Whitlock to think about how “really nice people have some big blind spots.” He explains that “this book is also about massive blind spots,” that “there’s really not any nice people in this book”, and that every single character in the book (except for the one dog) is “kind of a jerk.”
Lump follows the story of ex-designer-now-stay-at-home-mom Kat, as she finds out that she has breast cancer, that her husband is a “creep”, and that she’s pregnant all on the same day.
As he was writing about Kat’s cancer, Whitlock found out he himself had throat cancer, which he describes as “karma saying ‘you really want to write a cancer book? Cool, here’s some research for it.’” Thankfully, he is now “totally fine”, reminding those present that “if you do feel any sense of pity, you know what’s a great way to do it is to buy a book.”
Whitlock read a short excerpt from Lump, where Kat discusses the aftermath of fainting and discovering her pregnancy in the middle of a presentation for a website she created for a yoga studio owned by an “incredibly rich lady” with her sister, Claudia.
This passage is equallymarked by what was said by the characters than by what is left out. Even as Kat can discuss her positive pregnancy test with Claudia, her considering not having the baby is left unspoken. Furthermore, Kat’s “creep” husband Donovan is left out of the loop, as if his involvement is not even an option.
The evening ended with a Q&A portion, where Whitlock shared more of the ethos of his work. He described his intention as to “not have any crazy coincidences” his “plot is very simple, a woman discovers these things and her life falls apart, in part because she lets it fall apart, she makes it fall apart, and that causes other people’s lives to fall apart a little bit.”
Whitlock explained that he has “this weird kneejerk need to make things less funny” by cutting out punchlines and characters “trying to be funny.” He “darkens things” in his books, seeking out a more realistic and less gag-focused humor, because “we’re not on Friends.”
The author described his inspirations, a category of “really super sharp, cranky women writers”, citing Muriel Spark, Rachel Cusk, Anne Enright, and Beryl Bainbridge. He explained that these women were “sick of the shit”, stating “if I’m virtue signaling, that’s who I’m virtue signaling to.”
In mind of his past works, Whitlock described Lump as “the first one where I feel like I relaxed a little, and I found more of my own voice, and I felt like I wasn’t pushing as much.”
Whitlock is currently working on his next book, something “much more relaxed”, with “much more of a flow.” His work and editing on Lump and on his next work are focused on “just making it relax.”
Whitlock’s Lump launch at Take Cover Books provided attendees with a fascinating peek into his creative process, as well as his insights on the world, his own work, and literature as a whole. All of Whitlock’s books are available through his website.
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