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One for the Rock

A Q&A with Coast Lines book club author Kevin Major

By Heidi Wicks

Dr. Kevin Major’s (B.Sc.’73, Hon. D.Litt.’11) work has spanned decades, producing work in a variety of genres, from young adult fiction to children’s literature to suspense and beyond.

As members of Memorial’s Coast Lines book club dig into his recent release, One for the Rock, the author shares some advice for would-be writers and recalls the past and the future in advance of his author talk on Tuesday, March 9.

HW: Do you see any recurring themes in your writing?

KM: I’ve written in a variety of genres. One theme that I keep coming back to is the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is most obvious, of course, in the non-fiction and in the historical novels, but I see it here again in One for the Rock, in that Sebastian is a tour guide.

It has allowed me to touch on our past in what I hope is a fresh, fun, and interesting way.

HW: What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

KM: Stick with it. Believe in yourself as a writer. Not everyone will like what you’ve spent years getting into manuscript form.

Be prepared for criticism as well as praise. Thicken your skin. And smile lots when others cheer what you do.

HW: Do any of your books hold a particular place in your heart, or are special to you for any certain reason?

KM: Hold Fast because it was the first (always a highlight in a writer’s career) and because I believe the story remains strong after all these years.

No Man’s Land because it drew me closer to our past than any other of my books, and that it and the stage version continue to reach out to people in what I hope is a meaningful way.

The House of Wooden Santas because I am thrilled to see children (and adults) respond to it year after year. And any book I am working on at the moment, for the pleasure it gives me in knowing that my writing career still has the wherewithal to move in interesting directions!

HW: What was an early experience where you learned that language has power?

KM: Experiencing the joy of getting lost in a book, to the exclusion of everything that is going on around you.

That’s power, of a type that has immense potential for good.

HW: Who are some of your most adored authors?

KM: I always go back to Hemingway. I learned that what is not said is as important as what is. Dostoevsky. Philip Roth. Ali Smith.

HW: What are the creative seeds for One for the Rock? Where did the idea for the book come from?

KM: I had just come off writing a trilogy of historical novels, works that required a great deal of time and research. I was ready for something that was a bit less taxing and also (with the encouragement of my wife) gave vent to my sense of humour.

I wanted it to be set in the place that I knew best, with a central character that, while being offbeat, was also dealing with some tough issues in his personal life.

HW: If there’s anything else you’d like to say about One for the Rock that you’d like folks to consider whilst reading, please feel free to share!

KM: One for the Rock, as I said, is a departure for me. I’d be interested to know if readers who know my other work, are surprised by it.

And whether they think it is a worthwhile use of whatever talent I have as a writer.

The book seems to have found an audience and I have been encouraged to continue with the series. My idea is that forthcoming books (Two for the Tablelands came out last fall) will be set in various places throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

Crime novels that hopefully capture the excitement and fun of a good story, but at the same time are a bit of a showcase for this wonderfully attractive and colourful part of the world.

Sharon Bala to participate in Coast Lines event

Sharon Bala, Memorial’s writer-in-residence for 2021 and author of the Journey Prize-winning novel, The Boat People, will sit as a guest panellist at the Coast Lines virtual event on March 9.

Sharon Bala
Photo: Heather Nolan

She will join host Angela Antle, President Vianne Timmons, Dr. Jennifer Simpson and Kevin Major as they discuss One for the Rock and his body of work.

Ms. Bala joked that she comes from the “Newfoundland School of Writing.”

“Actually, it’s true. This is where I learned to write. This is where I became a writer,” she said. “I don’t think it could have happened elsewhere. This brilliant and generous writing community has nourished and formed my work and I’m most looking forward to paying the favour forward during this writer-in-residence residency.”

Ms. Bala will offer four writing workshops to the writing community in Newfoundland and Labrador as part of her term.

Coast Lines with Kevin Major takes place on March 9 in a livestream from the Emera Innovation Exchange at Signal Hill Campus. Registration is required. Readers can join the Coast Lines book club to join the discussion.


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