Sunshine Coast author Marion Quednau has a rule about short stories: they should not merely be about something that happens; whatever happens must also trigger a change in character.
“I get discontent with short fiction that sounds more like vignettes, where the characters don’t really develop or change. The writer hasn’t gone deeply enough,” Quednau told Coast Reporter in a conversation about her new book, Sunday Drive to Gun Club Road. “I want something to force a writer’s hand to change a character, just like you do in a novel. I want the character to develop a bit. Because otherwise I don’t think it’s very affecting to the reader, either.”
Quednau has met her own criteria in the 13 stories in this 204-page collection, published by Nightwood Editions in Gibsons. The tales vary widely in subject and situation, but all are set in the present day and involve relatable people, mostly adult women, going about their lives. And at least one character will be moved significantly by what happens. “That was my goal,” Quednau said. “I wanted people to shift and change and be accountable for what they say or what they appear to be wanting earlier in the story.”
There’s more to these stories than mature and character-challenging plots. There’s also much crafted, insightful prose. “She didn’t trust herself any longer, that’s what it amounted to,” she wrote of the protagonist in the story Ex-Racehorses. “If she guessed a man had kind eyes, he was bound to be holding some unnatural grudge; she was that good at being wrong. She couldn’t seem to fasten down on anyone worth worrying about, except as lingering regret.”
There are many nuggets like that in these stories, passages that can make a reader stop and go over again just to ponder the layered nuances. Quednau has won several honours, among them a National Magazine Award, the CBC Poetry People’s Choice Award, and the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award for 1988’s The Butterfly Chair. The title story in her latest collection was shortlisted for the Carter V. Cooper Award and will appear in the CVC9 anthology this year.
Sunday Drive to Gun Club Road is available as a Kobo or Kindle e-book, and in paperback at Talewind Books in Sechelt and other booksellers.