Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles is one of the most powerful books we have ever read. It is so authentic that it hurts at times. It's not by any means a light read, or for the faint of heart. It is brilliantly written and shows us important truths. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to have our questions answered by Megan Gail Coles.
Small Game Hunting At The Local Coward Gun Club has an amazing build and pace. I honestly couldn't put it down. When you started writing, did you know how the story would end?
I knew the story would end with Iris and Olive. And I knew it would not be a tidy ending. Life is messy. It is beautiful and raw and horrifying, it is moving and surprising and unknowable. All of this conflicting action and reaction is ceaselessly messy regardless of the emotional resonance so it was my intent to reflect that in the ending. To acknowledge the range of living that is present in each human experience while also acknowledging that stories never truly end. In this way the narrative structure is non-linear and expansive. It was not my artistic intention to leave the reader feeling reassured. In fact, it is my intention to accomplish the opposite. The responsibility belongs to us all, what happens next will be impacted by how we choose to meet the challenges in our lives and communities. There are Iris' and Olives living amongst us. How their story ends depends on everyone. We are altogether implicated in this ending.
It felt so authentic and familiar to see how the mistreatment of Iris and Olive caused them both to value themselves so little. Do you think loneliness and unfamiliarity with be properly loved and protected can be dangerous?
Doubting your human value is intrinsic to exploitation. The world is built rough to dehumanize and marginalize individuals to uphold a construct that allows a select few to lord over them. Iris and Olive are taught to think less than themselves to serve an oppressive colonial narrative that allows the hierarchy and patriarchy in their communities to carry on unscathed. They are intentionally alienated from themselves by the construct that benefits from their self-alienation. But they are not accepting it. We are with them, fully immersed, as they struggle to keep hold of themselves and each other. This is their power. They see value in each other and sometimes acknowledging the value in others is the most a person is capable of.
It stayed with me how haunting it was when Iris had to tell Olive that, "Olive is in charge of Olive." Can you describe the factors that caused her to not see that to be true?
Olive has been ruled by systems beyond her control and so feels out of control. She has not been in charge of her person. The settling of the island displaced her First Nations ancestors and so self-determination has been eroded over the entirely of this bloodline. Her settler ancestors fled vicious consolidation of power only to find themselves beholden to it in this new place. Everywhere they turn all are faced with the same conditions of governance. So Olive's personhood has been forever ruled over by others who benefit from her subjugation. It should come a no surprise, though it does for many, that she feels subject to those who identify with power. This is by design. But both Iris and Olive have lived alongside another reality that allows for bodily autonomy and as a result, they are striving doggedly after it. Even in the moments they question whether it is meant for them, they do not question that this is meant for each other. And everyone who reads the book and discovers a kinship for them is a newfound alley in their pursuit of happiness. This is my hope for the novel. I want it to bind us together with well-earned compassion.
We know all great writers are readers. Can you please share with us who some of your favourite authors are?
Zadie Smith and Anna Gavalda. Old Murakami. All Vonnegut. I cried when Gabriel Garcia Marquez died. My partner at the time scolded me for doing so. I broke up with that guy. He didn't understand me at all.
Why do you think reading and storytelling is so special?
I would not know how to live without storytelling. It is how I have learned to communicate, how I attempt to know and be known. Feeling lost and unknown is heartbreakingly lonesome. Reading can lessen this and so it is essential in its purpose. Like anything essential, it holds a lot of power and people have been using it against the collective good since its inception. But there are always storytellers who holdfast to the fundamental principle of storytelling and I aim to be on that side of narrative history. It is what I am trying for.