Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

On Writing, with Melanie Dugan

Share |

Melanie Dugan is a Kingston-based writer and author of four novels, including this spring's Bee Summers, a coming of age story about a young girl whose mother simply walks out of the house one day, never to return.

Today, Open Book speaks with Melanie about loss, migratory beekeeping and the literary community where she lives.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, Bee Summers.

Melanie Dugan:

Bee Summers is about Melissa (Lissy) Singer. The novel begins the spring Lissy is 11 years old. One day she comes home from school and her mother isn?t there. Lissy figures her mom is out running an errand.

Lissy?s father is a migratory beekeeper and has hives to deliver. When her mother hasn?t returned after several days, rather than leave Lissy at home alone over the summer, or with Aunt Hetty - an elderly family friend who isn?t really an aunt ? her father decides to take Lissy along with him on his bee circuit, the first of many bee summers she travels with him. The novel follows Lissy as she tries to solve the mystery of her mother?s disappearance and struggles to come to terms with her loss.


Migratory beekeeping features prominently in your book, and is a hot topic in the media, what kind of research did you undertake before writing about it?


I read a whole bunch of books on bees, beekeeping, Colony Collapse Disorder and a terrific book, Following the Bloom, by Douglas Whynott, that?s all about migratory beekeepers - in Whynott?s words, America?s ?last real cowboys.? It?s a great read; he travels the county with contemporary migratory beekeepers, and he also covers the history of migratory beekeeping from Pharaonic times to the present. I highly recommend it.


Loss is a recurring theme in the novel, what drew you to writing on this subject matter?


Loss is an experience that defines us. We have very little control over what we lose or whom we lose, the only control we have is how we respond to loss. Lissy is young when she undergoes profound loss and the experience shapes her character and her life.


How would you describe Lissy, the protagonist of Bee Summers?


I?d say Lissy is clear-eyed. She?s a bit of an introvert, and like a lot of introverts, she is an observer, attuned to the currents of emotion that flow around her. At the beginning of the story, when she is young, she doesn?t yet have the vocabulary to name and describe her own feelings or those she senses in other people. She begins to learn that language over the course of the novel.

Because she?s ostracized after her mother leaves, she spends a lot of time on her own; she becomes a bit guarded and learns to depend on herself. One commenter said she found Lissy selfish. I suspect being a bit withdrawn and self-reliant might look that way.

Although she is sometimes confused by what?s going on around her, and sometimes angry because of it, Lissy isn?t defeated by what happens.


Could you tell us about the literary community in Kingston where you live? What do you enjoy most about being a writer in that city?


There are a lot of writers in Kingston ? novelists, poets, non-fiction writers, journalists ? and it?s a pretty porous community, by which I mean it?s a small enough group that we all know each other, run into each other when we?re out and about doing errands, bump into each other at book launches and at events like Kingston WritersFest, which is a wonderful gathering of readers and writers. The writers I know have been generous to, and supportive of each other.

Kingston is a great place to be a writer. It?s affordable. It?s livable ? I live downtown and almost anything I need is within walking or biking distance. Kingston has a great independent bookstore, Novel Idea, which is in good health. It?s easy to find locally-grown food here ? lots of CSAs. There?s a fine review cinema. We have a super library system ? in which I work. There?s a symphony, several theatre companies. For a city of its size Kingston is very dynamic, there?s a lot going on, a real variety of voices. It?s easy driving distance to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Plus, it?s simply a beautiful place.


What are you working on now?


Another novel.

Melanie Dugan is the author of four novels, Bee Summers, Dead Beautiful (Upstart Press, 2012), Revising Romance (Sumach Press, 2004), and Sometime Daughter (Second Story Press, 2002). Her short story, "A Map of the Human Heart," was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Contest.

Melanie's writing has appeared in Toronto Life, The North American Review, the Kingston Whig-Standard and other magazines. Melanie has studied at the University of Toronto's Writers' Workshop, the Humber School for Writers, and the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Born in San Francisco, Melanie grew up in Boston, Toronto and London, England. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her family.

For more information about Bee Summers please visit the the author's website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Advanced Search

Humber Creative Arts Ad

Book Thug