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CSL interview of Jim Flatman by Sean Butler

Jim Flatman is a retired Professional Engineer and Canada Lands Surveyor, a member of APEGA (the Association of Engineers and Geophysicists of Alberta), the Canada Lands Surveyors Association and the International Society of Petroleum Engineers, as well as being a beloved great-grandparent and author of the novel Maryanne.

Q1: Before writing your novel Maryanne, you had written many many technical articles for your previous jobs as an engineer and a lands surveyor. What motivated you to make such a switch to fictional writing, and how (if at all) did those previous technical writing experiences influence the writing of your novel?

A1: “I had always wanted to write at least one piece of fiction. In one respect, the novel Maryanne contains large elements of technical information derived from my hobby as an amateur naturalist. The elements are based on my study of Insectology with some personal experiences interwoven. I sought to emphasize personal characteristics and traits as I have observed and experienced them in various people from real life. So in a way, the writing in Maryanne includes technological writing as well as fiction.”

Q2: You mentioned to me how you have ghostwritten many speeches for politicians before, could you describe to me what is like to see someone else reading aloud the words you yourself wrote in order to guide the lives of people and the direction of society?

A2: “When I see someone repeating in words or writings what I have ghostwritten for them, I feel I’ve succeeded. I’ve had several memorable and sincere “thank yous” from my “clients”. (Unfortunately, I left all such correspondence in my office files when I retired. I’m not sure what my successor in office thought of that of that documentation which was often beyond the requirements of my civil service position. A friend told me I could have auctioned off those letters and signatures for substantial sums).”

Q3: You are lucky enough to have great-grandchildren, what influence have they as well as the rest of your family had your writing?

A3: Maryanne was written before the arrival of any great-grandchildren. In fact it lay fallow for some time before I decided to have it published. The reaction of relatives to my writings has been varied. For instance my wife has not read the novel in full and only began and stopped after impulsively punching and pummelling me in the belief that the main male character was a representation of myself. That character (“Matt”) indeed has his failings as all men do but he was not intended to replicate myself in any sense.  The novel was proofread by my older son’s sister-in-law who encouraged me to have it published. I have acknowledged her valuable contribution in the book’s forward.”

Q4: You have lived in both eastern and western Canada as well as the U.K., how have those places that you have lived as well as others you have traveled to inspire your writing?

A4: “My travels and working in different countries or different parts of Canada have had no influence. Individuals I have encountered on my life’s journey contributed to the writing. For example, one main character is a composite of two individuals I encountered in the course of my past work. What may be of added interest is that one episode is based on the biblical text of the two pilgrims on the road to Emmaus. I presumed that Saint Luke’s copyright had expired.”

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