Audrey Whitson is a published author who grew up on a farm in Alberta. She was born here, and has spent her life collecting experiences and stories, transferring thought to page as it comes to her. Audrey has lived or travelled extensively in many places, including Mexico and South America, the United States, Alberta, and the Northwest territories. She has studied both social work and theology, and has taught at the graduate and undergraduate level.
She published her first book in 2003, and has continued to write since then. She published another in 2013, and is quite excited to be releasing her first novel in spring 2019. She writes about the struggle for meaning, taking advantage of her storied experiences and education to bring her knowledge to the public.
It is rare that I have a chance to speak with such an experienced and talented writer. I wanted to ask her what inspires her, as well as how she thinks being in contact with such a diverse set of cultures has impacted her writing.
PF: I’ve noticed that much of your work focuses on nature and spirituality, would you mind speaking a bit on how you came to enjoy that subject matter and what inspired you to write about it?
AW: “I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time as a child wandering the fields, some parts of them still wild, unploughed bush and swamp. I realize now that being in nature was my first experience of the holy. Setting and place (especially nature) is often a character in my writing. Nature is still the main touchpoint for Spirit in my life.”
PF: Nature and setting usually imply certain cultural influences. Who then do you write for? Do you have a specific audience in mind when you set pen to paper?
AW: “Perhaps a nameless, unseen audience. Perhaps a presence. This may relate to my experience of writing as often an act of prayer. Certainly I don’t feel alone. I am writing in the presence of something, if only myself trying to make sense of reality and my own experience. Listening is critical to writing. Sometimes I write for the characters as much as for anyone—am I making their world real? And by turn, the reader’s world? But who those readers are, I often only discover after the writing is public/published.”
PF: Audiences can be highly variable, indeed. You’ve come into contact with many cultures over the years, including studying in Mexico. In what ways do you think the exposure to different lifestyles has influenced your writing?
AW: “Cultures have their own language, their own way of thinking and their own view on the world. When I began to enter into other cultures, I began to imagine the world from a different perspective. That is profound for me and profound for my writing and my life. I live in a downtown neighbourhood in Edmonton because of the diversity I find there… My own life is reimagined (and my writing) when I think about it through another person’s experience.”
PF: Thank you so much.
After speaking with Audrey, I have gained a new perspective on the way one should approach writing. Stylistically, she is the most unique person I have had the pleasure of speaking with. Borrowing from nature and religion simultaneously is an approach I have never before encountered. Even her approach to other cultures, which emphasizes a necessity for writers to view the world from multiple perspectives at once, is innovative and different. Audrey is an incredible writer and a strong soul. Be sure to keep your eye out for her latest book, The Death of Annie the Water Witcher by Lightning.