Welcome to a new series called Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting for bookworms who’re looking for their next good read. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Now, let’s dig in to the first! And be sure to use the hashtag #borealbookclub to share with us on social!
Secretive. Suspenseful. Surprising. The themes of loyalty and trust are glaring throughout the twists and turns of Canadian bestselling author Marissa Stapley‘s newest novel, The Last Resort. During two weeks of couples therapy in Mexico, retreat leader Miles Markell goes missing and everyone becomes a suspect in his sudden absence. Before we spoil the rest, we’ll leave you with Stapley’s take on the story, details on how she brainstorms ideas, and what a support network of authors means to her. Happy reading!
SC: The Last Resort is a true mystery/thriller. Where did you come up with such a real plot and set of characters?
MS: My ideas for plot and characters can come from anywhere, so I always try to be ready. Traveling with a notebook in my handbag always helps, but I’ll use the notes app on my phone in a pinch. The idea for The Last Resort came to me while I was on a holiday with my family. The setting was idyllic and everything was perfect, but the writer in me started looking around at the other couples and families in the restaurants, on the beach, and by the pool. I started to wonder… what if they’re just pretending to be happy? What if nothing there was as it seemed? By the time I flew home, I’d come up with characters and outlined a novel. No book is easy, but I’d say this was a book that came together fairly easily for me because from the very beginning I always knew where it was going.
SC: Are any of the characters or events inspired by real life?
MS: As I was writing this novel, the United States elected a president who had bragged publicly about sexual assault. The #MeToo movement was starting, and certain highly publicized legal cases — such as the rape case involving Brock Turner or the Brett Kavanaugh hearing — were making me think a lot about power imbalances between men and women. Especially in domestic relationships, things can turn ugly fast. I didn’t set out to write a mystery or a thriller, but the stakes and tension ended up getting so high it just turned out that way. And I think that really speaks to the tension in the air at the time. I was feeling frustrated about it. In fact, I was feeling downright angry and I took some of that out on the page. It was quite satisfying. And judging from the feedback I’ve gotten on the book, I think readers found it quite satisfying, too.
SC: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?
MS: I think I was born wanting to be an author. I was a shy kid who found a lot of comfort hiding behind books, so I read a lot when I was young and of course, I still do now. Every time I read a book I loved I couldn’t let it go. I’d think “I wish I could write something like that” — and often I’d go away and write a story inspired by what I had just read. My dad was a journalist so he was very supportive of my writing aspirations. I always knew I wanted to write fiction and it took until my thirties before I finally forced myself to stop thinking about it, stop talking about it, and finally sit down and get the book done. That first book didn’t get published, nor did the next one I wrote. But, the third one did and now here I am!
SC: After reading through your acknowledgments, it seems that you have a nice support network of authors. How has it helped you?
MS: There was a time I didn’t have my author friends in my corner, but I think I may have blocked it out. When I think about my writing life now, it’s always with them in it. We support each other in so many ways, and I think that’s necessary when you’re doing something as solitary as writing. It means we can go into our ‘writing caves’ by tapping out of our group chat to get our work done, and then reemerge with an editorial question. It’s like having colleagues at an office, and it makes writing seem less lonely. It’s a wonderful thing to be a writer though it is lonely, and there are times when the subject matter you’re dealing with might also make it feel isolating. Having the right writer friends helps sensitive writer types feel more able to face the world, and I would encourage every writer, aspiring or otherwise, to try to form a genuine support network.
This interview has been edited by STYLE Canada.