Writing About the Personal – Author Talk with Helen Humphreys

“The great thing about reading is that you can experience an emotion that is not your own. There is a comfort in it…”

Helen Humphreys reading from her book, "Nocturne."
Helen Humphreys reading from her book, “Nocturne.”

Helen Humphreys is an award winning author, and has published four books poetry, six novels, and two works of non-fiction. She currently lives in Kingston, Ontario. Today, she shared her newest novel, Nocturne with us. It is a non-fiction book that describes the life and death of her brother Martin, who was a classical pianist in Vancouver. The book is written as a letter to her brother after he died, with 45 little pieces, one for each year of his life.

Normally a writer of novels, Humphreys moved away from her usual way of writing for this book. With novels, she spends a long time in the research stage, and while she is researching, the story begins to take shape. By the time she begins writing the novel she knows most of what she wants to do. With Nocturne, it began after Martin’s death, when she started writing a letter to him, saying all the things she felt she needed to tell him. She wrote in an instinctual way, writing when she had the urge to. The book was written with no premeditation- it is her truth, and nothing is made up. Initially, she had no intention of publishing it, but eventually after getting some good feedback on it, she decided to publish it.

An interesting question…does she think that her brother would like Nocturne? She thinks he would appreciate the gesture, but might argue with some of the content!

Now, Humphreys is looking towards transitioning towards fiction, and told us of her concern with making that shift. We are excited to see what she writes next!


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