Yukon-based writer Joanna Lilley has published her first novel, Worry Stones, after 17 years of working on it. “I wasn´t working on it every day, during that time. There were periods when I put it aside.”
She wrote poems and short stories instead. During the past years, she published two collections of poetry and one book of short stories.
“Getting Worry Stones published is a dream come true for me,” Lilley said. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write a novel, and have made many failed attempts over the decades. I started writing Worry Stones 17 years ago and was over the moon when Ronsdale Press accepted it for publication last year.”
She said that fear of failure sometimes became too much for her during the writing process. “Who was I to think I could be a novelist? In Britain, the class system and centuries of great literature are stifling constraints.”
Lilley is originally from the UK and studied creative writing in Scotland before she immigrated to Canada with her husband in 2006. “Immigrating to Canada helped me to come ‘out of the closet’ as a writer and start to meet and work with other writers more.”
Set in Nunavut, England and Scotland, Worry Stones is about Jenny Ross, a young British art historian who hasn’t seen her parents for eight years, not since they joined a cult in the remote Scottish Highlands. When Jenny finds out her mother has had a stroke, she’s forced to decide whether or not to abandon her research in Iqaluit and rush to her mother’s bedside.
The title is quite unique, and when asked what Worry Stones means, Lilley said: “The title comes from the stones that the main character, Jenny, collects when she’s anxious about things, especially when her family is at odds. She develops a habit of picking up stones she finds on the beach, or on her wanderings, and taking them home. She finds it comforting to hold them and feel their shapes. The stones also link to her artistic frustrations as she grows older.”
So what is next in Joanna Lilley´s writing career?
“I’m currently working on another novel, which is about a woman who’s successful in her career but keeps making mistakes, in her personal life, that hurt other people in serious ways. And I’ll soon be starting to work on edits to my next poetry book, which is a collection of poems about extinct animals and is being published by Turnstone Press in spring 2020.”
Lilley just came back from giving readings in Saskatoon and Regina and is looking forward to a reading in Whitehorse. As well as a reading by Lilley, there will be readings from local authors Ellen Bielawski, Patti Flather and Lily Gontard. All four authors are in a writing group together and are working on novels. Poet Jamella Hagan will host the event.
The launch of Worry Stones takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 29, at Baked Café.