BRENDA BROOKS

HONEY

Brenda Brooks was born in Rivers, Manitoba and grew up in various locales throughout Canada, from Saskatchewan, to Alberta, to Quebec and Ontario. She now lives in the Gulf islands in B.C. where she upholsters furniture and gardens for a living while writing. She is presently working on a poetry collection and new novel.

About Honey

When 24-year-old Nicole Hewett’s beloved childhood friend, Honey, returns to their small northern town after an unexplained six-year absence, Nicole realizes how her life had stalled without her. But the prodigal returns with troubling secrets, and before long Nicole is drawn into a high-stakes game. Honey is a thrilling, sensuous modern noir novel with a classic refrain: nothing is more dangerous than love.

Staunch says

Brenda Brooks drops us straight into the life-on-hold of Nicole Hewitt, casino piano player trapped in smalltown Buckthorn. In an opening nod to Rebecca, Brooks takes the wheel with the smart style and knowing sass of Barbara Kingsolver or Gillian Flynn. With an atmosphere that David Lynch would be proud of, we’re in safe hands for gripping modern noir.

Honey is the missing person in Nic’s life, and back she comes, appearing at Nic’s father’s funeral in the old Eldorado that she disappeared in with her mother six years earlier.  As they pick up their childhood friendship, just as delighted with each other as ever, Honey starts to reveal the catalogue of unfortunate accidents and calculated moves that kept her and mother Inez afloat all that time. Nic is sucked straight back in, all that unfinished, unexplained business now accompanied by new and worrying mysteries. Life is more complicated than ever. And Honey even more fascinating.

This novel is a great seduction, with all the thrills, treachery and heartache that can bring. Don’t be fooled. Nic, seemingly the sidekick, the afterthought, not only resumes her role of Honey’s confidante, but is willingly promoted first to lover, then accomplice without ever being sure she has all the facts. But what Honey lacks in transparency, Nic makes up for in loyalty, naked love and resiliance. Perhaps she may never really know Honey. For sure she’ll never get the whole truth. But she’s in it for her own reasons. For despite Nic’s deprecating humour, and incidents that set our alarm bells clanging, Nic is tougher and more determined than you’d think. We can all see exactly why ruthless, cunning, funny, spectacular Honey was the girl, and is the woman, Nic will never be free of. And that feels like a good thing.

Great plot. Sharp dialogue. Brilliant writing. You’ll want to read more of Brenda Brooks.

READ THE OPENING CHAPTERS OF HONEY

HONEY

 

For my sister

 

 

I Remember
By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color — no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what I
remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to
mine.
         — Anne Sexton
Part 1
This is the girl.
Mulholland Drive

I never went back to the house on Montague Street again. I didn’t even return to town. The day of my release I thought about dropping by Robinson’s on 3rd to pick up something new to wear, give myself the illusion of a fresh start, that sort of thing, but there were bound to be a few locals around who remembered what happened so I kept driving.

 

All I took with me was a suitcase and that thrift store hour-glass Honey gave me on Christmas Eve, the night they ran off: brass with genuine hand-blown bulbs. She said it was precise, never got clogged, the sand always ran true. It turned out to be symbolic as hell but that’s the nature of an hourglass after all: it whispers the bottom line without saying a word.

 

No, I never returned to Buckthorn at all. It would have been like cruising through an abandoned movie set, tumbleweeds blowing down the boulevard, the last fake storefront nailed shut — which is what that godforsaken place was bound for anyway. That’s why you’ve never heard of my hometown. It doesn’t exist anymore, at least not in the way I remember. Maybe it never did. Look at me, will you: twenty-five and already living in the past.

 

Honey was from Buckthorn too, although she bullshitted from childhood on about various far-flung locales being her true birth- place. I went along for the fun of it. And after all, our town being what it was, who could blame her for getting stoned now and then and dreaming? Elba, some island in Italy, was her favorite fantasy. She had a thing about it for years. According to her she’d been born there in another life. The life that counts, she said. I sometimes thought she would have chosen any exotic locale as long as it had a beach, a big red sunset, and rosecolored sand. Sand that color is pretty unlikely, I told her, even in Elba, but that didn’t bother her. She liked pretty unlikely things, her dreams (and old scrapbooks) full of beaches and ruins and views of sparkling seas through open windows — things like that. In a way I guess you could say that this whole mess came down to Honey trying to find her true-blue homeland. And me doing my best not to lose her again.

 

I’m not much for talking, now more than ever, although I’m sure that’s hard to believe. I mean, look at me rattling on.If you ask me where I’m from, what it was like there — and what I mean by what happened, I’ll tell you about Honey. Because she’s where I’m from, the only place I’ve ever really been.

 

She’s what happened.

 

I opened with the same song every night, because it got me in the mood, took me away. A few bars into Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” and I wasn’t stuck in some stinking casino behind the Walmart on the outskirts of Buckthorn anymore. In my imagination it was just me and the piano on a revolving dais in a swank venue. Slick tuxes, formal gowns, martinis, and beautiful people who never had to worry about how much cash they set aside for retirement. A room with a crystal chandelier. Why not? It was nothing like reality. So then a bit of tenor sax, silky strings, a touch of that easy legato brushwork on percussion.

 

Picture me and the baby grand as seen from above, the room tinted deep purple, a spray of light revolving over the walls and ceiling. I don’t mean a hokey disco ball kind of thing. I’m talking about true darkness, slivers of light stolen from the stars, and glittering throughout, as if me and the Steinway are our own little planet turning slowly in space. White shirt, black skirt. The camera would pan across my hands, which I’m told are both strong and graceful, if a little pale.

 

The piano is the only place my hands feel at home, the only time, between you and me, when they know precisely what they’re doing. Because they know “Unforgettable.” And for a while so do the gamblers and losers, along with tunes like “Body and Soul,” “Stardust,” and “Unchained Melody” — balm for the poor, or about to be, in the penniless twilight hours. My delivery isn’t velvet like Nat’s. I’m a bit hoarse to tell the truth, my voice raw from a bout of childhood strep that never quite resolved. But I can sing, rise above myself when I’m taken away, even if the pipes aren’t necessarily grand enough to elevate the assembled. No never before, has someone been more . . .

 

I’d barely had time to conclude my fantasy set that night when Eddie, the casino manager, touched my shoulder and slipped a note under my tips glass: urgent phone call. I had to smile, because the whole thing suggested one of those old thrillers Honey and I watched as kids while her mother lay passed out in the easy chair and we finished her glass of rum. You’d think I’d watched enough of those old gems to know that a gesture like Eddie’s, especially in a setting like the Crescendo Casino, had to be portentous.That’s how I got the news about my father, how I came to stand by his grave a little over a year ago, hoping my mother would stay in her coma until I found the words to tell her that the accident she survived had killed him.

 

He died trapped in a beat-up Volvo under the Scarlet River Bridge, Buckthorn County’s one and only scenic landmark. My mother had forgotten to fasten her seatbelt and floated free — ironic, I know.

 

A few days after the accident I went down to the drugstore and bought the last of the Scarlet River Bridge postcards, which had been hanging around on that rickety wire rack since I was twelve, took them home, lit my father’s Hibachi, and burned them one at a time while I stood on the patio drinking the last of his beer. It’s not that I had anything against the bridge (it was the drunk in the Jeep who killed him), I just needed to do something, as Honey’s mother, Inez, used to say when things got too quiet.

 

I didn’t have to be right there with him in the Volvo that day to know that my father had cinched his seat belt nice and tight before slipping the key into the ignition. He was as consistent as the metronome perched on the family piano: he never cheated on his taxes; his music classes ended at five; his tie, when he wore one, matched his shirt and sometimes his socks; there were gloves in his glove compartment all year round — and, no, he never failed to fasten his seat belt, so he sank beneath the waves stuck inside what may as well have been a 3,000-pound stone. And all of this because of a drunk guy in a Jeep with a cell phone. But then a bit of serendipity softened the horrible luck: a woman passing by on a mountain bike pulled my mother to shore by her hair.

 

How were things supposed to end for my father? The way I’d imagined all along, of course: many years down the road and him toppled by a gust of wind at ninetytwo, and then a blissful period spent stuffed with fantastic drugs and wrapped snug in the old La-Z-Boy, my mother standing by. And me, child prodigy turned middle-aged (by then) pie-ano player, fulfilling his last musical requests.

 

He’d say something like,“Well, kid, how about you crack the lid on that battered baby grand” — it was a beatup Baldwin — “for your old man’s last night here on Earth? Don’t forget to keep an eye on your tempo. More pulse, less rubato is what I think we’re after in times like these.” Then he’d suggest something in dark green, as if songs could be chosen like a new suit. We’d carry on with our regular give and take about what to play, and then I’d get on with the same two pieces I played most nights until I left home, bliss all over his face straight through to the end: Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, and Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By.” I’d fold my hands into my lap, look up, and he’d be gone — except for the peaceful countenance, which would have gone unshaven for a month, making him look, just for a moment, like Verdi.

 

Yes, that’s the way it would have unfolded on the big screen if I’d been the director of the movie about my father’s life. As it turns out, I’m nothing more than a piano player on the soundtrack.

 

That crappy description of myself would have ticked my mother off, because she wouldn’t have been able to help seeing the truth in it. My long-ago Saturday morning miracle — when I’d scrambled onto the piano bench at four years old and knocked out a copy of some corny concerto meandering along behind the car- toons — was too long gone to recall, unless you were my mother who, for a therapist, seemed to have an awful hard time letting go of things. Maybe it was true I lacked ambition. I’d squandered my gifts. All those piano lessons, music camps, and trips to recitals; the write-ups in the papers about the musical prodigy from poor, faltering Buckthorn County had come to nothing but late-night shifts at the Crescendo Casino out on Highway 7.

 

It wasn’t bragging rights my mother wanted. She would have found those baby Beethovens on YouTube as creepy as I did,if she’d watched them. I’m not even sure the lost loot played on her mind, except that it reduced the possibility of a comfortable future out- side of our good old horrible hometown, as Honey called it. I knew where my mother’s heartache lay because I saw her face whenever I gave in and played something legit especially for her: that look of dreamy delight torn in half by the knowledge that sooner or later I’d snap on those cheesy dollar sign cufflinks and croon pop songs for a bunch of drinkers and gamblers.

 

After my father’s funeral service a couple of friends offered to take me to lunch — people who felt sorry for me, let’s be honest, because I had no close friends. Most of the people I grew up with had left for the city, or fled even further afield in search of work. On top of that I had always been a socially inept little geek who, when she wasn’t hunched over the piano keyboard, limited her attention to the one friend who mattered — the one trueblue pal who had flown the coop. And, at twenty-four, the piano was my oldest friend. I was like a postulant who married the church, except I’d committed myself to a no-nonsense, clerical Baldwin (it really did look a bit like a squat parson) and carried on an intense flirtation with a beguiling Steinway concert grand (Model D, ebony finish, 2 1980!) — forty-five minutes of fingertip bliss at Frederick’s Piano Emporium whenever I drove down to the city.

 

My father’s two remaining brothers and their wives came from Saskatchewan to visit my mother in the hospital and attend the funeral. After they headed back to the airport hotel I found two envelopes with $500 each in my car, unlabeled but I knew who had left them. My mother had no siblings. “She’s one of a kind,” as my father always said. And any extended family had stayed in Scotland— distant relations, you could say, who I notified and promised to keep updated though I knew my mother hadn’t been in touch for years.

 

You’d think the reality of my dead father and comatose mother would have numbed my brain, but the constant worry about money elbowed its way back in as I turned from the grave. My mother’s prognosis was good, but what if the expected insurance payout didn’t come through and she couldn’t carry on with her counselling practice for an extended period? How would she make do without the money my father brought in with his music lessons and the pittance I might contribute by squandering my talent? I barely had enough to pay the rent at my apartment over Vesuvius Pizza.

 

In 2008 my parents lost everything but the house and cars (my mother’s Volvo now ruined by the river) and, like everyone else in Buckthorn, resigned themselves to working right up to the edge of the forced retirement waiting down the road for all of us, as my father might have put it. And who knew better now than him?

 

I thought I might pick up some work at the casino outside of my evening hours playing covers in the lounge. I could learn to be a croupier, as Honey had once, though I sucked at games of all kinds. Maybe a job in retail, maybe, maybe, maybe… but then I ran out of maybes because there hadn’t been any jobs in Buckthorn since the tomato plant closed in 2012 and most of the retail had since followed suit. That was the reason for the county pit, a dumping ground for garbage from the city, and the windmills turning in the farmers’ fields all the way down to Torrent.

 

After the service I intended to go straight home and work out our new problems — spread things out on the kitchen table and stare, scribble, crunch numbers until I convinced myself the insurance policy would solve everything and I wouldn’t have to tell my mother that her beloved guy was lost to the river and her cherished house to the bank. Otherwise, how long would I have to go on hoping she stayed unconscious?

 

I had just let the full impact of that twisted hope hit me when I saw the old Eldorado parked by the cemetery gates and Honey standing next to it.

 

 

Six years had passed since I last saw her, since she and her mother had left town when we were both eighteen — and nothing since. They left on Christmas Day but had showed up for Christmas Eve as usual.

 

All day a good old Buckthorn squall had torn away at the trees along the avenue, branches shattered and strewn about the yard. By the time the storm settled down four feet of new snow had fallen and the power had gone out twice. My father shoveled the walk every hour or so for our two guests, who were renowned for arriving suddenly and late. My mother had given up on the oven, fired up the barbecue, and finished the turkey out on the patio, bundled up in her coat and scarf.

 

  “Here come the girls from Ipanema,”my father said as the Caddy turned the corner at Duvalle and came storming up the boulevard. Snow and exhaust fumes billowed behind as it charged around the corner at Montague and slid to a stop at the top of our drive. Later, after the party was over and they sped away again, tires whining on the hardpack, it would look as if someone had discharged a musket full of birdshot into the charred snow behind the tailpipe.

 

Honey and her mother waltzed in with a basket of martini fixings — olives, onions, swizzle sticks Inez swiped from the local pub, a jumbo bottle of gin, of course — and a six-pack of Dos Equis for my father because Honey’s mother had read somewhere that Janis Joplin loved the stuff and that seemed to cinch its value as a “loosener-upper,” which Inez thought my father needed. Not that he didn’t know how to have a good time. He’d grown up on the Prairies with a pile of siblings accustomed to big, noisy holidays, and everyone torturing “O Holy Night” and spilling liquor on the piano, so when “the girls” burst through the door with a bunch of CDs (Herb Alpert, Astrud Gilberto, a little disco, the Supremes) and cocktails, he was delighted to toss away the metronome, so to speak, and do some improvising.

 

My folks invited Honey and Inez for most special occasions — Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, since Honey and I were born the same day — ever since Honey’s father, the pro at the local golf course, had gone AWOL. My mother didn’t have much use for Mr. Ramone, and I assumed this was because she had sensed a few significant drawbacks regarding the couple’s marriage. At least, that’s how she would have put it, in that therapeutic lingo of hers. Not that anyone in town could have missed the patrol car often parked in front of the Ramones’ duplex on the weekend.

 

I once overheard my mother mutter to my father that Al Ramone wasn’t so much a golfer as a guy who liked to get smashed at the golf course after aerating the greens with his spikes. My mother could be indignant, and sharp, at times. But to be fair, these weren’t her only sides. She had nothing but compassion for her clients. All those drug problems and broken marriages and wild children, not that she ever breathed a word about what went on behind closed doors. As a kid, all I ever heard were low murmurs and sighs soft as the sound reeds make when they slip past the sides of a canoe. And the crying.

 

The Christmas Honey and her mother left town for good went like semi-inebriated clockwork: turkey dinner washed down with a bottle of Blue Nun, and then out came the fruitcake and short- bread and I played “O Tannenbaum” in my best Vince Guaraldi style while my father joked with Inez and my mother steamed the plum pudding. Honey and I exchanged gifts: she gave me the hourglass and I gave her the blue scarf. My gift seemed boring in comparison but I’d spent a lot of time picking it out, layering on all sorts of meanings, like I’d torn a piece out of the sky, or somehow bought her a river.

 

After things were cleared away Inez read my mother’s tea leaves. She always began the same way — “Oh, now this is interesting” — and turned the cup this way and that in her beautiful hands, which were offset with southwest-style bangles and a ring with an amethyst the size of a walnut. Now and then we caught a glimpse of the rose tattoo on her neck, half-hidden by her wild ashblonde hair. She always found something positive to say about my mother’s future, which I thought was kind of her. Honey said she really believed that crap and the only reason she didn’t bring her Ouija board was because my mother would freak and throw them out, which we both knew wasn’t true. Inez said things like, “The next year will be exciting. Maintain focus in order to juggle work, social life, and healthy practices. Prioritize your well-being.”If she saw the real truth —dead husband, lost mind — she kindly kept it to herself.

 

Later, after it was clear they’d vamoosed for good and stuck us with their ancient dog, Dude, which they left in our backyard with a note tied to his collar — something’s come up! sorry about this! will repay! — my mother said the tea leaf reading didn’t have to be so complicated: “She might have just gone ahead and told me she saw an incontinent bull terrier in my future.”

 

After the reading, on that last Christmas Eve, Honey and I had walked back to the duplex on Argyle Avenue to let the dog out for a crap. We hung out for a while under the street lights with the snow coming down and the banks glittering like crushed-up diamonds all along the crescent up to Broad Street. She lit a cigarette, which smelled blue on the cold air, and then tossed the match away, a tiny scribble in the dark. She always let the smoke drift from the side of her mouth like a noir starlet. A hokey line from one of our old movie favorites followed a look like that. I remembered that night’s offering for a long time; it was the last I’d hear for a while.

 

Kiss me. I want you to kiss me,” she cried. “The liar’s kiss that says I love you and means something else.” I pushed her away, as usual, but not before she singed the tips of my hair with her cigarette. How we laughed, our voices the only sound under the low winter sky. We wandered around another half-hour or so, out to the field across from Duvalle and around the block to have a gawk at the Christmas lights on the boulevard, and then she clipped the leash on the dog and we followed our tracks back to Montague to pick up Inez.

 

And even though she must have known they were abandoning Buckthorn before daylight she was silent as the night, this girl I’d known forever who would call me up and go on for hours about some crazy thing her old man did, or about “some asshole” she’d told to fuck off. Sometimes she simply read to me from one of her mother’s recipe books, lingering over the culinary notes as if the intricacies of copper pots and pepper mills and wooden spoons and mandolines were some kind of miracle.

 

That night she didn’t say a word about her plans to vanish from our lives; she just slipped her arm through mine and sang a line from that old Joni Mitchell song about wishing she had a river she could skate away on. And I guess something in me faltered, because even though I registered the melody I failed to hear the meaning behind the lyric, which just shows my limitations in playing by ear. 

INTERVIEW WITH BRENDA BROOKS

Bridget Lawless talks to Brenda Brooks about HONEY

 BL: Honey takes place largely in Buckthorn, a town that sounds so bleak I could weep. Do small town stories appeal to you specifically? Is this a world you come from? Or is it that a place like Buckthorn presents a particularly stark backdrop against which your characters stand out?

 BB:  My family moved often when we were young, so I viewed hundreds of small towns from the back seat of the family car as we cruised slowly through on the way to somewhere else. And yes, some of them were quite bleak! But I think those long, pensive travels allowed my childhood self to instill in these places a certain dreamy mystery, and I learned to see that even the smallest, hard-up town had moments of grace — not unlike the peculiar grace of ruins. In Buckthorn I wanted to create a setting that was further burdened by its times (post 2008 financial collapse) and emphasize the loss of a way of life. In a way, Buckthorn is already a ghost town, and the majestic, dilapidated farm house where Nicole grew up, a memory.

BL:  Despite her smart tone, Nic comes over at times as quite passive and manipulable. Yet she’s our reliable narrator, and fiercely driven when it comes to Honey. But we never quite learn why, despite many misgivings, doubts and seeming betrayals, she remains so loyal. She loves Honey, of course, but a deep rooted loyalty frequently drowns out the alarm bells. Yet she doesn’t seem gullible. Do you feel loyalty is an underused motive or characteristic in fiction?

BB:  What a thought-provoking question, and I’m not sure I know the answer. But your question brings to mind a line from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of my all-time favorite novels. Wilder points out that even the greatest passion may only amount to an expression of self-interest. Only when that passion has “… passed through a long servitude, through it’s own self-hatred, through mockery, through great self-doubts, can it take its place among the loyalties.” And now that you mention it, I do believe that Nicole’s passion heightens a profound loyalty rooted in childhood, and deepens her reasons to go on loving Honey — whatever may come.

BL: The mystery that surrounds Honey is both one of her attractions and reason to doubt her every word. Do you see her as a lesbian (or bisexual) femme fatale?

BB:  Here I risk forfeiting an important aspect of our femme fatale’s mystery! If Honey is read as a narcissist, she may simply be a sexual opportunist. But is that all there is to her? Did the façade break down in some long, private moment between her and Nicole in the ruin of that bed? Did Honey ever give herself away, so to speak? Lesbian, or bi, I soon realized that she was the sort of woman who might vanish for good if I imposed a strict identity on her. As a lesbian myself, I can only appear biased. So the reader must decide.

BL:  You’ve brilliantly managed to write a true noir, but told in Nic’s refreshingly wry and self-aware voice that makes the story shoot along delivering surprise after surprise. Did you know you were writing noir? Or is that more an outcome of the type of story it is?

BB:  Thank you, Bridget. And what a great question. I’ll answer it honestly, of course! No, I didn’t begin writing HONEY as noir. My first novel was considered quite noirish too, so I guess I must be a pretty shady character myself! But I can say that after being given feedback noting the novel’s stark, shadowy characteristics, I continued down those half-lit streets in a more intentional way. It wasn’t so much a matter of altering the voice or style, but freeing it through further revisions. And, yes, I do think that a noir voice was a product of, as you say, the nature of the story.

BL:  In telling us that she had never returned to Buckthorn, ’it would be like cruising through an abandoned movie set’, Nic sets us up to wonder if the story is going to be a fiction, staged, or filtered through a particular lens. But it’s actually Honey’s story – much of which we learn about only through her own fragmented telling of the tale – which feels like a movie she’s playing different roles in – cast sometimes by choice and sometimes against her will. Would you describe Honey as victim of circumstances, a fantasist, or a cunning operator?

BB:  In order to write the tale I found that I did have to provide, if only for myself, a specific answer to this question. I even imagined how the story might unfold after the last page. I found that I always wished to leave an “out” for Honey, if only through the emergency escape window of an RV (or caravan), to become someone who fulfilled Nicole’s belief in her. When Honey tells Nicole that she won’t forget her, that she’s never known anyone “in this godforsaken world” that compares to her, I wanted to believe her — even if events suggested otherwise. But to answer your question more specifically: Honey may be all three: a victim of circumstances, a fantasist, and a cunning operator. But toward what end? Perhaps the answer lies in whether the reader is most comfortable as a realist, or romantic.

BL:  Mothers play an intersting part in this story. Nic’s mother, who we first meet as a woman in a coma after the car crash that killed Nic’s father. A counsellor, one who listens to and helps unravel the problems of others, yet seems to have little insight into Nic’s life. And Inez, Honey’s mother, a wild accomplice, perhaps an inadquate parent who put her daughter at risk, plucked her out of the life she knew, and who grew, like Nic’s mum, increasingly dependent. Neither mother makes it to the end of the story, and neither dies well. Is there something more to this mirroring?

BB:  I think of my own lost mother so often now. So mothers, as well as Nicole’s beloved father, became important to me in the writing. And in a way, they are the heart of everything that’s gone missing for these two young women; the town, the houses, the jobs, the security of home, and these parental figures who, although imperfect, somehow anchored them in the familiar world. And I suppose their deaths become a part of that whole matter of needing to undergo such losses, especially on Nicole’s part, before they can pass into adulthood themselves. I hoped the reader would worry about them even more after their mothers were gone.

BL:  Despite Honey loving and leaving her, lying through her teeth and taking Nic for every penny she can along the way, we can’t help liking and wanting more of her. She’s the ‘bad lot’ that we’re all drawn to at some point in our lives. Did you want the reader to feel that Nic was a victim of her? Or the only person she could ever love and trust? Does Nic matter as much to Honey as Honey does to Nic? Or is she only ever a willing playmate?

BB:  Oh, the devastating charisma of the bad girl! Is it just me, or is there no male equivalent quite as compelling as the woman gone wrong? I guess that’s why, in noir, we have the femme fatale and some poor guy who, even if tough, is still a “sap.” In this case Nicole, stripped bare by the intensity of her desire, plays the foil to Honey’s femme fatale. But does that make her a pushover to the bitter end? Is the end bitter? Somewhere along the way I began to wonder: is the femme fatale doomed to play the same old role too? Or might she be the one who emerges, pale and wrung, from her unnerving experience with innocence?

BL:  Where are you living now, and what are you working on? Is writing a full time occupation?

BB:  I live in the Gulf Islands off the coast of British Columbia. The town is very small! I’m working on a poetry collection, and another novel. I also help run a two-woman upholstery shop named after either a David Lynch film, or an old Bobby Vinton song — depending on the customer.

My thanks to you, Bridget. And to the whole team for seeing something good in the bad girl — if that’s what she is.