Issue 049 Author Interview: Glenna Turnbull and “Clouds in her Eyes”

Look up in the sky! Its a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a woman stuck in a portrait? Such is the premise of Glenna Turnbull’s Issue 049 story “Clouds in her Eyes.” Today Glenna shares with us her thoughts and inspirations behind the story:

Glenna: I was editing on a compilation of local stories for a fundraising book about the wildfires here in BC and had to pick up a painting we needed photographed for the book’s cover. When I stepped outside with it, the wind suddenly gusted and the canvas nearly took flight as it tugged in my hands like a kite. I began imagining what it would feel like if I was a portrait that became airborne and the story just grew from there.

LSQ: Your story is filled to the brim with sumptuous details, from Isabella’s clothing to the sights and smells of the sea. How did you decide which details to include? What effect did you want them to have on the reader?

Glenna:  Like generations of women who have sat for portraits, I imagined Isabella’s outfit would have been chosen to specifically illustrate her status. I used lush, rich fabric descriptions to help convey the family’s wealth. I also used her clothing style to reinforce the confinement she was living in and the constraint of having to always appear as the woman her husband thought she should be. By the time she has flown all the way to the ocean and the sounds and scent of the sea have reminded her of her childhood and the girl she had once been, the last pieces of clothing fall away and she has become stripped of all pretense, recovering her true essence.

LSQ: What made you decide to have Isabella return home at the end? How do you envision Isabella’s life changing, if at all, after her flight of freedom?
Glenna: I could have easily left Isabella out at sea, happily rocking on the ocean currents forever, but I felt it was important that she return home, full of knowledge of what her life could be and that she had the power to leave if she was unhappy in her human form. That is why it ends with her baring her teeth as she smiles at the painter. She will no longer be silenced.
LSQ: Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Glenna: I’m just starting to write a new novel, working title of Hockey Nights in Canada. I have two completed novels that I’m seeking representation for. The first is called The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the G-String, a semi-autobiographical story of a sixteen-year-old runaway who ends up working in the adult entertainment industry in the 80s and how that part of her past follows her long after she’s quit. The second tells the story of two women over the same one-week period, but 150 years apart. Maggie’s mental health issues have caused her to lose custody of her children and after her mother passes away, Maggie offers to transport both of her parents’ ashes to the family homestead in Newfoundland to scatter. Shorty’s story is based on the Newfoundland legend of Sally Short, a woman so brutalized by her husband that she fled with her children by boat and spent the first winter living inside a puncheon barrel. As someone who has struggled with mental health issues and the negative affects of medication, as well as being a survivor of an extremely abusive marriage, both women’s stories are ones I write from an authentic place and I loved the way the two women contrast each other – one mother fighting to protect her children and the other fighting to try and get hers back into her life again. The title for this one changes on a regular basis, from Sally’s Cove to The Sea Glass Window to The Art of Becoming Lost and Found.