Best of 2020 Q&A: Julian Brave NoiseCat

Julian Brave NoiseCat appears on our Best of 2020 list for the piece “Interiority Complex.” You can read it at the National Observer.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Julian’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

My father had an art show opening in Whistler—his father’s territory. Originally I was going to try to get some local journalists to cover it, but then one of my friends and editors, Emilee Gilpin, who was at the National Observer at the time suggested that I write the story.

How long did it take to write this piece?

It took a few interviews and a couple of days. Not long at all.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

I like to see and interact with the people and subjects I write about in person. During the pandemic that obviously wasn’t possible, which was a bummer because I was really excited to see my dad’s first show in his fatherland.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

As I’ve learned more about writing, I’ve gotten pretty big on process. I start by typing up all my interviews and then I figure out an outline. To get through writer’s block and the fear-of-blank-page phenomenon, I trick myself into thinking about the task as turning notes into prose.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

I don’t like just reporting over the phone and wish I could have seen my dad and his art in person. I do think you get more of the details, and therefore the literature, that way.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

The piece is about my father’s complicated relationship with his father as well as my complicated relationship with my father. The title, “Interiority Complex” refers to one of the core tensions in the piece, which isn’t just about our inherited inferiority complexes as Indians, but also about how my dad has felt “less-than” in the art world because he’s not from a coastal nation and is sometimes looked down upon in the art world for that reason.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

My dad loved it and cried. That’s good enough for me.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

Writing takes time and practice. If you put in the work and the hours, over pieces and years you will see your writing improve by leaps and bounds. I can hardly bring myself to read the stuff I was writing just a couple years ago.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

Lots of things! I’ve always dreamt of writing books and am hopeful that I might get to do that soon.

Find Julian on Twitter: @jnoisecat

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.


In search of promised lands

Julian Brave NoiseCat – Canadian Geographic – March 2020

The resurgence of the Nuxalk

Julian Brave NoiseCat – Canadian Geographic – October 2018

The Tribal Canoe Journey

Julian Brave NoiseCat – Canadian Geographic – May 2018