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.


If history repeats itself…

Joel Ballard – National Observer – May 2018

What have the Irvings done to New Brunswick?

“Gordon Dalzell is an unlikely dissident. I first met Dalzell at a lonely Tim Hortons on the edge of Saint John, New Brunswick, with the only other denizens being some trucker types nursing their coffees. I’d just flown into New Brunswick’s largest city from Toronto and we agreed to chat before I headed to my hotel. In person, Dalzell is a friendly, rumpled 70-year-old who was working as a case manager at Veterans Affairs Canada before he retired in February. Wearing a brown leather jacket, polite and self-effacing, Danzell and I discuss why I was there: researching the Irvings, Canada’s fifth richest family, a clan Dalzell has crossed swords with for years.”

Bruce Livesey – National Observer – June 2016

Heroes and survivors rise, one year after terrifying Quebec mosque attack

“Kenza Elazzouzi was driving to her friends’ place in the quiet neighbourhood of Ste-Foy in Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2017. It was a Sunday night. She heard sirens, but quickly dismissed them, assuming they signalled an accident somewhere else. When she arrived at an intersection about 50 metres from the local mosque, police officers had blocked the road. They stopped her and aimed guns at her car window. Minutes later, she learned of the carnage: a gunman had run into the mosque, killed six worshippers and wounded more than a dozen others.”

Clothilde Goujard – National Observer – January 2018