A no messing around guide to the coolest things to eat, drink and do in Vancouver and beyond. Community. Not clickbait.

On Writing Highs and Lows, and ‘How It Works Out’, with Myriam Lacroix

Photo of Myriam by @charlesanthonyphoto

Myriam Lacroix is a Vancouver-based writer and the author of new novel, How It Works Out (Doubleday Canada), which tracks the relationship between queer couple, Allison and Myriam, across multiple timelines and possibilities, chapter-by-chapter. It’s a lofty premise, especially for a first novel; but Lacroix’s debut doesn’t read like a “first novel” at all, partly because of how expertly it infiltrates and detonates the literary form to create something all its own, same-same with the traditional “love story”. It’s also impressively courageous in its depictions of human flaws and the messy bits of living and loving – even more so because one of its two protagonists is also named Myriam, blurring the lines between fiction, fantasy and auto-fiction for the reader.

Bottom line: it’s a challenging, yet entertaining and rewarding read, and one of the most impressive new books I’ve read so far this year; the sort of book that leaves a physical (sticky) feeling long after its been completed, requiring a post-reading discussion/un-packing or, in this case, a debriefing with the author herself:

First of all, please tell us your story i.e. a bit about yourself and how you got here. When and why did you move to Vancouver and why have you decided to make this city your home?

I moved to Vancouver, from Montreal, almost fourteen years ago to attend UBC’s Creative Writing BFA. Vancouver is where I came of age; at 20, I started exploring my queerness, I started diving deep into my writing practice and developing a voice and style, I made important friends. There’s something about this city’s contradictions that imprinted on me, that I continue to be fascinated by. I spent my twenties moving around a lot but always returned to Vancouver, because somewhere along the way it became home.

Why did you choose to write this book in English? Do you always write in English? What role does the French language play in your life?

Writing in English wasn’t a choice as much as a result of circumstances. In my childhood and teens I wrote in French, but when I moved to Ontario in high school, the language around me changed, and so did my writing. In addition to being a writer, I am also a translator, and spend a lot of time writing in French professionally, but when it comes to writing fiction, it makes more sense to write in the language in which I now live my life. I also feel connected to English literature because reading is how I taught myself to speak English. Growing up I spoke mostly French, but would read more in English, and as a result many of the writers I admire are anglophone.

In your opinion, is one language more “queer” than another and why?

I wouldn’t say either language is more queer than the other (French is more gendered, but queer francophones are finding innovative ways of transforming the language). That said, I do think writing in each language is different. French is so specific, it’s dense with meaning and nuance which makes for such a rich reading experience. English feels a bit more minimalist, its rules are less strict and a lot is left up to interpretation, which creates a different kind of poetry. You can really make it your own.

If you had to summarize How It Works Out in just one phrase or question, what would it be?

“What if you had the chance to rewrite the course of your relationship, again and again, in the hopes that it would work out?”

“The physicality of fiction is so important, because books are basically a series of small symbols on flat pages. Making readers feel a story in their bodies is one of fiction’s most important challenges.”

Which storyline did you find the most challenging?

Each storyline was challenging in its own way. The first chapter – in which Myriam and Allison find a baby in an alley and decide to keep it – was difficult to write because I used it for my application to Syracuse University’s Creative Writing MFA. The program is really hard to get into, and I knew that I had to bring my work to a new level if I wanted to get in. I worked so hard on it that the moment I submitted the application I developed a fever and was deliriously ill for a whole week. That level of perfectionism set the tone for my time in the program, and for the project as a whole.

None of it came easy, because with each different chapter of the multiverse I was challenging myself in a new way. In “Love Bun”, the chapter in which Myriam realizes that the only cure for her depression is eating Allison’s flesh, I was challenging myself to raise the stakes consistently in a story, which creates that can’t-put-it-down feeling I personally love when I’m reading. In “Anthropocene” – in which Myriam and Allison have a steamy workplace affair fuelled by a sort of climate change BDSM – I tried to integrate real research about global warming in a way that felt current and personal, instead of framing climate change as a distant, dystopian future. The hardest storyline to write might have been the one that spans the entire book; I wanted each chapter to stand alone as an alternate outcome to the relationship between Myriam and Allison, while also telling the larger story of a love that feels doomed in every imaginable universe.

“I write to be in conversation with the literary world at large, I write to challenge genre and form, I write to ask those big existential questions, I write so that each sentence will resonate and create an echo. It’s hard, in the era of listicles, to hold on to that, but I’m going to try as hard as I can.”

How It Works Out is such a visceral reading experience – it absolutely oozes with emotion and all sorts of bodily fluids. As such, reading it feels like an incredibly intimate and personal experience. What makes you squeamish?

It’s been pointed out to me that some parts of How It Works Out makes readers pretty squeamish, which I totally understand! I’m squeamish about everything under the sun, and often experience feelings of body horror around basic bodily functions or, some days, around having a body at all. In some ways, I’m sure that’s why some of the body-related descriptions in the book are visceral and, yes, at times, a bit unsettling. How It Works Out is very concerned with the body, with the embodiment of love and intimacy and of existing in the dystopian present, and for that reason exploring the joy and discomfort of having a body made sense for the book. I also think the physicality of fiction is so important, because books are basically a series of small symbols on flat pages. Making readers feel a story in their bodies is one of fiction’s most important challenges.

This is your first novel. What surprised you about the process of getting it published? Now that you’ve been through the motions and put it out into the world, what have you learned that might influence your next book? What would you do differently?

I kind of like that I didn’t know much about the publishing industry when I started writing How It Works Out, and I’m going to try to hold on to that purity for as long as possible. When I started writing How It Works Out, it was in response to a difficult relationship that raised a lot of big, existential questions for me. I’m pansexual and, though I feel how differently the world perceives my relationships with men or women or nonbinary people, to me they all feel quite similar; they feel like being in love. I love my queer communities, and queer literary communities, and I am so thrilled by the support I’ve received from them. That said, it can be strange to be a writer who’s a minority in North America (I recently saw the film American Fiction, based on Percival Everett’s Erasure, which captured this idea so well), because when I write, I’m not thinking, “I’m going to write the sapphic love story of the summer.” I write to be in conversation with the literary world at large, I write to challenge genre and form, I write to ask those big existential questions, I write so that each sentence will resonate and create an echo. It’s hard, in the era of listicles, to hold on to that, but I’m going to try as hard as I can.

“It’s such a high, after torturing yourself over a single paragraph for days, to finally feel it click into place. And actually finishing a book – finding the perfect place for that last comma you weren’t quite sure about, after years of intense revision – might be the biggest high of all.”

What do you find the most difficult about the writing process? What comes naturally?

I feel so much tension, when I’m writing, between freedom and perfectionism. Early drafts are thrilling because to write them I have to feel completely free, I have to put aside all of my self-criticism, I have to be honest and as connected as possible to myself and the world around me. At the same time, my inner perfectionist finds this very painful, because first drafts are inevitably awful, and the dissonance that I feel between what I’m creating and what I wish to create feels so hard to sit with. Revision, on the other hand, is a rigid process that requires me to be as self-critical as I can – it’s intellectually, emotionally, and physically draining. On the other hand, as an artist, it’s one of the most exciting parts, because it’s when the initial impulse of writing is transformed into literature. It’s such a high, after torturing yourself over a single paragraph for days, to finally feel it click into place. And actually finishing a book – finding the perfect place for that last comma you weren’t quite sure about, after years of intense revision – might be the biggest high of all.

There are a lot of big themes touched upon in your book, including climate change, identity and mental illness, to name a few. Ultimately, what do you want readers of How It Works Out to walk away with? Any questions or feelings in particular?

I’ve received such a wide range of reactions about How It Works Out, which feels validating because I think the book is quite multilayered and is doing lots of things at once. Many people have told me that they laughed the whole time they were reading it, that it was a weird rollercoaster ride that they had lots of fun with, and I obviously love to hear this. I am not above thinking of literature as entertainment, and I think that humour and wild plots are great devices to propel people through a book that also has, ideally, deeper meaning and emotional resonance. Some readers seem more affected by How It Works Out’s emotional underbelly: the intensity of early loves, the heartbreak that usually accompanies it, the way mental illness can turn the difficult world we live in into a literal kaleidoscope that’s impossible to make sense of. All of those things are part of How It Works Out, and it’s so exciting, as an author, to see readers have unique and personal reactions to each of those aspects of the book.

Your Vancouver book launch went down at The Birdhouse on May 24th, and included a drag performance featuring the protagonists from your new book. For those who weren’t able to attend or are just finding out about it now, can you give us a round-up of some of the night’s highlights?

The How It Works Out launch was incredible! I couldn’t believe how supported I felt by my community, who were all really excited to celebrate with me. It wasn’t a typical launch, which felt appropriate for a less-than-typical book. We had it at The Birdhouse, a queer space in Vancouver, which was the perfect mix of nightclubby and cozy (The Birdhouse is basically the living room of the East Van queer community). The launch started with a discussion between me and my friend Jess Goldman, who’s an incredible writer and illustrator. For the reading, I asked local drag superstars Maiden China and Edward Malaprop to read the roles of Myriam and Allison, the main characters of the book. At some points in the reading, they would segue into a drag number related to a certain scene – we were reading from a particularly sexy and gory chapter of the book, which made for equally titillating performances. At the end, I even jumped in and performed as Myriam and Allison’s baby, who’s a recurring character across the book’s multiverse. After years of working alone on my book, it was so fun to celebrate collaboratively and in community!

Consumption is a big theme in How It Works Out. Since Scout is very much a food-focused publication, I need to ask: what is your favourite food, the thing you crave the most and/or the meal that you could eat on repeat indefinitely?

I live for good food, it’s such an important part of my life and when I’m cooking at home I refuse to eat a meal that doesn’t bring me pleasure. I also have a huge sweet tooth, and in my greater pursuit of hedonism I fully embrace my inner child, who loves sour candy and cookies and licking icing from a spoon. Sometimes I have these dreams that I am surrounded by giant pastel cakes and eating them with my bare hands, and I wake up elated. In the summer I go to the corner store almost daily to buy a popsicle shaped like the head of Sonic the Hedgehog, which is both sour and creamy in a sort of chemical, non-dairy way. The eye is a little gumball that I save for the end.


How It Works Out (Doubleday Canada) is now out in the world, including on the shelves of Vancouver independent bookstores Iron Dog Books, Massy Books, and Upstart & Crow.

Catching Up (10+ Years Later!) with Rebecca Dolen, of Regional Assembly of Text

It’s been almost two whole decades since Regional Assembly of Text opened doors on Main Street in Vancouver, and more than a decade since Scout’s last interview with its co-owner, roughly a year before their second Victoria shop opened in 2013. Time for a catch-up Q&A!

On Simplicity, Adaptability and Animal Interactions, with Annie “Lemonni” Chen

For her upcoming show at Slice of Life Gallery, Wild Tales (June 6-9th) Chen will be showing a series of new paintings inviting viewers to “Delve into a world where creatures and landscape converge in a symphony of colours & emotions.”

From Sketching and Stretching, to Boxed Wine and Old Signs with Spencer Pidgeon

It recently came to light that the Vancouver-based graphic designer is the common denominator of several of our favourite BC business' current brand designs...

From Gigante Beans to Grocery Stores: Talking All Things Food with Desiree Nielsen

The Vancouver-based nutritionist and author is launching her fourth book on April 23rd. We had the opportunity to preview the book and it inspired us to link up with the author to find out more about her ideas about food and wellness.