Louise: What prompted you to write the Apple House?
Gillian: Growing up in Quebec in the fifties and sixties, I was aware of two major divides in the cultural landscape, religion and language. Religion was something one was born to. Babies were issued baptismal certificates, not birth certificates. School Boards were either Catholic or Protestant and taxes were directed to one or the other. Religion was immutable but language was another matter. Hardly anyone I knew spoke French but lots of French people spoke English. That was the norm but as a child it made me uneasy. I wondered why. What would it be like to be French? I left Quebec in my early twenties but the question stayed with me. I suppose the novel was an attempt to imagine the answer to that question. It was an exploration really.
Louise: What did you discover?
Gillian: Well it’s an impossible question, of course, almost like asking what it’s like to be human. There isn‘t a simple answer. It’s different for everyone, that’s what I discovered. It all depends who you are and what has happened to you. The Apple House is the story of what happened to Imogene Jackson.
Louise: St. Ange du Lac is a little bit like the village where I grew up. Is it a real place?
Gillian: It’s real to me but you won’t find it on the map.
Louise: There was an English girl, I remember, with really big feet. She came to the village school for a while. Wasn’t that you?
Gillian: Absolutely not!
Louise: Yes but isn’t the story just the teeniest bit autobiographical?
Gillian: The landscape I’ve described arose from childhood memories but the characters and the events are all fictional.
Gillian: Well, except for you of course!