canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

TDR Profile: Stacey May Fowles

(November 2007)

Stacey May Fowles' debut novel is Be Good (Tightrope Books, 2007). 

A Toronto-based writer, her work has appeared in Fireweed, subTERRAIN, Kiss Machine and Hive. She is currently working on her second novel and a collection of short stories.

Her website is

Of her new book Be Good, Fowles says the story has "probably been worked on in some form or another for the last five years." The books draws from the experiences of young people in their early twenties, a time before one cares about investment strategies or careers. 

Fowles claims there is a dearth of literature dealing with University-aged women at this stage in their lives that aren’t stereotypical-driven portrayals of boy-crazy martini drinking shopoholics.

In the summer of 2006, Fowles participated in the SLS (Summer Literary Seminars) in St. Petersburg, Russia after receiving a fellowship to the program. She told TDR:

The Walrus Magazine ran a writing competition in which SLS offered full and partial scholarships to the program - I submitted an excerpt from Be Good, which at the time was called Broken Plate Ideology and ended up workshopping the novel in a group led by Gina Ochsner.

Fowles found the experience very useful, working on her novel with a large group of readers and getting a lot of positive and helpful feedback.

See also - Zoe Whittall’s interview with Ms. Fowles.


Excerpt - Chapter 07


However, several case studies and many experiments show that memories—even when held with confidence—can be quite erroneous.

I watched as Estella lifted her soup bowl of a coffee mug to her lips, the metallic bracelets on her angular wrists making singsong noises as she stained the white of her cup with cherry pink lip gloss.  In a single seamless gesture she wiped away the milk foam that accumulated in the left corner of her mouth and pushed back a stray lock of hair, continuing to tell me yet another story that she was at the centre of.  She paused only for a drag of a menthol or to apply more lip gloss and never for any recognition on my part.  She had a heart-shaped face with grey-blue, wide-set eyes and an almost unnaturally plump bottom lip.  Her hair was blonde and what I imagined people meant when they referred to something as flaxen.

The thing I both liked and loathed about Estella on that first meeting was that she had a grace I would never achieve.  Her voice was quiet and melodic, but her presence in a room spoke volumes.  It was evident that she transfixed everyone on the patio and she just continued talking, unmoved by their attentions.

I noticed a smattering of pencil thin scars on the inside of her left arm as she lifted her mug a second time, and as soon as she saw my gaze rest on them, she yanked the sleeve of her dress over the tiny pink lines without wavering from her narrative.

Estella’s mother had died when she was just eight years old, severed to pieces by the metal shards of her red convertible when a middle-aged construction worker with no children made the grievous error in judgement that his mail-order Russian bride would prefer him pretending to be sober and bringing their pick-up truck home, rather than abandoning it at the bar and arriving completely drunk in a cab.  After her mother was buried and her father became a drunk, Estella went to live with her wealthy Yorkville grandmother on her mother’s side and the household’s six afghan hounds.  By age ten she had her first lesbian experience with a neighbourhood tomboy named Chrissie, who invited her over one Sunday afternoon to go swimming in her Wonder Woman bathing suit and "learn how to kiss boys."  By age thirteen she had been felt up and fingered behind the Dominion by Steve, her seventeen-year-old pockmarked gymnastics instructor. 

The death of Estella’s mother propelled her into a very different world of private Catholic schools, cucumber and tuna fish sandwiches made by revolving housekeepers, and all-girl experimental trysts in her pink princess canopy bed.  An only child, Estella was an after school special stereotype, blessed with an eating disorder and a dead mother to excuse all her bad deeds. 

She didn’t see her dad much anymore, mostly because he had remarried and was living in suburbia with an Avon saleswoman in orange lipstick and her four ungrateful and overweight children from a previous teenage marriage.  Estella’s dad would make direct deposits into her bank account after she moved to Montreal at eighteen, and she would carefully reserve the totals for frivolity; specifically, drugs to share and designer shoes and purses.  She told me that she liked the idea of him paying for her to play because he had made everything so difficult to begin with.  She despised the fact that despite everyone’s knowledge of her father’s infidelity and her parents’ pending divorce, he got to have the starring role as grieving husband and received an all-access pass to drunk and distant.  Her grandmother was the only one who seemed to agree and, as a result, Estella was given an all-access pass to disobedience to compensate.

Estella’s most perfected look was bored and disinterested, and she was using it now on a male patron who was making small gestures in her direction to his drooling companion.  I imagined she was used to all the attention, that she had been getting it from local tomboys and gymnastics instructors most of her life, and the only way to cope was to act thoroughly apathetic to the implications.

I suddenly was sure I wanted her in my life daily, if only to deflect some of the attention off of me, if only to finally gain some quiet as she became the prettiest girl at the party and all eyes turned to her.  So I asked her to move in with me, and two weeks later, on August first, she did. 






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