Interview with Andrea McKenzie Raine
Andrea McKenzie Raine earned a B.A. in English Literature at the University of Victoria. She has attended the successful Planet Earth Poetry reading series (formerly known as Mocambopo) in Victoria, BC, since 1997, and participated in the Glenairley writing retreats led by Canadian poet and novelist Patrick Lane in Sooke, BC. A Paul Collins interview.
Tell us about your background. Who you are, where you are from?
I was born in Smithers, BC, and grew up in Victoria, BC, where I still reside with my husband and two young sons. I have always had a writer’s heart, wanting to see everything differently, navigate my way through the means of intuition, and record the world around me.
What themes does your book explore, and what do you hope the readers will take away from this interview?
Turnstiles explores themes of homelessness and other social problems such as prostitution and misogyny. These characters are lost in the sense that they are trying to find where they need to be. They exist on the margins of society and struggle with inner demons. I hope the reader can find a small part of themselves in each of these characters or sympathize with their desire to change. There is a message that we can’t always look at people who are ‘down and out’ and dismiss them; we all carry a light, and human beings are capable of changing direction and expanding beyond their present circumstances. Sometimes, it just takes a little courage to open up our wings, let someone in, and change our perceptions.
What prompted you to be an author, and were you influenced by a particular person, artist, or genre?
I have always wanted to be an author – since I was eight years old. I was easily able to express my thoughts in rhyme. I thrived in creating imaginative short stories in school, and I continue to be passionate about journaling. Since an early age, I’ve also been an avid reader and could read books on my own at age three. Mostly, I grew up crafting my poetry skills, but I always knew I had a novel in me. Poetry has definitely influenced my prose, and I have been fortunate to have mentors like Patrick Lane, who, in some ways, allowed me to write about darker subjects and make them raw and beautiful.
I believe my book explores old themes (what book doesn’t?), but with a unique twist and deeper underlying tones that touch on social commentary, gender politics, and the individual struggle between the need to be self-serving, artistic, adventurous, and still manage to contribute to the larger whole and rise to the expectations of living in a productive society. With that said, I have not read any books that influenced my book or draw parallel themes. A few separate sources have told me that Turnstiles resembles A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens. I regret I have yet to read that book. There are many books I have yet to read, and I can only hope I will have enough years to read them all.
Tell us about your latest work and what inspired you.
I am currently working on a prequel novella to Turnstiles, which is titled A Crowded Heart. There is an important character who is deceased from the beginning of Turnstiles, and I believe he deserves his story to be told, as well. He was also faced with obstacles and was forced to make tough choices, which later affected the other main characters’ lives.
Andrea McKenzie Raine grew up in Victoria, B.C., where she still resides. She is a long‑time attendee of the Planet Earth Poetry reading series. Andrea holds a B.A. in English Literature and a Certificate in Public Relations from the University of Victoria. She is a poet, novelist, book reviewer, and government correspondence writer. Her poetry has appeared in Mocambo Nights anthology, Canadian Literature, Quills, Tempus by Rubicon Press, Leafpress, Boulevard Magazine, Ascent Aspirations magazine, Poems from Planet Earth anthology, and various chapbooks edited by Patrick Lane. In 2005, she published her first book of poetry, A Mother’s String through Ekstasis Editions. Turnstiles is her debut novel, published by Inkwater Press.