Journalist Trevor Cole on creating empathy through fiction

On Oct. 31, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course presented writer Trevor Cole reading from his latest novel, Hope Makes Love. York U teaching assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Trevor Cole visited York University on Oct. 31 as part of the Canadian Writers in Person series. Cole was at York U to talk about his latest novel, Hope Makes Love, which was published in 2015.

Trevor Cole

Cole is an award-winning journalist and novelist. His first two novels, Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life and The Fearsome Particles, were both shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Practical Jean, published in 2010, was nominated for the Rogers’ Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and won the famous Leacock Medal for Humour. His latest book, The Whisky King (2017), published by HarperCollins Canada, is a work of non-fiction that has also garnered significant attention.

On his visit to the University, Cole described his fourth novel, Hope Makes Love, published by Cormorant Books in 2015, as being about the burden of want and expectation from men on women, the power of love and what makes it real, and the long-term effects of trauma. The book has two main characters on whose view of the world we rely: one is Zep, an ex-baseball player trying to trick his ex-wife into falling back in love with him, and the other is Hope, a neuroscientist helping him and trying to understand the nature of love.

In his reading, Cole had the audience laughing out of their seats at the brashness and sense of entitlement that Zep displays. “I’m not afraid of writing unlikeable characters,” said Cole. “Too often writers shy away from this idea. If you want fiction to be real, you have to show some edges….” These edges make his characters unlikable at times, but also interesting, complex human beings.

The cover of Trevor Cole’s Hope Makes Love

Hope Makes Love deals with the sensitive topic of sexual assault, but it is also a funny book. On his journey to more awareness about those around him, the loud-mouthed, self-centered Zep is placed in some pretty funny situations. “I like to entertain,” said Cole.

“Writing fiction is an act of extreme empathy,” said Cole, “because you have to put yourself in another person’s shoes.” In doing that he also leads us to put ourselves in other people’s places and empathize with them. In Hope Makes Love, Cole has created characters readers can care about and root for.

On Nov. 14, Gary Barwin will visit York to talk about his novel Yiddish for Pirates.

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.

For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at leslie@yorku.ca or Professor Gail Vanstone at gailv@yorku.ca.

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