My Favorite Bit: C.J. Lavigne talks about In Veritas
C.J. Lavigne is joining us today with In Veritas. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In this fantastic and fantastical debut, C.J. Lavigne concocts a wondrous realm overlaying a city that brims with civic workers and pigeons. Led by her synesthesia, Verity Richards discovers a hidden world inside an old Ottawa theatre. Within the timeworn walls live people who should not exist—people whose very survival is threatened by science, technology, and natural law. Verity must submerge herself in this impossible reality to help save the last traces of their broken community. Her guides: a magician, his shadow-dog, a dying angel, and a knife-edged woman who is more than half ghost.
With great empathy and imagination, In Veritas explores the nature of truth and the complexities of human communication.
What’s C.J. Lavigne’s favorite part?
My favorite parts of In Veritas are the ones that aren’t there.
I don’t mean that I deleted them, or that some cruel editor killed my darlings; it’s just that some details are missing. They were meant to be missing.
I utterly flail when people ask me what In Veritas is about. I’ve described it as “a weird brick” and, more verbosely, “like urban fantasy and magic realism had a child, and that child was a jigsaw puzzle that wanted to be a poem.” That puzzle has lost pieces; there’s enough to put it together, but you need to work around the gaps, or maybe carve your own pieces, and fit them in for yourself.
Wait, don’t run! It makes sense. I promise.
In Veritas is a standalone novel about a woman who perceives multiple realities at once, and whose body processes all of that conflicting information as a form of synaesthesia. She sees sound; she tastes things she touches. Her world is a cactus dripping in the scent of lilac and coal, and the salt-brittle of cracking seashells. On one level ― the most important one — In Veritas is a story about Verity Richards looking for truth, and trying to help her friends. It has a magician! And an angel. And a dog.
On another level, though — the one in which I take quiet pleasure — it’s a story about our own inability to tell stories. It’s about the limitations of language, and how no matter how much we try, we can never completely communicate the depths of our own thoughts and experiences to other people.
This is expressed in a lot of ways in the book: it’s a pastiche of clippings and transcripts and images, and little conversations between Verity and the narrator where they try so hard to get it right, just for you.
They really can’t, though. It’s all in the title. My thought process is something like this:
IN VINO, VERITAS – This is a phrase that a lot of people know: “in wine, there is truth” (or variants thereof). It’s the notion that the truth will out when someone’s been drinking. It’s a starting point: a common reference that many readers will get. But it’s not actually the title.
IN VERITAS – Take out “vino” and this is what’s left. Of course, it’s a reference to Verity; the novel is a window into her life. But presumably, the new phrase also translates as “in truth”: a promise that the story will be honest and reliable. The Latin may have gotten a little mangled, though? Maybe it means “in reality,” or maybe it should be something like “in veritate.” The premise is already flawed; the structure doesn’t quite work.
That’s because there’s a word missing. There’s nothing substituting for “vino.” So the title can also be read as IN _____, VERITAS — which is to say, “in [some hidden, ineffable concept], there is truth.” There’s no knowing where such truth is actually to be found, because the fullness of our realities can’t be expressed through anything as limited as a single human language. It doesn’t mean that we can’t communicate anything; it just means that we can’t communicate everything. And that’s it: my secret favourite part. That’s what the book is about.
To be clear, though, In Veritas isn’t just me pontificating about semantics. It’s the story of a woman who hears rainbows and tastes music. And don’t forget about the dog.
C.J. Lavigne is a Canadian speculative fiction writer. Since 2007, she has divided her time between Ottawa, ON, and Red Deer, AB, where she currently resides and works as a professional communications scholar who writes on television, gaming, and popular culture; at other points in her life, she’s been a barista, tech support supervisor, marketing manager, freelance editor, and — briefly — radio DJ. In Veritas is her first novel.