A Q&A with Margaret Atwood CanadianLiving.com Senior Editor Jennifer Villamere conducts a telling interview with the Can Lit icon to uncover her inspiration. By Jennifer Villamere If you love a good read, you're doubtlessly eager to delve into Margaret Atwood's long-awaited novel, The Year of the Flood (McClelland & Stewart). It's an imagining of the future reminiscent of her classic novel The Handmaid's Tale (McClelland & Stewart). In the new novel, religious leader Adam One has long predicted a natural disaster that will render Earth unrecognizable. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have been spared: Ren, a young trapeze-dancer, locked inside a high-end sex club; and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Have others survived? The Year of the Flood follows the stories of Toby and Ren. In a telling Q & A with Margaret Atwood, CanadianLiving.com Senior Editor Jennifer Villamere uncovered the Can Lit icon's inspiration and her future plans. JV: The Year of the Flood features a trapeze dancer, a bioartist and a host of other extraordinarily detailed and unusual characters. What inspires the idiosyncrasies of your characters? MA: Real life! People with these jobs do exist. In some form, they have probably existed for a very long time – my "future" variations are just that – variations. ("Bioart," for instance, was probably the first art – as in cave paintings and giant earth sculptures.) JV: With which of your characters do you most closely identify? MA: If you are staying with a character, seeing things through that person, you have to identify. But it's not a "they-are-me" identification. For those moments, it's more like "I am them." JV: You create such delicious tension and suspense in your novels. Where do you find tension or excitement in your own life? MA: Every day is a challenge, especially if you're driving anywhere in a car… I still find thunderstorms pretty tense. But the main excitement comes from writing, and from stumbling across new ideas…. JV: How closely tied is The Year of the Flood to your 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake (McClelland & Stewart)? MA: It's the same time period, and with some overlapping incidents and characters. But it looks at that world through different eyes. Instead of sad, world-weary Jimmy, we approach the landscape through two women – one older and with good survival skills, one much younger, naïve, but wiser than she at first appears – and also through the God's Gardeners, a religious group dedicated to a meld between science and nature. So – closely tied, in some ways. But a freestanding structure as well. JV: What are you reading now? MA: At this very moment? The page proofs for Graeme Gibson's fall book, The Bedside Book of Beasts, about predators and their prey– a companion volume to his earlier Bedside Book of Birds (Random House). There is some overlap in our subject matter, too, as you might expect -- I couldn't have written the God's Gardeners Predator Day hymn without his insights! JV: What's your next project? MA: Getting through the fall book tour. After that – touch wood – I'll begin a third book about the world of The Year of the Flood – to be called MaddAddam. Jennifer Villamere is Canadian Living's senior web editor.