Shantelle Bisson: a writer’s life

September 8, 2018

She has a lovely name, an excellent sense of style and a career she loves. Not to mention a beautiful family, a great set of friends and a creativity that will captivate you. When she writes, you get drawn into her world and, yet, can 100% relate to everything she says because it’s so real and true. She is Shantelle Bisson.

Born and raised in Toronto, Bisson now lives and works between Canada and the United States. She has extensive experience in theatre, television and film. In the last few years, she has also been putting a stronger focus on her writing, which includes a book and a popular blog that has been growing exponentially since 2016.

Despite her warm and extremely outgoing personality, Bisson says that she and her actor husband Yannick Bisson are “super private and very family-oriented”. They have three adult daughters who are all either working or studying in the creative industry, be it film, journalism or makeup.

We caught up with Bisson earlier in the summer, and wanted to share this story today, a few hours before she co-hosts the 2018 Artists for Peace and Justice gala.

Shantelle Bisson poses for FAJO at her Los Angeles home.

You are writing books, blogs and magazine articles a lot these days. In the past, you have done film and TV scripts, so how do you find this transition in your writing?

I feel that you are more connected to your reader, it’s a more immediate connection to the end source. I find that when I’m writing fiction, I need to have a few hours for months on end, because fiction needs continuity, time and structure, to ensure that your storyline makes sense.

People say that publishing is dying, but I don’t believe so. I think that the pendulum swings far, and, inherently, as human beings, we like to be connected. Holding a book in your hand will always be something that people are drawn to.

I usually tend to work on my books when I’m flying, because I’m trapped in my seat for 5 or 6 hours. (laughs)

With the blog, there is a lot of first-person writing. How do you like it, having done so much fiction in the past?

When I worked on TV shows, my passion was always about developing a specific world, creating characters and wanting to hand them over. So this doesn’t really differ that much, as I’m still, hopefully, pulling people into different scenarios.

As a creative personality, Bisson is always involved in many different projects.

You live between Toronto and Los Angeles now. From the business and work perspectives, how different do you find the two markets?

There are more opportunities in the U.S.; I’m sad to say so, but this is 100% true. We come here in the winter because even though Murdoch [Mysteries] is a huge hit in Canada, Yannick is still more unknown in the U.S. And the cool thing with the Internet is that I can pitch my books to anyone, anywhere.

You are involved in so many projects all the time, and wear so many creative hats. Which one stands out to you the most?

The thing I’m really proud of right now is being a collaborator with women. For example, I’m a staff writer at the Milk & Heels magazine, and I normally write one article for them every Monday, as well as a column twice a week. And, for every paper issue, I do a relationship and parenting article.

In addition to your work, you’ve been involved in various charities over the years. What kind of advice would you give to someone who is trying to choose a charity that they would like to dedicate their time and efforts to?

That’s an easy one for me. I think that for anybody who is going to do any philanthropic work, it has to resonate with you. It has to speak to your heart. I think that when we do charity work, the way it really has power is when there is an intention and a connection to it. Perhaps, that’s also why a lot of organizations don’t flourish, since many people are paying lip service.

For me, personally, it was always very easy, because I come from a family of healthy kids. My first cousin’s daughter had stage 4 cancer at nine, so we almost lost her, and that was my first real encounter of seeing a child sick and having it touch the family.

So, I think, because we have been so fortunate, it was a no-brainer to work with kids. Even though I grew up poor, my poverty is still nothing compared to the children in Haiti. I’m really an idealist, and it really troubles and affects me profoundly when the world is not balanced, and especially when it affects children. So one of the charities my husband and I are involved in right now is the Artists for Peace and Justice, and their school in Haiti. We donate to it on an annual basis and we are also on their advisory board.

You mentioned your family. What is your favourite thing about being a Mom?

Watching my daughters accomplish and reach their dreams. I love it when they are willing to get their hands dirty. The world is full of quitters and angry people who have given up on themselves. I think you should follow your passion. I love watching them wrestle with and achieve things.

Hair colour by Bre Trupiano, hair styling by Kelsey Gusto. Makeup by Joseph Paul Makeup. Styling by Dominique Bisson.

To wrap up on a more light-hearted note, you have a very eclectic style. How would you describe it?

I would describe myself as laid back, and the opposite of fashion-forward. (laughs) I love beautiful things, but I’m also very practical. I appreciate the simplicity of black, but can’t get away from colour and feel like it suits my mood.

I rely heavily on my middle daughter Dominique, who has a fashion degree and works as a stylist in L.A. She is so daring and has a great eye. If she tells me it looks great, I will just trust her and let her dress me. I don’t make any purchases without her. We recently went on an 80s cruise and I even consulted her then, to ask what I should wear! I would ask: ‘Can I wear these shoes with this outfit?’ And she would answer: ‘No, never!’ And I would say: ‘Oh, but I totally would!’ (laughs)

By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Tara West

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