Wednesday, March 9, 2011

20 Questions by Knopf Canada, 20 Answers by Me

20 Writerly Questions ( from )

1. How would you summarize your new book in one sentence?
Members of the Turner family in Sault Ste. Marie manage to connect to each other through three generations of secrets, silences and disappearing acts.

2. How long did it take you to write this book?

It was written in fits and starts (more fits than starts) over eight years.

3. How did you choose your characters’ names?

I googled popular names by decade, looking for ones that sounded like my characters. In the beginning, everyone’s name started with a D, which made all my early readers crazy.

4. How many drafts did you go through?

I completely rewrote two sections at least twice, but because all writing feels like rewriting to me, I don’t have a clear sense of distinct drafts, just countless changes.

5. Who was the first person to read your manuscript?

My dearest friend Susan Terrill.

6. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?

The entire cast of Mad Men. (I’d write extra parts for them!)

7. What’s your favourite city in the world?


8. Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, from around grade 5, when I read Harriet the Spy.

9. What was your very first story about? When did you write it?

My earliest stories were for kindergarten Show and Tell. They featured the daring exploits of my brother Jason (one day he ate a brick, another day a dress.) I may have neglected to mention that they were works of fiction.

10. What was your favourite book as a kid?

Harriet the Spy and The World’s Best Fairy Tales.

11. If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
Smilla from Smilla’s Sense of Snow.

12. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?

I wish I had the brain that wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude.

13. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?

I’d like to ask the geniuses in the Writers’ Room of The Simpsons to marry me. “John? Al? George? Anyone?” 

14. How do you organize your library?

By genre: Non-fiction, poetry, favourite novels, Bhutan.

15. What’s on your nightstand right now?

Buddhism Without Beliefs (which is always on my nightstand) and The Solitude of Prime Numbers.

16. Where is your favorite place to write?

Near an open window, in the utter absence of leaf-blowers and lawn mowers.

17. Do you have any writing rituals?

I go through the four stages of writing: procrastination, bargaining, pseudo-writing (“Making lists: 13 minutes. Researching cocktails from 1926: 28 minutes”), acceptance.

18. When do you write best, morning or night?

19. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
The Writer’s Ultimate Gift Basket would contain books, coupons for a maid service, good quality coffee, and sincere high praise.

20. What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
“Use a pencil.” I got this advice from Nino Ricci when I said I was having trouble with plot. His suggestion to write early drafts in longhand helped me to really think about the shape of the story (instead of merely polishing the sentences I already had).

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