Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My favourite spring books so far



So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum
This book does not need my blessing. It’s everywhere and got nominated for a big, delicious prize. But I’ll add my voice to the chorus because it's a beautiful, devastating book. The collection of voices Rosenblum gathers to tell this story are remarkable. It's a painful story -- a young woman goes missing -- but there is hope here, and even humour. As anyone who has read her work can attest to, Rosenblum shines when she writes about the everyday acts of living -- spinning it all into fascinating art. With So Much Love, this skill has been elevated. The plot is beyond the everyday -- it's a thriller. And the emotional resonance is also far deeper, the stakes as high as they can get. So Much Love is a powerful literary pager-turner and Rosenblum is a total star.

The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis
Here's the truth: Deborah Willis reintroduced me to the short story. I’d fallen away from the form for a time. I wasn’t getting the closure I needed or the emotional connection I look for when reading. Then came The Dark and Other Love Stories. I’ve never felt more emotional satisfaction from a book of shorts. So much heart, humour and wonder in this volume. For example, she wrote a story about an expedition to Mars, but it's framed around the struggles of romantic love! Who would think to do that?! (By the way, it's perfect.) It’s easily one of my favourite books of the year. It’s cool and modern but wholeheartedly sincere, almost radically so. I can’t say enough good stuff about it.

A Three-Tiered Pastel Dream by Lelsey Trites
Ever have a roommate who you just know is gonna make it someday? Lesley Trites was one of those. In the mid-2000s, we shared a crib with four other people on the crest of a mid-town hill. Sometimes, when she would look out at the view, I'd wonder what she was thinking. Beauties like this, I guess:
“So I slip-soled up the steps of the library determined to harness that beast, the Internet, and find you." 
“Alex is a shortcut through the debilitating self-consciousness that runs in my family and slows us down.”
This collection is sensitive, reflective, and very entertaining. I felt like I was reading literary gossip sometimes because the peeks she gives into the lives of her characters are so wonderfully juicy! Lesley was a good friend and a reliable woman to share a chore-wheel with, so I'm stoked that CanLit (and you) has found her out.

Next Year, for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
This is not what I expected from a novel about an open relationship, not at all -- and that made me love it all the more. The prose is stunning and the story has such depth and wisdom, while still being wildly entertaining. I am mystified by how Peterson has written such an emotionally complex book with such clarity. It's not a thriller, but it kind of is! Because I could not put this book down! I had to see what happened next to this couple! If this doesn't get shortlisted for the major prizes this year, I will protest.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Prince Edward County Authors Festival

Just got home from Prince Edward County and boy is my liver tired! Just kidding, drinking makes me sleepy and gives me reflux. Although I did try a wonderful Waupoos cider this weekend. It was dry and effervescent. Just like me on the microphone! At the Prince Edward County Authors Festival! haha

It's rare that debut authors from small presses get invited to these things, so how cool is this festival to include me? It takes place in Picton, Prince Edward County, an area known for its food, wineries and stunning waterfront. Oh, and paintball tournaments in abandoned military insane asylums. The festival is hosted by the beautiful and sprawling Books & Company, which is my dream bookstore. Not only do they have Canadian authors' books prominently displayed, but they also sell puzzles! AND! Attached to it is a café that serves my favourite coffee! AND! Upstairs there's an event space they use for readings and music and art! (There's also a cat who lords over the whole place and is generous with her indifference.) It's the ultimate community hub!

It was in this upstairs space where the Authors Fest was held. I had a grand time on the fiction panel with Zoe Whittall and Kirsten MacLeod who read beautifully from their books. A nice crowd showed up and we had these comfy wingback chairs to sit in and podiums to read from (I cannot emphasise enough how much nicer it is to read aloud when you have something to lean on). Later in the day I heard Joy Fielding and Steve Burrows read and talk about writing mysteries/thrillers. They were both so entertaining. Joy is now my writer hero. Oh to be that cool, confident and laser-focused! After her read, I cornered Joy for some valuable advice on how to build suspense. (Any time I get the opportunity to pick the brain of a NYT bestseller, you better believe I'll take it.)

Thanks to: David Sweet for moderating and organising. Marlene for all your work in getting me there. Anthony, Alana and Atalay for comin' with and asking questions! Jerry for coming and giving great tips on the area. Paula who was so nice to chat with. And, of course, the whole team at the Prince Edward County Authors Festival for having me. I'll definitely be back.

Me and Atalay checking out the salmon(!) swimming up-creek at the
Drake Devonshire -- an A+ place in nearby Wellington for
brunch/ping pong/hipsters. (Even the salmon have man-buns.)


Me making love to the microphone. (And yes, I keep my eyes closed.)
Also pictured are the very smart/talented Kirsten MacLeod and Zoe Whittall.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Daily Mail and a big ol' zit

I was going to film and post a *hot writing tip* video today, but I have a big ol' zit so it'll have to wait. Until then, please enjoy my favourite Radiohead song (from 2011!?) that I cannot believe I did not know about until last week! It's become the official/unofficial soundtrack of my second book. It also best represents my lifestyle these days -- syncopated and full of unintelligible gibberish.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Controversy!


I was hunting for reviews of The Weather Inside, as I do because I am a pitiful lech, and came across this anonymous 1-star on Amazon.ca: 
"I bought this book because I am an ex JW and I thought it would be interesting. Well I only made it about a quarter of the way through. While the author knows the basics about how JW's work, she doesn't know how they talk , comport themselves or how the meetings and assemblies are.Rule number one for authors is "write what you know"!I want my money back."
It's the first bad review I've received, at least publicly. (My dad didn't like my book either.) Anyways, to protect what I know to be true about my work and my integrity, I replied. 
"So sorry you didn't like the book, Amazon Customer. I pride myself on the great care I took with research, which I spent years doing. I read books, poured over the Watchtower web site, went to a meeting, took virtual tours of the printing facilities, spoke with and interviewed Witnesses (both active and ex), quoted from JW materials heavily, used the exact script from an assembly, and reflected the experiences of many ex-JWs in support groups. This novel certainly reflected all of that research, as well as my own experience with religious alienation. I can't give you your money back because I am a broke writer. But good news! You have the power to tell everyone how much you hated it! That's the beauty of free speech! Which is the same freedom that allows me to write about whatever I want, as long as it's responsibly and meticulously researched, and, above all, empathetic to my characters and their emotional experiences. Thanks for your feedback, though, Amazon Customer. And I mean that sincerely. I'm sure you've gone through an intense journey with the religion yourself. Maybe there's even a book in you about it. I'd read it."
This assertion that you "write what you know" is tired. When people say it, they usually mean "write what you've lived." Beyond that, what many of them probably mean is: "Hey you! Write what I have lived." Well I'm here to let you in on a little secret: Books would suck if we authors wrote only what we "know." Doing so would, in fact, put an end to whole genres: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, dinosaur erotica, etc. 

I knew that I opened myself up to critique by writing about a specific religion -- that's why I researched so hardcore. And I stand behind that research and my book 100%. Through research, I did write what I knew when I wrote The Weather Inside. It's too bad it doesn't jive with this person's personal experience. Of course I would love it if every former Witness saw themselves in this story. But that's impossible. As impossible as finding love with a T-Rex. So I'll take that 1 star and wear it with pride.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In Her Voice

I truly enjoyed myself at the inaugural In Her Voice event held by Ben McNally Books on Monday. The audience asked some top-notch questions, which makes for a fun night. Here's me answering one of those smart questions... or asking for directions to the bathroom. I can't remember.


That's Emma Richler next to me. This was her night! For her book! Be My Wolff! Thanks to Emma, Random House, and Danielle, Rupert and Ben McNally for having me. Oh! And if you want to know more about Emma, check out this interview in The Walrus.