Riel Nason’s book The Town that Drowned (review on my old blog) was greatly received and told a great story about life in New Brunswick not only to fellow Canadians but to the world. While Nason has been busy with the novel since then, she managed to sit down and answer a few questions for me last week.
1) Your debut novel The Town that Drowned was released in October, 2011. It seems to have been greatly received. How many nominations and awards did it receive? And outside of Canada, in how many countries was it published?
A: Hi Steven! Thanks, yes the book did very well, far better than I ever could have imagined, and it did indeed end up with a lovely list of literary nominations and wins. The most thrilling was when the book won the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize for Canada and Europe. It is published outside of Canada by Allen and Unwin in Australia and New Zealand. I still dream of having it translated into French.
2) You talk on your Blogger site how the story has become a crossover novel between both young adult and adult readers. Is that what you expected when you first wrote the book?
A: I certainly didn’t expect it to the degree it has happened. The book does have a 14-year-old narrator, so I thought that perhaps there would be some crossover interest and perhaps high school students might read it, but I can’t believe how many schools and students have read it from Grade 7 on up.
3) I understand your next novel is due out next year. Could you provide some details?
A: My next novel has been acquired (by Goose Lane Editions), but it won’t be out next year I don’t think. I am a slow distracted editor so it will be a while. I can’t say a lot about it except that it is set in New Brunswick again in the same area as The Town That Drowned was set. It takes place in the 1970s this time. It is called The Purple Barn.
4) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: L.M. Montgomery, David Adams Richards, Miriam Toews, Susan Juby, Dan Chaon … plus a whole list of others depending what day you ask me. I also really like reading young adult books. The next book I’ll buy and read will likely be David Adams Richards new one coming out very soon.
5) You seem active on several social-media fronts like Twitter and Facebook. Do you like being on those sites? Do they help you with your writing at all?
A: Facebook is okay I guess. It was more fun years ago. I actually don’t go on that much anymore, but like to post a silly status and see what my friends are up to now and then. I don’t have an official author page. I like Twitter. I like how easy it is to share events going on and how easy it is to support others and share their good news too. As to helping my writing, Twitter helps me be brief and get right to the point. I often have to edit tweets to get under the 140 characters.
6) Several book clubs and reading groups have picked up The Town that Drowned for discussions. How do you feel about that? Have you visited any of them to discuss your book?
A: I can’t believe how many book clubs have read the book! And I love that! I hear from people all the time. I do think there are a lot of themes in the book that make for great discussion topics — small town life, bullying, autism, the challenges of change, the cost of progress/influence of government decisions, the meaning of home, family, etc., etc. I have been to several book clubs for people I know personally as well as public library clubs. I am so thankful for all the interest in the book.
7) How do you like living in New Brunswick? Does living there give you enough inspiration for writing?
A: New Brunswick is a great place our family. I could write a whole essay on the topic, but basically we live in a nice house with a big yard in a safe friendly neighbourhood. The kids go to a great school. There is outdoor beauty everywhere here. As to writing, I write about the place I grew up, the rural river valley of my memory, so I could likely write about that living anywhere, but I am happy here.
8) There are a lot of people who seem to be trying their hand at writing fiction in their spare time. Do you have any advice for these people who may have complete confidence in their writing ability?
A: This is going to seem like very plain advice, but: Life is short. Don’t just talk about wanting to write, sit in your chair and get writing. Also, this is basic too, and you’ve likely heard it many times before, but: Show, Don’t Tell. Use perfect details to put pictures in your readers’ minds. Every time I edit my work I think about what images the reader is getting from my choice of words on the page.
9) Now I apologize for this question but when I mentioned to several of my followers that I was talking to you they had one question they wanted me to ask you. What is the origin of your first name? Is there a particular person you are named after?
A; When my Mom was pregnant with me, she and Dad were listening to an opera on Louis Riel on CBC radio. Dad said Riel would make a nice name for a girl. 🙂