1) How has the response been to “The Miracles of Ordinary Men?” Any positive responses you care to share? Any negative?
The response to Miracles was, on the whole, very positive and affirming. The novel had some wonderful reviews in the national papers, as well as quite a few lovely reviews on book blogs and other websites. There were of course some less-than-positive reviews—you can’t expect to put a book out into the world and not encounter at least a few people who won’t find it their cup of tea—but even those ones were very generous and thorough in their critiques of the book. It was exciting and challenging to see the book out in the world in that way, and observe how others reacted with and to it.
2) What are you reading right now? Who are your favourite writers?
I just finished Meghan Daum’s The Unspeakable and Other Objects of Discussion (essays), and I’m currently about halfway through Loitering, by Charles D’Ambrosio (more essays). Once that’s done, I’ll be going back to fiction and reading Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings. And then I’ll be back to essays once Anne Carson’s Plainwater arrives in my mailbox!
In terms of my favourite writers…this is always such a hard question. My favourite book of all time is The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, so she’s definitely up there. I’m also a big fan of Leslie Jamison, whose The Empathy Exams was one of my favourite reads from last year. Also: Guy Gavriel Kay (splendid, epic fantasy fiction), Roxane Gay (essays and novels and everything in between!), John Jeremiah Sullivan (essays), JRR Tolkien (can’t beat TLOTR), Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Joan Didion, and so many others besides…it’s an ongoing, revolving list.
3) Your blog says you do a combination of short fiction, creative non-fiction and the novel. Is there a preferred means of writing that you enjoy doing? If yes, why?
I like each of these genres for different reasons—I like the scope and messiness of novels, and the contrasting briefness of short stories, and the way that creative non-fiction gives you space to expand within a defined timeframe and set topic. Each of these particular methods of writing presents their own challenges. I find it refreshing and good for my own writing practice to be able to bounce between them all.
4) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you can share?
I am! I’m working on several projects, though the primary project is a novel that follows on from The Miracles of Ordinary Men. I’m also slowly pulling plans together for a collection of essays (hence all of the essay reading above, I suppose), and I have some short stories that I’m thinking about putting together in some form. It’s nice to have several things on the go, as it means there’s always another thing to focus on if I hit a stumbling block with whatever I’m working on at the moment.
5) You have done a multitude of public readings of your work. Is that something that you enjoy doing?
The public readings that were done for Miracles were one of my favourite things about having a novel out in the world. The majority of those readings were self-organized, so a great deal of work went into bringing them about, but the whole process taught me a lot about how important it is to market your book once it’s out there. You have to work hard to make sure that it doesn’t just disappear.
The public, reading persona that a writer slips into when it comes time to market their novel is definitely a different headspace from the area that you occupy when writing—it’s much more extroverted, and that can be exhilarating and also terrifying all at the same time! I do enjoy it very much, though. As with jumping from one genre to the next, the act of moving between the public and private parts of my writing self has been good for growth and reflection.
(I hope so, anyway.)
6) Has any of your work been the subject of any reading circles or book clubs? If yes, did you participate with the group in any way?
Miracles has been read by a few book clubs now, and I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with some of these clubs on varying levels. For one club, I was able to attend their discussion of the book, while for others I was able to connect with the readers after they had met and discussed the work, and get their impressions of it.
I’m hoping to do another book club discussion later this year. It’s always fascinating to see how different people interpret your book. In many cases, readers took things away from the novel that I hadn’t even intended, which was surprising and wonderful.
7) You seem to have an active role in social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. How do you feel about those means? Does being on those sites help you with your writing at all?
I’m not actually on Facebook, but I do have a Twitter profile and it has allowed me to reach out to fellow readers and writers in a way that I don’t think I’d have managed otherwise. I won’t deny that there are some parts of social media that make for a struggle—I enjoy Twitter so much that it’s quite easy for me to spend more time tweeting than I do writing!—but in the end I think that the engagement with readers and writers and just the online community at large is quite beneficial. There are so many ideas and different points of view exchanged (some cordial, some not) on a daily basis—it keeps me on my toes and fuels my excitement about all things bookish and otherwise.
8) You talked a little bit on your blog about living in Hamilton. How do you like living there as a writer? Does the city’s cultural scene help you with your writing at all?
I grew up in Hamilton, and the funny thing is that I couldn’t wait to leave the city when I was younger. I lived away for ten years, and moved back more or less grudgingly, as much as it pains me to admit.
Since coming back, though, I’ve been amazed by the richness of the city and the vibrancy of its arts scene. It’s definitely not the same city that it was when I left back in 2001. It’s been tremendously exciting to be a part, however small, of the city as it transforms and grows.
Also, on the very practical side of things—the fact that Hamilton is an affordable city that still has me a short bus ride away from the literary events of Toronto doesn’t hurt, either!
9) You seem to do a bit of travelling. Is that something you enjoy doing? Does it help your writing at all?
I love travelling—so much so that I wish I could do it more. I don’t know that I’ve written all that much about my travels specifically, though I have found that some of my experiences have found their way into various things—stories, settings for books. Maybe there will be space for more of them in the future—who knows!
10) Do you have any advice for beginning or amateur writers?
Don’t give up! It sounds so simple and almost trite, but someone told me that at a particularly low point in my writing career and they were right. Writing and submitting and waiting on rejections (or acceptances, as the case may be) is a long and lonely game. But if you stick it through, the rewards can be very great. There’s nothing like that first moment when you unpack your novel and see that book with your name printed across it. It makes everything worthwhile.