Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Kate Pullinger

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Kate

January 25, 2011 -

OBT:

Tell us about your book, The Mistress of Nothing.

KP:

The Mistress of Nothing is based on the true story of Lady Lucie Duff Gordon and her maid, Sally Naldrett, who went to live in Egypt in the 1860s. It’s a doomed love story, stuffed with history and romance, race, class and sex   all the best things in life! It won the GG in 2009, and no one was more astonished than me.

OBT:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

KP:

My first book was a book of short stories called Tiny Lies. I was in my twenties, and had been living in London, England, for about six years, writing short stories, getting a few published. I’d won a short story competition in a London magazine and, out of the blue, on Christmas Eve, I received a letter from an editor at Cape asking if I had enough stories to publish a collection. This kind of letter seems unimaginable now, the publishing industry has changed so much in the last two decades. But Tiny Lies came out first in the UK and it was a great experience.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

KP:

My recent Canadian cultural experiences have all been centred around book festivals and touring to promote my book, so my Canadian cultural experiences have, in fact, been preventing me from writing instead of influencing my writing! Also, my writing boils very slowly and so recent cultural experiences will have impact, but the result won’t be apparent for years.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

KP:

Barbara Gowdy’s short story collection We So Seldom Look on Love because it is beautifully written and fabulously weird and a great addition to a form that is very strong in Canadian fiction — the short story collection.

Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion because it is gorgeous and it shows Toronto as a culturally diverse and historically dense city.

Doug Saunders' Arrival City because it shows Canadian nonfiction and thinking about cities and the world in the 20th century at its most unorthodox and exciting.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

KP:

My mother died a few years ago and left me a bit of money. With it, I built an office for myself at the end of the garden. It’s fairly large, full of light and very warm. It’s stuffed with books and mementos — my husband and I aren’t really "thing" people (for example, he has a horror of houseplants and cushions) — but in here I can (a) indulge in a bit of floor-filing, (b) display sentimental knickknacks from my childhood and (c) be entirely alone.

The room has a burglar alarm on the door and no one else knows the code. Oh — it also has high-speed broadband which I would find difficult to live without. So, thanks to my mum, I’ve been able to create my ideal writing environment.

OBT:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

KP:

A La Recherche du Temps Perdu.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

KP:

Our Kind of Traitor by John Le Carre

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

KP:

No.

OBT:

What are you working on?

KP:

I’m trying to get started on my next book which will also have a digital iteration, but I’m hideously distracted most of the time.

OBT:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

KP:

You have to write the story you want to write. You can’t second guess the market. Writing is not easy, it requires persistence and stamina. So make sure that your ideas obsess you, because you are in for a long haul. When it comes to getting published, pay attention to what is happening in the wider world. But most of all, read. Read, read, read.

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