Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Marianne Paul

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Marianne

August 1, 2009 -

OBT:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

MP:

My first short story was “Tea” in a magazine called Potboiler. I wrote that story half a lifetime away, when I was in my mid-twenties. Getting it published, even in such a small magazine, helped me realize that I could be a writer.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

MP:

I recently attended a Leonard Cohen concert. His poetry on the page is one thing, but when you match it with his music, listening to how he intended the words to be heard – it is amazing. Cohen’s performance reminded me that words are aural-based, they echo in the mind when they are read. The sound and rhythm of the words, how they fit together, are so important to writing.

Another cultural experience was listening to the Dalai Lama speak a few years back when he came to Canada. He is such a powerful presence, his infectious spirit, his quick sense of humour, his positive outlook on life in spite of the hardships he has endured. The protagonist in the novel I’m currently writing is a Buddhist, so that event must have influenced me.

OBT:

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

MP:

One Peace, a book beautifully illustrated and written by Janet Wilson, and that celebrates the efforts of young peace activists from around the world. I’d also include a children’s Canadian classic, a picture book that is really about gender equality, The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, and that been published in a variety of languages. My third choice was difficult, but I settled on another well-known classic Canadian story, Roch Carrier’s The Hockey Sweater. Although it certainly isn’t as prevalent today as the past, Canada’s obsession with hockey must seem very strange to many people who come to Canada.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MP:

A cabin on a lake, fairly remote, but not so remote that it doesn’t have Internet access (I’m a computer junkie!). The setting would be rugged, but with a sheltered cove where I can easily launch my kayak and escape from the actual writing. I need to let the story simmer and sit every once in a while, to let my brain catch up with the writing. In actuality, I write in a variety of places, but most often in my home office, where I can shut the door behind me and ignore the mundane things such as a very messy house.

OBT:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby Dick (with Winnie the Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

MP:

Weight, by Jeanette Winterson. The book is a retelling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles. Winterson always writes with such beauty, intelligence and wit. A close second is By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, a novel by Elizabeth Smart, told with great passion and poetry.

OBT:

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

MP:

A book I keep meaning to buy and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet is Wake, by Canadian sci-fi great, Robert J. Sawyer. This book is set in my hometown area in Waterloo. I’m curious about how he weaves the setting throughout his novel and, of course, his themes are always thought provoking. This book looks at artificial intelligence, the Internet evolving to become self-aware.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

MP:

I’ve just finished a wonderfully wild ride, Cockroach, by Rawi Hage. I’ve just begun Adventures with Camera and Pen, a collection of travel tales by photo-journalist, Anthony Dalton.

OBT:

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

MP:

I’m always aware of the reader when I write. In a sense, the reader is looking over my shoulder, but unobtrusively, a silent observer. If the writer ignores the reader, she risks creating a story that is too internal, that only has meaning to her personally. Having said that, I try not to define my readership rigidly. One of the joys of having a novel out there in the world is hearing from people you might not have thought would read it. You never know with whom a story will resonate.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

MP:

I’m at the beginning stages of a novel with the working title of The Begging Bowl. The character has been brewing in my mind for a while, and I believe I’ve finally discovered the right story for her. It’s a darker tale than my other novels, perhaps even be called a literary horror story.

OBT:

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

MP:

Be willing to start small and build towards larger markets. Get experience and credits through a variety of traditional and non-traditional venues. For example, that might mean creating a blog and posting stories online to create a readership, even if that readership is primarily your family and friends. The important thing is to get your stories read.

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