Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Welwyn Wilton Katz

Share |

November 11, 2009 -

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Welwyn Wilton Katz:

A newspaper article on travelling the tall ship May Day: The London Free Press.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

WWK:

The Magic Flute: Mozart. The opera performed by the COC at the Grand Theatre, London, early summer, 2009, with musicians from Orchestra London. It renewed my belief in the possibility of perfection in the arts, despite all the negativism. It also renewed my understanding that taking joy in writing is really the only thing that matters.

OBT:

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

WWK:

1. Voices of Literature, Book One: The First of a Two-Volume Anthology for
High Schools
Compiled and with Notes and Commentary by Marshall McLuhan, Professor of English and Richard J. Schoeck, Professor of English at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto; Illustrations by Harley Parker. (And, of course, his collaborated authorship of The Medium is the Message).
2. The Sky is Falling (and its two sequels) by Kit Pearson
3. Tales Told in Canada by Edith Fowke

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

WWK:

Tidy. But it never is.

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?

WWK:

I wish I had written The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and A Pack of Lies by Geraldine McCaughrean and really almost anything by Terry Pratchett, particularly Small Gods (of which I bought two copies in case I lost one and it ever went out of print), Memory by Margaret Mahy, and The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White. I would not have wanted to have written The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien or the twelve novels beginning with Swallows and Amazons because they were too important to me when I first read them as a child; I would have lost that if I had written them. This kind of question is impossible for me to answer in the singular. I’m sorry.

OBT:

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

WWK:

Thousands of them. Beginning, I suppose, with The Old Testament of the Bible. Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek by Annie Dillard. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien, but that’s a choice I made long ago; I had to have something left of his that I’d never read before, you see.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

WWK:

During most of my reading time I am reading aloud to my husband, because he is vision-impaired. I keep wanting to read ahead to myself even though I have already read the entire series. The particular book we’re on now is Inheritor by C. J. Cherryh. It is the fourth in a series of nine huge and brilliant books where accurate language translation is impossible between two different intelligent species due to biological imperatives and the importance of mathematics in the alien language; about personal longing taking a back seat to what must be done for the sake of others; about the true nature of treachery; about loneliness. In other brief moments I read the newspaper, or non-fiction books pertinent to what I’m writing.

OBT:

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

WWK:

Not really. The stories just exist. The characters exist. They are the age they are. The editors want the books marketable, naturally, and so their editing can affect the final product. Editing is a subject I would really like to write about in this forum, because I’ve done a lot of it myself and because I have been edited often as well. I am always perplexed why “coming of age stories” written by so-called “writers for adults” are different from “young adult novels” written by people like me. Take Budge Wilson’s collections of short stories, for example. Is The Leaving for adults or is it for young adults? It’s a brilliant book, that’s all I know.

I write for myself first, and if other people like my work, that’s just a bonus.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

WWK:

No telling the plot! But it’s been ten years in the making so far, and if it continues the way it has been going for the last ten years, it will be as close to perfect as I can write. I know that this book is important enough for me to need the amount of time it has taken me so far, plus the year or two or even three that I still need to make it as good as I am capable of. A book takes what it needs from your life. And your life must be lived in the periods the book allows you. Unfortunately, the reverse has been true for a few of the last ten years for me. I had a car accident that stole my writing time. The combination has made people who once believed in me decide they can choose not to.

OBT:

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

WWK:

Yes. Read a lot. Read good books, books that come highly recommended by reviewers or other people you trust. Don’t read eye-candy. Write less than you read, but write every single day until you have finished at least one sentence that you are happy with.

Related item from our archives