Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Book Lovers Ball Interview Series, with Heather A. Clark

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Heather A. Clark

With the Book Lover's Ball coming up tomorrow, we are wrapping up our series of interviews with guest authors from the gala fundraiser for the Toronto Public Library. Tomorrow night will see over 50 authors gathered at the Royal York Hotel with library supporters for a night of literary fun including performances, cocktails and more.

Today we speak with Heather A. Clark, author of the forthcoming novel Elephant in the Sky (ECW Press). The book takes on two perspectives: both nine-year-old Nate’s and his mother, Ashley, a working parents torn between the demands of career and family. These pressures hit a fever pitch as Nate battles mental health issues with escalating paranoid delusions. Read on to hear from Heather about her plans for the ball and her own favourite writers.

Stay tuned to Open Book for photos from the 2014 Book Lovers Ball!

Open Book:

This year the Book Lovers Ball features entertainment that brings books to life on stage. Tell us a bit about your most recent book.

Heather A. Clark:

Elephant in the Sky, which comes out in May, is a story about unconditional love. It tackles the subject of childhood mental illness, and is told from both nine-year-old Nate’s point of view and that of his mother, Ashley, an overworked ad executive who struggles with a demanding workload and the worry that she’s not spending enough time with her family — especially as her son’s battle with mental unbalance and paranoid delusions escalates.

When Nate disappears into a world of his own making, fault lines appear in his once-happy family. Nate’s parents and sister are forced to adjust to a new and troubling reality, and the whole family needs to reevaluate everything they thought they knew about themselves and their future together. As the narratives of Nate and Ashley ultimate converge, Elephant in the Sky reveals a deeply moving tale of a family dealing with mental illness.

OB:

What will you be wearing to the gala?

HAC:

I wish I knew! I will likely need to go shopping. But I’d love to find something to wear with my new favourite piece of jewelry — a big, sparkly silver necklace that I got for Christmas.

OB:

This event raises funds for the Toronto Public Library system, one of the busiest urban library systems in the world. What do you see as a library's role in the city? What has your own experience of libraries been like?

HAC:

As a child, my mother used to take me to the St. Catharines Public Library for little nursery rhyme classes with other toddlers and pre-schoolers. Or to spend hours curled up in chairs reading our favourite books. When I got to high school, I returned to that same library to find information and data points for whatever paper I happened to be writing. At nineteen, I moved to Guelph to attend university, and the campus library became my home-away-from-home; it was my favourite spot to study and meet classmates to work on group projects.

Now, as an adult with my own three small children, I’m often found at the libraries in Oakville. As a writer, I love to expose my kids to as many books as possible, and our trips to the library always provide me with a warm sense of nostalgia, instantly reminding me of the days I spent there when I was a child. I take my own children to the same type of nursery rhyme classes that I attended when I was their age. And my children — ages 2, 3 and 6 — are always on the hunt for the next book that we can bring home and read on our couch or at bedtime. Some of them are the same books I read as a child. And others are newfound favourites.

Despite all that has changed in my life since I was a young child, libraries have always been anchors for me. I can’t imagine life without them. Libraries propelled my love of reading, helped teach me how to write, and, moreover, how to think.

With the frenzied pace of our lives today, I believe our local libraries are a gift. They are the quiet corner of a frantic city where anyone can go — young or old, rich or poor — to sit down and take a moment for themselves, and to be exposed to the wonderful world of books.

OB:

One of the unique things about the Book Lovers Ball is how it allows avid readers to meet some of their favourite writers. With what Canadian writer, living or dead, would you most like to sit at dinner? What might you ask him or her?

HAC:

My favourite book of all time is The Book of Negroes, so I’d have to say Lawrence Hill. The range of emotion in his book is astounding. Tragic, yet uplifting. Devastating, yet optimistic. It viciously pulls at your heartstrings, yet fills you with incredible warmth. And is absolutely beautifully written.

As a result, Aminata Diallo is one of my favourite female characters of all time. Her inexhaustible strength and limitless determination — peppered with optimism — guarantee her a very long life. And so it is the strong and tenacious Aminata Diallo who would fill my questions if I were to have dinner with Mr. Lawrence. I would ask him how he was able to so brilliantly write his narrative from the perspective of a woman. How he researched her. And who he turned to for guidance and perspective, just to make sure he got it perfectly right. Which, in my opinion, he did.

In my near future, I’m going to be having lunch with bestselling author, Kate Hilton, who recently published The Hole in the Middle, a novel that has catapulted to the top of bestseller lists. I’ve never met her before, and I’ve got a ton of questions lined up given our similar backgrounds…

Neither of us have a traditional “author background,” yet we both innately needed to write a book, and did so in our spare time until our first manuscripts were finished, so I’m intrigued to know more of the details of how she did it. We’re both moms of young children with day jobs and a ton going on and so I’m intrigued to know how she continues to do it. And, mostly, I’m just interested to get to know her better as she seems like a really great person. Can’t wait @katemhilton!


Heather A. Clark was born and raised in St. Catharines, Ontario. A graduate of the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, she worked in advertising before moving on to the marketing department at one of Canada’s largest media outlets. She currently lives in Oakville, Ontario.

For more information about Elephant in the Sky please visit the ECW Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

For more information about the Book Lover's Ball, please visit their website.

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