Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Christine Fischer Guy

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The Dirty Dozen, with Christine Fischer Guy

Christine Fischer Guy's debut novel, The Umbrella Mender (Wolsak & Wynn), has already piqued our interest with its mysterious and beautiful book trailer (which you can see here), so we're especially excited to talk to her today. The Umbrella Mender tells the story of Hazel, who is looking back on her long life from a hospital bed. Once a nurse in remote Moose Factory, Ontario, Hazel battled an epidemic of tuberculosis on the front lines even as language and cultural tensions threatened to erupt in the region. Everything changed for her when an enigmatic stranger, an umbrella mender searching for the Northwest Passage, arrived.

Today, we speak with Christine as part of our Dirty Dozen series, where authors and artists are invited to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves, giving readers a peek into the people behind the books.

Christine's top 12 takes us on a blood-soaked trip from grade school nosebleeds (or the lack thereof) to hospital emergency rooms, from IRA bombings to Mad Cow and more.

  1. I will reliably faint at the sight of blood.
  2. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I once used my knowledge of #1 to expedite matters in the Emergency department of my local hospital when I nearly cut off my fingertip and had dinner guests arriving in two hours. (Three stitches. I made it home in time for dessert.)
  3. A C-section requires more than three stitches. I don’t remember how many or having them removed; I was somewhat preoccupied and sleep deprived at the time. (6lb, 12 oz boy, who is now fifteen inches taller than I am and away at university.)
  4. My knowledge of #1 didn’t prevent me from writing a novel from a nurse’s point of view. I can write about blood, I just can’t look at it long without consequences. See #2.
  5. Nevertheless, I yearned for a nosebleed when I was in grade school. A nosebleed was an instant get-out-of-class-free card. It was an unfulfilled dream until I forgot how to stop on an ice rink in grade four and did a face plant into the boards. (I remain an enthusiastic but clumsy athlete.) To my great disappointment, the thin trickle of blood that resulted had dried up by the time we were back in the classroom.
  6. I never witnessed the bloody aftermath of any of the IRA bombings of random rail stations while I was living in London from 1990-1992, but was regularly made late for work because of bomb threats and suspicious packages. As a result, I was more angry than afraid while living under siege. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
  7. Because I lived in England during the Mad Cow epidemic, The Red Cross refused my blood after I returned. I missed the cookies for a while.
  8. Parental blood incompatibility can result in infant jaundice, anemia, and in severe cases, death. For this reason, I needed a complete blood transfusion shortly after I was born. (There are less traumatic ways to deal with this issue now.) This could explain my relationship to blood.
  9. Owing to my relatively uncommon blood type (B positive), I should donate blood regularly.
  10. I don’t. See #7. The Red Cross no longer manages donations, but Canadian Blood Services doesn’t want my blood, either. Can’t shake the taint of Mad Cow!
  11. I saw two productions of Julius Caesar and one of Titus Andronicus this year. It was easy to guess where the murders were going to take place in the second production of Caesar (Globe Theatre, London) because the floorboards were stained red. I could look at fake blood all day long if I wanted to.
  12. Scabs don’t bother me in the least.


Christine Fischer Guy’s fiction has appeared in journals across Canada and has been nominated for the Journey Prize. She reviews for the Globe and Mail, contributes to Ryeberg.com and themillions.com and teaches creative writing at the School for Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto. She is also an award-winning journalist. She has lived and worked in London, England, and now lives in Toronto.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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