Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Lucky Seven Interview, with Lynn Crosbie

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Lynn Crosbie and her dog, Frank

Deliciously bizarre, unapologetically brash, Lynn Crosbie's Where Did You Sleep Last Night is shaping up to be one of the great reads of 2015. The book tells the story of a teenaged outsider who finds herself in a hospital bed beside none other than her crush and idol, Kurt Cobain. That Cobain is, in fact, long dead doesn't stop 16-year old Evelyn from escaping from the hospital with him, becoming a rock god alongside him, and descending into the inevitable chaos of fame, music, passion and self-destruction. Part fever dream, part love letter to an unforgettable musical (and cultural) era, Where Did You Sleep Last Night is unmissable.

Today Lynn takes on our Lucky Seven series, a seven-question Q&A that gives readers a chance to hear about the writing processes of talented Canadian authors and gives authors a space to speak in depth about the thematic concerns of their newest books.

She tells us about the missing question mark in the title of Where Did You Sleep Last Night, colour-coded drafts and when writing a book is like fixing an old car.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book.

Lynn Crosbie:

Where Did You Sleep Last Night began as a YA novel, and slowly transformed into a fairly graphic novel that uses the raw material of the Nirvana via Lead Belly song/title — passion, heartbreak, sexual betrayal, murder and desolation.


Is there a question that is central to your book, thematically? And if so, did you know the question when you started writing or did it emerge from the writing process?


Well, the title is a question that refuses punctuation, in its utter resignation. I choose my book titles first thing, so this one definitely informed me as I wrote; asking me how I planned to deploy its plot within my own; asking me about the beauty and the anguish of love.


Did the book change significantly from when you first starting working on it to the final version? How long did the project take from start to finish?


Yes, I wrote drafts like Jacqueline Susann on different colored paper, and must have about 17 here, and 10 more versions with my editor at Anansi. All told and with a break: three years.


What do you need in order to write — in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?


I don’t have many rituals anymore. I recline, and, like my protagonist, clutch the laptop like a body board, and write. Maybe have some ice water. Always have my snoozing dog, melodically snoring, beside me.


What do you do if you're feeling discouraged during the writing process? Do you have a method of coping with the difficult points in your projects?


At one point I couldn’t imagine how I was going to fill in the book, so to speak. I knew the ending, but was spinning my wheels. I put it aside and didn’t think about it. After a while, I took notes on my phone and in a number of notebooks (there is a big bag of them now.) Then I went back to it and it was like starting an old car. A few kicks and curses and it took off.


What defines a great book, in your opinion? Tell us about one or two books you consider to be truly great books.


I don’t know what makes a great book great, but I know one when I read one. Ulysses and Eva’s Man, for example. But there is the issue of genre and context too. There are great commercial novels (back to Susann, Valley of the Dolls is remarkable); great, bratty indie books, cult books and so on. If you are reading and you are inclined to kiss the pages or destroy it, it is great book.


What are you working on now?


I am writing a collection of poems about and for my father, who is ill. He furnished me the title. It’s called The Corpses of the Future.

Lynn Crosbie was born in Montreal and is a cultural critic, author and poet. A Ph.D in English literature with a background in visual studies, she teaches at the University of Toronto and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Her books (of poetry and prose) include Pearl, Queen Rat and Dorothy L'Amour. She is also the author of the controversial book, Paul's Case and Life Is About Losing Everything. She is a contributing editor at Fashion, and a National Magazine Award Winner who has written about sports, style, art, and music.

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