Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Irene N. Watts

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Ten Questions with Irene N. Watts

Born in Berlin, Germany, Irene N. Watts was sent to Britain on a Kindertransport. Now living in Canada, she is a writer, award-winning playwright and director who has worked in Canada and Europe in theatre for young audiences. The graphic novel version of her Geoffrey Bilson award-winning book, Goodbye Marianne: A Story of Growing Up in Nazi Germany is illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker and published by Tundra Books.

OB:

Tell us about your book, Good-bye Marianne.

INW:

December 1st marks the 70th Anniversary of the Kindertransport, a rescue mission from Britain which set out to save as many children at risk as possible from Nazi Germany. Between 1938 and the onset of World War Two in September 1939, ten thousand children were saved. Marianne Kohn is an imaginary eleven year old girl whose father is on the run from the Gestapo for selling a book written by a Jewish author. Marianne is expelled from school, attacked and bullied in the streets of her neighborhood, and her home is searched and trashed by the Gestapo. Her life changes dramatically when she is offered a place on the Kindertransports, only to discover that she must go alone without her family.

OB:

How did you research your book?

INW:

The book is based partly on personal experience and those of other ‘Kinder’. My research took the usual pattern of traveling to the places I write about, reading and researching widely, including unpublished memoirs gleaned from the British War Museum and personal interviews with others who lived through that time.

OB:

Who are your influences?

INW:

I am influenced by my fellow writers. I am a historian so history and the ordinary incidents and 'people' that do not get into the history books fascinate me. I am fortunate in having a strong team of editors at Tundra as support for my writing.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

INW:

I have the ideal environment, a small silent room with a view of trees and mountains and shelves filled with books around me. However, I scribble notes wherever I am, out walking or on a bus. Ideas come to me in odd places.

OB:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

INW:

Talon Books of Vancouver B.C. published a short collection of performed plays based on Japanese folk tales, called A Chain of Words. My early educational books were published by Pembroke Press, and The Fish Princess, a hardcover Picture Book illustrated by Steve Mennie, was published by Tundra Books in 1996.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

INW:

August 1944 by Carlo Gebler and Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan.

OB:

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

INW:

The Journal of Susanna Moodie by Margaret Atwood; The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (a play) by George Ryga; Mordecai Richler Was Here, Selected Writing.

OB:

What's the best advice you've ever received as a writer?

INW:

To leave something to the reader's imagination. The result is that I sometimes tend to under write, but when I took a touring theatre company to schools with only simple costumes and four black boxes, the letters and drawings we received of castes and lands under the sea and imaginary worlds prove to me that doing less and allowing the readers' imagination to fill in the gaps is the way to go!

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

INW:

"I am not a reader, but I loved your book."

OB:

What is your next project?

INW:

A retelling of the Golem story, called Clay Man: The Golem of Prague.



"Watts's book... succeeds because it leaves readers wanting urgently to know what happened next." — Quill and Quire

"... an extremely poignant and moving account..." – Winnipeg Free Press

Read more about Good-bye Marianne at the Tundra Books website.

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