As part of this month's Ontario's Best Books Digital Residency, we're profiling some of this province's prominent authors. See all.
What’s your most recent work about?
So Much Love is a number of different stories threaded together but the most central one is about a woman named Catherine Reindeer who disappears. Other stories radiate from that, some about those who are also affected by her disappearance, in big and small ways her mother, her university professor, her husband, a young man who also disappears, his girlfriend and so on. There is also a shadow story about a poet who was killed in the same community about 15 years prior. So on a macro level, Id say its a book about loss and harm, and how we cope with and recover, or dont, on many different levels.
Do you have anything specific you do for your writing process?
No, sadly. I write as much as possible about whatever characters seem to need to be written about, whenever time allows. I research what I dont know enough about. Those are the common elements. Otherwise, every book seems to need what it needs.
Describe one opportunity that improved your life as a writer.
Honestly, and this isnt a sexy answer, its been having a job that is enjoyable, flexible and open to my writing. I like the work I do, my colleagues and my managers, but I am also appreciative of how much my job has made space for my creative work. By letting me go briefly part-time, by giving me a leave of absence at the beginning of writing So Much Love, by cheering for my work, by not pressuring me to work late or on weekends (very often), theyve really allowed me to do both successfully and Im so grateful for it. It would have been much harder for me to do the writing I do if I were struggling with financial instability, or grimly punching the clock at a job I hated, or frantically answering work emails at 9pm. I am lucky and I know it.
Whats one thing Ontario creative industries could do to be more inclusive of authors from indigenous and diverse communities.
Listen to those communities, and act on what they say.
What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were first starting out as a writer?
If you dont write it, you cant fix it. With a lot of just-starting writers, theres all this agony about not starting to write quite yet, because what if Im not ready. There is no state of being you can get to where writing wont be hard, or everything will be great the second it hits the page we get better by practicing. So write the first draft knowing itll be flawed, then write the next draft and then the next one. Learn how to make it good as you go.
Do you have any favourite Ontario authors or books?
So many! Since I live here, Im most aware of Ontario books and perhaps a bit biased towards them. I was really impressed by Scaachi Kouls One Day Well All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter last year so funny and smart. Im always excited to see a new book from Diane Schoemperlen, Gary Barwin from my hometown Hamilton is a delight … Its a long list.
Name a person in your field who you think deserves more attention.
Im often surprised more people arent reading Cynthia Flood. She is such a strong, surprising writer, always doing something new, with such precision and grace. But there are actually a fair number of Cynthia Flood fans out there I just think there could be more.