1. What is the working title of your book?
The working (and indeed, the actual) title of the book is Bone and Bread.
2. Where did the idea for the book come from?
The novel grew out of a then-unpublished short story that was later published in my collection Mother Superior. I wanted to start a novel and this particular story, which kept growing and growing, seemed a natural choice. I felt like I already knew a lot about the characters and their world and their backstories, and I wanted to know what would happen to them. It’s also the story that people ask me about the most often --- usually to complain that they wanted to know how things turn out for the sisters. (As complaints go, it’s a pretty gratifying one...especially now that I have an answer in the form of a novel.)
3. What genre does your book fall under?
I would call it literary fiction, though I’m starting to realize that this is not necessarily a recognizable genre to the general reading public. So…fiction! Sometimes when people want more information than this, I say “family drama” (?), but I don’t think that’s really a proper genre either. I guess, technically, I have three generations of characters so maybe I could push it and say "family saga," but since it is all set in contemporary or close-to-contemporary Montreal and Ottawa, I probably can’t get away with that either. Let’s go with fiction.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
This was super fun to think about! Maybe the girl who plays Zooey Dechanel’s best friend, Cece, in the New Girl?
Hannah Simone as Sadhana?
Lisa Ray as Beena?
Both of these Canadian actresses are of mixed origin, too. Coincidence? Beauties!
Of course, a lot of the book depicts their childhood and adolescence, so some child actors would have to be involved, too.
I would choose Sarah Polley to play Mama in the early section of the novel. She radiates the right kind of pale luminosity and humour and depth and preternatural wisdom. (Well, she does!)
Sarah Polley as Mama?
For the male characters in the novel — Papa, Uncle, Ravi, Quinn, Evan — I’m really not sure. Aaaaand...I’ve probably gone on about this long enough.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Trying to make sense of her sister’s sudden death at 32 from complications of anorexia, Beena Singh returns to Montreal with her teenage son Quinn in order to delve into the history of their unusual upbringings.
Oh my gosh, that was hard -- and it leaves so much out.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book was represented by my agent, who placed it (to my great, ongoing delight) with House of Anansi.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I shudder to calculate this, as it feels like I have been working on this novel forever. I technically started the novel at Banff in May 2007, and I finished a first draft in April 2010. Three years!! But my short story collection came out in 2008, so I didn’t end up spending that much time in 2008 working on it. So…somewhere between two and three years. I should also say that I also radically changed and reorganized the novel from what it looked like in that draft. The core of the story has never changed, but I have written (and discarded!) a lot of extraneous material.
It was interesting for me to realize that the final version of the novel is very, very close to what I had originally planned in a notebook in my residence room in Banff.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I think it would probably be safer to trust this assessment coming from somebody else. There is so much that I’ve tried to put into the novel, but I’ll have to wait and see what readers are able to take away from it. I know the kinds of books I would like it to resemble, and those are ones where the author’s vision is wise and compassionate and the characters are deeply human and believable. The Birth House by Ami McKay, Annabel by Kathleen Winter, and The Girls by Lori Lansens are three such books that come to mind.
I don’t know if it is at all similar to these books, and I certainly wouldn’t presume to say so, but some of the novels I was reading at different points before and during writing it included Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Barbara Gowdy’s The Romantic, Catherine Bush’s Claire’s Head, and Michael Winter’s The Architects Are Here.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In terms of where the original short story started, I think it began with the realization that both anorexia and pregnancy interrupt menstruation, and that struck me as an interesting parallel: in one case, you have growth and life — and in the other, it is a matter of shrinking and death. Right away, I could see these two sisters in my mind’s eye: one getting bigger and one getting smaller. The first line of the short story -- My sister and I stopped bleeding at the same time -- popped into my head and I picked up my notebook and started writing.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, I tried to keep in mind that I wanted to write the sort of book that I like to read. There is some mystery and suspense, as well as (what I hope is) a nuanced portrayal of sisterhood and parenthood. I also like to think it has something to offer on the subject of families. There are a lot of families out there that don’t look like the so-called norm. In fact, I think there are far fewer “normal” families out there than we’re used to imagining. The ones that have been passing as normal are full of secrets and repression and estrangement. This is certainly true in my own experience, at least.
The novel is set in contemporary Montreal and Ottawa, so I think that for Montrealers or Ottawans or even for people who just hold these cities in their hearts, this might be an extra dimension in which the novel can be enjoyed. I always like seeing the places I live reflected in the books I read.
The meme charges me to tag more people to do it, and it was a challenge to find people who haven't done it yet. But here goes: Celeste at Celeste Parr's My (Beat)ing Heart, Teri at Bibiliographic, Alice at rapunzel's hair, and Anita at Henrietta & Me. If you'd like to do it, too, tag yourself in the comments! (And if I've tagged you and you don't want to do it, well, that's okay, too.)
Rules of the Next Big Thing
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
- What is the working title of your book?
- Where did the idea for the book come from?
- What genre does your book fall under?
- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
- Who or what inspired you to write this book?
- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?