Here I am, blog hopping! My dear friend, Mary Novik, author of Conceit and Muse, asked me to participate in The Blog Hop, where authors play a friendly game of online tag and we all get to know each other a little bit better. Mary, who hangs out with me and another great writer, June Hutton, under the guise of participating in a writing group, which we call SPiN, is the finest and most meticulous novelist I know. She can also, in the right situation, swear like a sailor, which is the real reason we’re friends.
1) What am I working on?
Right now, I’m writing my third novel for adults, which is noir-ish, literary crime novel set in Vancouver. I’m a child of the 1980s, when women and children were disappearing from the streets of the Downtown Eastside and other neighbourhoods. I’m playing with the idea of growing up knowing that your presence in your own life is tenuous and that, at any moment, you could be erased from the world you understand. Like all of my books, this novel touches on race, sexuality and the things that pull communities together, or tear them apart. Sounds like a laugh riot, no?
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My fiction is often grouped with the books of Wayson Choy and SKY Lee, both of whom wrote fantastic novels set in Vancouver’s Chinatown. I can’t deny that Chinatown has been my muse for a long time, but I think what makes my fiction different is that my take on the neighbourhood is a bit more contemporary, more directly concerned with how the Chinese Canadian community interacts in the larger city. I hate to use the term post-racial, but in some ways, I do think that both The End of East and The Better Mother are post-race, meaning that race, in my books, is not so tied to our countries of origin or racism in particular. Rather, race is a definition that we accept or don’t, one that provides an easy reference for self-identity, but is really only a beginning when we’re trying to feel our way through the world and trying to understand our intimate relationships or goals or past lives.
Having said all that, if Wayson Choy and SKY Lee invited me to join their imaginary club, I would accept with so much enthusiasm, my head might very well explode.
3) Why do I write what I do?
What I hope I do with my writing is explore stories that defy order, that shine a light on the parts of our lives that we would rather keep hidden. We all do things that are inappropriate or destructive or hurtful, and often we can’t explain why, even as we feel guilt or disgust. This pit of human despair is what I love to write about. But I’m actually quite pleasant in person. I swear.
4) How does my writing process work?
Before my son was born, I had a schedule that I adhered to, no matter what. Now what I try to do is jot down any ideas or lists while I’m doing other things—mundane tasks like laundry or grocery shopping. My writing time is very limited and my work schedule is unpredictable, so if I complete all these little, organizational tasks beforehand, when I actually do have time to sit down and write, I can just do so without wasting time trying to remember what it is I’m supposed to be doing. My midwife’s advice, actually!
Next up in two weeks, Brian Francis and Amanda Leduc. Brian, of course, is the author of Natural Order and Fruit, the novel I defended during Canada Reads 2009. He also teaches creative writing with the International Festival of Authors and writes the best food blog in the universe, Caker Cooking. Plus, every time I see him, I just want to put him in my pocket and take him home. Amanda is the author of The Miracles of Ordinary Men, a novel I had the pleasure of featuring on The Next Chapter on CBC Radio One. She is, notably, the co-founder of Bare it for Books, which produced a 2014 calendar of unclothed Canadian authors to raise funds for PEN Canada (it’s hot, trust me). Amanda edits the non-fiction site, Big Truths, and is an all-around, swell gal, with whom I will one day have a drink (or five).