Five Questions with… Janet E. Cameron

Janet E. Cameron, author of Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

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IFOA: Tell us about the inspiration for Cinnamon Toast, your debut novel.

Janet E. Cameron: It was a homework assignment, actually. I was taking an Adult Ed night class in creative writing in 2006, and one of our assignments was to write a story based on something in the news.

Janet E. Cameron

(c) Phillip Leonard

At that time in Dublin, two teenage boys had fallen into the canal and drowned, and the tabloid headlines were full of this. I didn’t read any of the news stories, but it did give me an image: two teenagers, an argument, water and

something dangerous happening. I wrote it as a piece of flash fiction, then as a novella, and eventually those boys became Mark and Stephen from Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World. The moral of this story? Do your homework.

IFOA: Cinnamon Toast is set in rural Nova Scotia, where you grew up. Now that you’re living in Ireland, do you have plans for a novel set there?

Cameron: I don’t, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. A lot of things seem to come about without my planning them. Still, I generally like a bit of distance between me and whatever I’m writing about. I’m not sure I would have set a novel in rural Nova Scotia if I still lived there. Perhaps if I move back to Canada there might be a whole series of novels about Ireland.

IFOA: What do you love most about Ireland?

Cameron: Guinness! There’s also the fact that the landscape is beautiful, which is true in Canada as well, but here it’s all very compact and accessible. You can be in the centre of Dublin, spend 20 minutes on a commuter train and find yourself on a lonely cliff overlooking the sea. And as a Canadian, I find it astounding that a coast-to-coast road trip can take three hours or less. Then there are the people. Irish people are very charming, particularly the writers.

IFOA: What are you reading right now?

Cameron: I’ve got three books on the go now. The first is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, part one of the Chaos Walking series—I’m embarrassed to say I’d never heard of it until recently. I’m also reading Swimming Home by Deborah Levy and a collection of autobiographical essays by Edmund White called My Lives.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…

Cameron: Hmm. I’m going to cheat here. The best part about being a Canadian writing in Ireland is hearing the setting of my book described as “exotic.” The best part about being invited to the IFOA is everything.

Janet E. Cameron is a Canadian author who was shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize and the Fish Short Memoir Prize. She will be discussing her use of time and place in her narrative on October 26 at 11am with writers Fiona Kidman, Mary-Rose MacColl and Alice McDermott.