Five Questions with… Jennifer Close

Jennifer Close whose latest book is The Smart One, answered our five questions.

Jennifer Close

IFOA: Tell us about something new you tried while writing The Smart One, your second novel.

Close: Well, I don’t know if this is something new, but it’s something that I became very aware of while writing this book. I started taking breaks from looking at it—sometimes for a week, and once for a month—and then coming back to it with fresh eyes. Part of the reason was just circumstance, because my first book came out and I got married in the middle of writing it, so it was a really busy time. And while I did take the manuscript with me on my honeymoon, I only peeked at it once. It makes me a little nervous to step away from a project for so long, but what I learned is that it helps a lot. Sometimes things would just click into place while I was taking a break, and sometimes I’d come back to it and realize that a whole scene or chapter needed to be cut or added. Now, with the new stuff I’m working on, I’m less afraid to take a little break if things are getting confusing.

IFOA:  Is your protagonist Weezy Coffey (great name, by the way) based on someone you know? Who or what inspired her?

Close: The first character that came to me in The Smart One was Claire, followed shortly by Martha. Once I had those two, I knew that their mom (Weezy) would be a narrator as well. I just felt like I couldn’t write about sibling rivalry, or the feeling that one child was favored over the other without giving Weezy a voice, a chance to explain herself.

Weezy isn’t based on anyone I know. What’s funny is that a lot of the character of Weezy reminds me of myself. I don’t have children yet, but I think often about what kind of mother I’ll be. I’m a big worrier—anytime that I have to leave the dog in someone else’s care, I worry he’ll die. (I’m hoping that I’ll loosen up a little when I have kids.)

I really feel for Weezy—she just wants the best for everyone. She wants her children to be happy and healthy and feel safe, and she’s still struggling with realizing that she can’t control that. And I think that what you start to understand when you get to know her is that she’s rooting for all of her children to succeed—she just has to root a little harder for Martha. Weezy is also really funny, I think. And I was a little surprised to learn that she was my husband’s favorite character!

IFOA: What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Close: My perfect non-working day would go like this:  I’d sleep in, and then get some coffee and snuggle up on the couch or maybe back in bed to read a great book. Then I’d have a lazy brunch with my husband, and take the dog for a nice long walk. (In my perfect day, it’s also about 70 degrees out!) I’d read a little bit more in the afternoon, and possibly scribble down some writing ideas. Probably watch some TV on the couch with my husband and dog. To end the day, I’d meet some friends for drinks or dinner.

My perfect working day is a little different. I’d get up at a decent time, take the dog for a good walk, drink some coffee and answer emails. Then I’d read over what I wrote the day before and I’d feel great about it, like it’s going somewhere. I’d write some new stuff for a few hours, taking a break for lunch and maybe yoga or a quick run. Then I’d come back to my desk and write for a few more hours. I’d end the day making dinner with my husband and having a glass of wine. And if I had a great book to read before I went to sleep, that would be ideal! I’ve had perfect working days like this one, but they don’t come around too often!  So when they do, I really appreciate them.

 IFOA: What are you reading right now?

Close: I just finished The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan, which was fantastic. It comes out in June. And before that, I read The Good House by Ann Leary, which I can’t stop recommending to people—it was so funny and sad and just wonderful all around. I’m currently reading Wise Men by Stuart Nadler and really enjoying it. I’m only about halfway through, but whenever I look forward to getting into bed to read, I know I’ve got a good book.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It’s hard to believe, but…

Close: I’m even more nervous for this book launch than I was for my first book.

Close will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on April 10 .

Five Questions with… Taiye Selasi

Selasi, Taiye (c) Nancy Crampton

(c) Nancy Crampton

Taiye Selasi who presents her debut novel Ghana Must Go at this week’s reading series, answers our five questions.

IFOA: You’ve said you wanted to be a writer since childhood. What was the subject of your very first story?

Selasi: I wish I could recall! Most likely some plucky little girl with magic powers and without a bedtime; I was obsessed as a child with magical powerful girls. (Still am.)

IFOA: What was the hardest part of writing Ghana Must Go?

Selasi: Finishing it.

IFOA: Whose writing career do you most admire?

Selasi: Arundathi Roy’s.

IFOA: If you could time travel, where and when would you go, and why?

Selasi: Lagos in the 70s or Harlem in the 20s: for the art, the music.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…

Selasi: Love.

Selasi will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on March 27.

Five Questions with… Colin McAdam

(c) Lisa Myers

(c) Lisa Myers

Colin McAdam, author of A Beautiful Truth, answered our five questions.

IFOA: A Beautiful Truth is told in part from the perspective of chimpanzees. Tell us one thing readers might be surprised to learn about chimps.

McAdam: They have more in common with us genetically and immunologically than two gophers living on different sides of the Colorado River.  We call all gophers gophers, but have a hard time calling ourselves apes.

IFOA: You’ve lived all over the world. Which place do you miss the most?

abeautifultruth_bluhuis2_apprvd.inddMcAdam: I feel a lot of nostalgia for Montreal and England. But part of choosing where I live is knowing that I’m not going to miss the places I have moved from. I’m happy here.

IFOA: What was your favourite book as a child?

McAdam: I was most proud of reading James Clavell’s Tai-Pan when I was eight. Racy.

IFOA: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

McAdam: Maybe I’d be a builder. I feel like no matter what I would be doing, I would be a writer.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I often wonder…

McAdam: Why writers have to make so little money.

McAdam will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on March 27.

Five Questions with… Cathy Marie Buchanan

Style: "Neutral"Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls, answered our five questions.

IFOA: Tell us about the first time you saw Edgar Degas’ famous sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen.

Buchanan: I first saw Little Dancer Aged Fourteen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Painted Girls was well underway, and it was years after I’d happened on the television documentary The Private Life of a Masterpiece: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen that led me to write the novel. From the documentary I would learn that on its unveiling back in 1881, the public linked Little Dancer with a life of vice and young girls for sale. She was called a “flower of the gutter” and her face was said to be “imprinted with the detestable promise of every vice.” Such notions were underpinned by a long history of often less than noble liaisons between the young dancers at the Paris Opéra Ballet and the wealthy male season ticketholders. I’d also learn of the poverty of the girl—Marie van Goethem— who had modeled for the work. I was fascinated and knew her story was one I wanted to tell.

Buchanan, The Painted GirlsAs I stood before the sculpture that first time, what must have been a field trip from a girls’ school arrived. The little girls called out about how pretty she was. They stood in fourth position, hands clasped behind their backs, and raised their chins. They lined up to snap a picture with the young dancer they aspired to be. It was impossible not to ponder the dramatic shift in the public’s reaction to the artwork.

IFOA: The ballet offers Marie Van Goethem a chance to escape poverty. You danced as a child, too. What did the ballet do for you?

Buchanan: As a teenager, I spent four or five nights a week studying ballet in a studio where there were Degas ballet prints tacked to the walls. I felt a kinship with his dancers. Often he chose to paint them—no different than I was—stretching at the barre. I think it’s fair to say that without all the years in the ballet studio, I would not have been nearly as captivated by Private Life of a Masterpiece: Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, and I very much doubt that watching it would have set me on the path to writing The Painted Girls.

IFOA: When and where do you write?

Buchanan: I write in my home office and shut myself away there the minute my boys are out the door for school in the morning. I try to write for a minimum of four hours before turning to the promotional tasks that come with being an author.

IFOA: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Buchanan: I recently fell under the spell of Studio Saint-Ex by Ania Szado, a beautiful evocation of the fashion scene in 1940s Manhattan and a smart, sure-handed glimpse into the hearts and minds of two women in love with literary sensation Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: One day I will…

Buchanan: … see the original wax sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, from which the bronze repetitions that appear in galleries around the world were cast.

Buchanan will read at Authors at Harbourfront Centre on March 27.

Five Questions with… Linwood Barclay

(c) David Cooper

(c) David Cooper

Bestselling novelist Linwood Barclay, author of the new thriller Trust Your Eyes, answered our five questions.

IFOA: Are we right to assume the inspiration for Trust Your Eyes came from adventures with Google Earth?

Barclay: Yes, but it was one image in particular. The Google Earth car, when it passed the home of one of our friends, it captured a shot of their dog looking out the window. A cute, funny image. But I thought, what if Google had captured a much more sinister image, one that was just waiting to be found?

IFOA: We got scared just watching the trailer for Trust Your Eyes. Can you explain the pleasure you get out of scaring people?

Barclay: I don’t really think about trying to scare people. It’s more than I want to keep them on edge. I want to keep them turning pages, and to be surprised. The bottom line is, I want to keep them interested. As a writer, there’s no pleasure in boring people to death.

IFOA: What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Barclay: Diner-like breakfast, coffee, fireplace going, comfy couch, and a DVD-set of some fantastic series we’ve never seen before.

IFOA: If you could have lunch with any author, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Barclay: Tough one. I’ve been fortunate to have met several authors (some, sadly, no longer with us) whose work I greatly admire. I think lunch with Stephen King would be great. Wouldn’t even have to talk writing. We’d just trade stories of our favourite Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The Internet is…

Barclay: … keeping me from getting any work done.

Barclay will appear at Authors at Harbourfront Centre as part of the Crime Showcase on March 20.

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