Five Questions with… Lesley Livingston

Lesley Livingston, author of Descendant and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Lesley on October 29! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

IFOA: Descendant finds heroine Mason Starling stranded in Asgard. What sparked your interest in Norse mythology?

Lesley Livingston

(c) John Rait

Lesley Livingston: I think I first fell in love with these stories when I stumbled across an illustrated book in my elementary school library: D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. It was full of all these strange, cheerfully grim tales of gods and monsters, and the illustrations were weird and compelling and vibrant. I think I was the only kid that took that book out of the library for a full year because I just kept renewing and renewing it. I think the school librarian thought I was a little nuts.

IFOA: This is the second book in your Starling trilogy. What do you find most challenging about writing a series?

Livingston: As the story begins to grow beyond the pages of book one, it sometimes gets a little hard keeping track of all the threads you’ve set upon the loom. At the same time, though, I usually find that when it seems like I’ve written myself into a corner, all I have to do is look to the first book and find the places where I have already (sometimes completely unconsciously) left myself breadcrumb trails (and loopholes and wiggle room and secret keys!), and then the story falls back into place. How’s that for a paragraph chock-full of mixed metaphors?!

IFOA: How do you select names for your characters?

Livingston: Generally speaking, my characters tend to arrive with names already attached. Mason Starling, for example, was always that and it was only later on in the writing process that I discovered that her name is actually obliquely significant to her story. Fennrys, of course, was named after the legendary Fenris Wolf of Norse myth, so that one was a no-brainer. On the rare occasion when I’ve given a character the wrong name at the outset, I find them really hard to write about. Heather Palmerston originally had a different first name and it made it almost impossible to work through her scenes because it was just so jarring to her real character. Once I realized where I’d gone wrong, I started to hear her voice very clearly.

IFOA: What did you like to read as a young adult?

Livingston: Everything! No, really, I was a voracious reader and I could usually make my way through anything from comic books to thrillers to romances to history books. Of course, it’s probably no surprise that my favourites could usually be found shelved in the fantasy and science fiction sections of the bookstore. I have always had a love of that kind of story—everything from fairy tales and mythology to high fantasy to urban paranormal to space operas. The books that had the most impact on me as a teen were Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry (a marvelous, epic high fantasy), Firelord (a realistic retelling of the Arthurian legend) and Anne McCaffery’s Pern series—yay for space dragons!

IFOA: You’re a founding member and principle performer of Tempest Theatre Group. What do you love most about acting?

Livingston: In fact, I haven’t been able to do any acting for the last few years because of all the books I’ve been writing! I admit that I’m getting a bit itchy to get back on the stage. The best thing about acting is being able to slide completely into the skin of another character—it’s like writing, only in real time! Also, most of what I performed was Shakespeare and those really are the best plays in the world for an actor to sink their teeth into. The words, the character, the worlds—it’s a banquet.

Lesley Livingston is an actress and author of the award-winning Wondrous Strange trilogy for young adult readers. She will be reading from her new novel with author Evan Munday on October 29 at 10:30am.

Five Questions with… Isabel Greenberg

Isabel Greenberg, author of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Isabel on October 29! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

IFOA: The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is your first graphic novel. What inspired you to write it?

Isabel Greenberg

(c) Lydia Garnett

Isabel Greenberg: I wrote a short story called “Love in a Very Cold Climate,” and that was kind of the start of The Encyclopedia. I had an idea of writing stories about an imagined world with different cultures and peoples. I had lots of little stories planned, but once I wrote “Cold Climate,” I realized who I wanted my protagonist to be, and how to frame the disconnected stories into a proper narrative.

IFOA: What comes first for you: an illustration or text?

Greenberg: I think the story comes first, but the actual text that you see on the comic often changes as I draw—particularly the dialogue. I generally start with a story, then a script, then I thumbnail and pencil and then ink. As I go through the stages, things naturally change. I think that the illustrations and the text are equally important in a comic; you cannot have one without the other.

IFOA: Did you read comics as a child? Did you have a favourite?

Greenberg: As a young child I read the Beano and Tintin comics. But I stopped reading comics until I was in my late teens. The first comic I bought was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I loved it and started buying comics after that. I sort of wanted to write them, but knew I couldn’t really draw in a “typical” comic way. It wasn’t until after I read Persepolis that I decided I could do it myself.

IFOA: What advice would you give to aspiring graphic novelists?

Greenberg: Make sure you have a good story to tell! And then do it!

IFOA: What’s next for you?

Greenberg: I am planning a sequel to The Encyclopedia, and in the meantime, I am working on some self-published mini comics.

Isabel Greenberg is a 25-year-old writer and illustrator living in North London. She will be reading from her debut graphic novel with authors Eleanor Catton, Xiaolu Guo, Joanna Kavenna and Marisha Pessl on October 29 at 8pm.

Five Questions with… Shani Boianjiu

Shani Boianjiu, author of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Shani on October 27! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

IFOA: The People of Forever Are Not Afraid chronicles the experiences of several young men and women in the I.D.F. Do you have a favourite of these characters?

Shani Boianjiu: Avishag, Lea and Hagar are my favorite characters. Shani Boianjiu

IFOA: When did you decide to write about your experiences over those two years in the I.D.F.?

Boianjiu: I would not say my book is necessarily just about female soldiers in the I.D.F., and it is most certainly not a book about my own experiences in the IDF. It is a work of fiction, and there are many characters in it that are not soldiers and not even Israeli. Several of the Israeli female characters are not soldiers in several of the chapters in the book. I never sat down and said, “I shall now write a novel.” I just happened to write one word, and then another. And then before I knew it, I had something that looked like one day it could be a novel.

IFOA: What did you consider when choosing the title for your novel?

Boianjiu: It chose me, but I considered language, overall appropriateness for what was happening in the book, sound and emotion.

IFOA: You have said that every piece of your writing “represents the music it could never quite become.” Is there a song that is particularly meaningful or inspirational to you?

Boianjiu: I have mentioned, elsewhere, many of the songs I listened to as I was writing, although there are thousands of others, of course. But one song that is sort of (in an extremely indirect way) parodied in the book and that I haven’t mentioned in interviews before, is the song “Still Alive” written by Jonathan Coulton and performed by Ellen McLain.

IFOA: What are you working on now?

Boianjiu: A vast novel that is at the same time also very small. And that will try to silence the least amount of people in the world as possible. Those are at least some of the futile hopes.

Shani Boianjiu is one of the youngest writers on Random House of Canada’s prestigious Bond Street Books list. She will be discussing her riveting debut novel with award-winning writer and filmmaker David Bezmozgis on October 27 at 1pm.

Five Questions with… Krista Bridge

Krista Bridge, author of The Eliot Girls and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Krista on October 27! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

IFOA: The Eliot Girls follows both 15-year-old Audrey and her mother during a year at George Eliot Academy. Whose story did you enjoy writing more?

Krista Bridge

(c) Jacklyn Atlas

Krista Bridge: It surprises most people to hear that I more enjoyed writing the story of Ruth, Audrey’s mother, mainly because it was much easier to write about a grown woman having an affair than a confused teenager trying to fit in. Trying to remember the experience of being a teenager (although the Audrey character is very different to me), and then to render that in fiction, was so difficult. Everyone knows that adolescence is both awful and exhilarating, but trying to create the actual experience of that on the page was a challenge. Also, because I attended private schools, I found that at first I was trying to create fiction out of real memories—I imagined that I could almost translate the experience—but when I realized I couldn’t, and that only trivial autobiographical details would be useful, I felt much freer.

IFOA: You attended both public and private school. How did the experiences differ?

Bridge: The experiences were vastly different in almost every way. I only went to a public school for my final two years of high school, and though the experience of going to a much larger school was daunting at first, I found it freeing. The private school I went to for most of my formative years had only four hundred students between grades one and thirteen; my public high school had two thousand. My private school was all girls, and it was gossipy and competitive and enclosed. At my public school, the diversity of the student population, not only racially but also socioeconomically, opened my eyes. My family was not wealthy, but I had never met anyone who lived in an apartment before going to a public school.

IFOA: Beginning, middle or end—which do you find the most challenging to write?

Bridge: The beginning, by far. I wasted a lot of time (over a year) fussing over different beginnings, trying to get it exactly right. I now know it is impossible to get a beginning right so early in the process and that whatever beginning you start out with will not end up as your beginning. I kept rewriting the first couple of chapters from different points of view and struggled with how many points of view to include in the book. When I finally got past the beginning, writing got easier—but the whole process was really difficult. I’d only written short stories before. I referred to The Eliot Girls as “the manuscript” rather than “the novel” the whole time I was writing because I never really believed it would come together into a novel.

IFOA: You live in Toronto and The Eliot Girls is set here. What do you love most about this city?

Bridge: I’ve never imagined living anywhere else, yet I’ve never thought much about what I love about the city. I’ve always taken it for granted as the place where I live. The things I love about the city now are connected to my life as a parent. I love my neighbourhood, Riverdale, and the sense of community there, the leafy streets, the various farmers’ markets nearby, great parks for my kids, the ROM. So close to home, there are amazing restaurants and shops, but also trails, Evergreen BrickWorks. At the base of my street is the most beautiful view of the whole city spread out before you.

IFOA: Please complete this sentence: Bullying occurs because…

Bridge: We’re human. Our lust for our own needs outweighs our better judgment.

Krista Bridge is the author of The Virgin Spy and The Eliot Girls, which has been shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. She will be discussing the differences between writing and publishing in Ontario and Quebec on October 27 at 2pm with author Perrine Leblanc.

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.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Janet on October 26! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

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.

 

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