Friday, September 17, 2010

20 Writerly Questions with Sandra Birdsell

Sandra Birdsell was born in 1942 in Winnipeg, the fifth of eleven children. She began writing when she was a girl, but it wasn’t until after she had three children (and a variety of jobs, including seamstress, cocktail waitress and Avon lady) that she started to earn a living as a writer. Since then she has written nine books – short story collections and novels – to critical acclaim, and has received numerous literary prizes and nominations, including a Giller Prize nomination in 2001 for The Russländer and Governor General’s Award nominations for The Two-Headed Calf (1997) and The Chrome Suite (1992). In 1993 Sandra Birdsell was awarded the Marion Engel Award, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary prizes, given to a woman writer in mid-career. Her new novel is Waiting for Joe. Sandra will be visiting Waterloo at our event on Tuesday October 26th at the Princess Cafe. Alissa York and Annabel Lyon will be joining her. Find out more HERE

1.How would you summarize your book in one sentence?

A man who believes that nothing happens without a reason winds up fleeing his creditors in a stolen RV, only to be stranded on a Wal-Mart parking lot where his and his wife’s fate are decided. (whew!)

2. How long did it take you to write this book?

4 years.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?

In a room at the back of my house that has lots of windows.

4. How do you choose your characters’ names?

I begin collecting names in the first year and sometimes will change a character’s name several times until it feels right.

5. How many drafts do you go through?

It’s hard to say. 8 complete drafts this time, but judging from the amount of paper I’ve gone through, likely more.

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?

A House for Mr. Biswas and the stories of Flannery O'Connor. Timeless and universal, our struggle to be human.

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?

Ed Norton would make a great Joe, he’s intelligent and so talented. And because I’d love to meet him. Hilary Swank for Laurie, who is not always what she appears to be.

8. What’s your favourite city in the world?

I don't know particular cities well, but I love being in New York, and Krakow, Vancouver.

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?

I would ask Maxim Gorky if he ever wanted to kill his grandfather. Seriously. I’ve read and reread his memoir wishing I could do the deed for him. And of course, being so amazed by Gorky’s gift to endure.

10. Do you listen to music while you write?

Yes. If so, what kind? Orchestral, New Age, Gregorian chants.

11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript?

My husband

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?


13. What’s on your nightstand right now?

Traveling With Herodotus, Vacant Possession, The Kindly Ones- but I don’t keep that one on my nightstand.

14. What is the first book you remember reading?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

15. Did you always want to be a writer?

The impulse to write was there from the start. In that way writing chose me. Life got in the way for many years, though.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write?

I drink coffee, but only eat when I need a break, fruit, walnuts, cold chicken, radishes, whatever’s in the fridge.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?

I use both laptop and pen & paper.

18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?

I had a panic attack. What had been private was about to become public. I felt naked suddenly.

19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?

The voice of the work usually determines that for me.

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?

A personal trainer, a Golden Retriever and Tolstoy’s wife. Well… perhaps.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails