Cordelia Strube's 9 novels an unlikely feat


First aired on the Sunday Edition (13/01/13)

Download Flash Player to view this content.

Cordelia Strube was never going to be a writer. Yet, in 18 years, she has written nine novels -- one of which was longlisted for the Giller prize.

"I was never going to be a writer," Strube told CBC's the Sunday Edition. "It would never have occurred to me that I would write nine novels. Ever. Never."

Strube grew up in Montreal among a moderately bookish family. Her parents had lots of books around the house, but not many of their six children were bookworms. Then Strube met a librarian -- one she later based a character on -- who introduced her to all the great authors. "These books just opened the world for me," said Strube.

Yet, she still didn't write. Instead, she became an actor. Ultimately she became frustrated with being typecast as the sidekick. The women she played never had any depth. So, she thought, "rather than sitting around whining, I better take a swing at this" and became an award-winning radio playwright. The novels would come later.

Now, her latest book, Milosz, explores the dark subject matter that's become familiar territory for Strube's narratives. She writes about families in crisis and chaos, which she says is realistic.

"You scratch below the surface and there is always trouble," she said. "To me that is the stuff of fiction."

Milosz's plot includes a married couple struggling to raise their 11-year-old autistic son, and a boy worrying about his father, who is in the advanced stages of dementia.

Still, Strube's books are funny and, she says, that's the only way to bring the readers into the dark matters she explores. "Believe me, I'm not comparing myself to Shakespeare," she said. "But, he tempers all his heavy stuff with humour."

Strube, who now teaches writing workshops at Toronto's Ryerson University, offered some insight into how she managed to write so many novels. She said she:

  • Does lots of reading and research before tackling complicated characters.
  • Listens to people's stories and looks for "humans dealing with tremendous obstacles and showing a kind of nobility."
  • Finds influence in her own experiences, like going to art exhibitions.
  • Forgets about the writing and gets on with the story.
  • Works every day, for about two to three hours.
"That's my thing: is that I keep at it regularly," she said. "When I finish one book, I'm way into the next one."

Related links: