Why Rebecca Rosenblum reads fiction

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(Photo: McClelland & Stewart / Dave Starrett)

Acclaimed short story writer Rebecca Rosenblum released her gripping first novel, So Much Love,where protagonist Catherine Reindeer is abducted from the parking lot of the restaurant where she works as a waitress. After spending eight gruelling months in captivity, Reindeer returns to a life that is not her own, with traumatic memories that have damaged her beyond recognition. So Much Love is currently on the shortlist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award.

We asked Rosenblum to take the CBC's Magic 8 Q&A and answer eight questions from fellow authors.


1. Lorna Crozier asks, "How did growing up with (or without) siblings affect your writing or your desire to be a writer?"

My brother Ben was in the room when I opened these questions and said I should say, "My brother was always spurring me on - with actual spurs!" Ben was my first and best creative collaborator, from the mutual imaginary friend we had growing up to the TV sitcom scripts we wrote (for no real reason) a few years ago. He has also been a wonderful reader of my work and often looks at early drafts for me. We don't agree on everything, but it is a great comfort to me to know that if something makes me laugh, he would probably also find it funny (I laughed a lot at the "spurs" line above).

2. Charlotte Gill asks, "If you could ghostwrite the biography of a famous person, alive or dead, who would you choose?"

I had a hard time with this one - I don't honestly think I would make a very good biographer and I'd feel guilty inflicting that on someone rightly famous, but I would be too bored by writing about someone silly. I certainly am curious about what Justin Trudeau is thinking a lot of the time, so maybe him. If he would answer my questions with full disclosure, anyway.

3. Vincent Lam asks, "At some point in the writing of a book, have you ever had a real low point? What did you hold on to to get out of that place?"

So many low points, and mainly I held onto other people. I feel like a stronger person would say my vision for the book or the importance of the story, and those things have been incredibly important, but sometimes I need help from an editor, my writing group or my husband to help me dig myself out of the pit with concrete advice and suggestions or just some cheerleading and hugs.

4. Tracey Lindberg asks, "Your latest novel is made into a movie. Who is on the soundtrack?"

I've actually thought about this one before, but I'm not sure. Other things I've written kind of had their own soundtrack - what I was listening to as I wrote, or what the characters were into - but So Much Love was written largely in silence. There's some songs by The National that would fit, but I'm not entirely sure what else. Quiet, dreamy stuff, a bit dark.

5. Kate Taylor asks, "Why do think people read fiction?" 

Because we are story hungry? That's why I do it, anyway. When I talk to people, I want to know their stories, where they're from, what made them say that weird thing a minute ago, why they got divorced, what their relationship is like with their parents, their kids, their neighbours. But you never get to ask all those questions, or not of most people. In a book you get to follow a story, find out details, see what happens next. This is especially important I think when people/characters are very different from ourselves - there's more curiosity, more diffidence around asking questions and more need for fiction to help us make that empathetic leap.

6. Vivek Shraya asks, "Who is a Canadian writer you aspire to write like and why?" 

Well, I really liked She of the Mountains, so maybe you? Actually, there are scores of Canadian writers I would like to emulate in some way or another - the voices in this country are so various, there's so much to learn from almost every book I pick up. I find it hard to name favourites, but the last few Canadians I've read have all been inspiring: Kerry Lee Powell, Alexander MacLeod, Lynn Coady, Gary Barwin, Danila Botha, John Metcalf.

7. Ausma Zehanat Khan asks, "What form of writing would you love to attempt even though you're secretly terrified by it?"

I think most prose writers are intrigued by poetry - I certainly am. I struggled with it when I was younger and always told myself I'd go back to it someday, but it's pretty clear I have no gift for verse and it's depressing to work that hard and still wind up with something that sounds like "Row Row Row Your Boat." I'm lucky that I'm married to a writer who can write genuinely lovely and interesting poems, though - sometimes I'll ask him to write something for me because I just can't seem to express it myself. Not even just love poems - though I like those plenty - just things that seem to need a poetic form.

8. Dianne Warren asks, "How do you feel about the term CanLit? What do you think it means?" 

I'm fine with it. I think it means literature produced by people who have lived for some part of their lives in Canada, whether written during that period or after. I'm not fussed about whether the work is about cities or nature, or whether the narrative is set here or not. I think we have a whole generation of authors who claim to be breaking the mould of CanLit and now there just is no mould. Figuring out what links us all stylistically or thematically is for PhD candidates to try if they dare. I'm strictly geographical for this term.

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