Annabel Lyon takes the Magic 8
The author of The Golden Mean and the just-released The Sweet Girl tackles questions from the Canadian literati on glass houses, and the day job that's helped her writing the most.
1. Shyam Selvadurai asks, “What is the hardest thing about being a writer?”
It’s not that hard to be a Canadian writer. If I were a writer in Afghanistan or North Korea, I might find things to complain about.
2. Helen Humphreys asks, “If you weren't a writer, what would you be, and why?”
A university professor, because I could still have a life built around books.
3. Peter Robinson asks, “How important is the sense of place in your work?”
Not super important. When I use an urban setting it’s usually Vancouver because that’s what I know, but I’m not a big landscape-describer.
4. Sharon Butala asks, “Do you know how the heck we separate the writer-self from the writer's life, that is, the writing from the writer's person?”
I think we file this one under “glass houses: people living therein not throwing stones.” No?
5. Helen Humphreys asks, “What is the best piece of advice about writing that you have ever received?”
Treat it like a job. You work on days you feel like it; you work on days you don’t. Real adults don’t procrastinate.
6. Timothy Taylor asks, “No seriously: how important have your other work choices—i.e. the things you’ve done to make money—been to your literary writing?”
Teaching writing has been important to my literary work. I believe strongly in the value of making writing a conscious process. You should know what your tools are, and how to use them well.
7. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, “Do you think you or your books would have been successful, say... fifty or a hundred years ago? Or has the style of writing changed too much in the passing decades?”
I have no idea.
8. Greg Hollingshead asks, “Auberon Waugh (by way of Randall Jarrell) has described the novel as a story that has something wrong with it. If you agree, do you think it’s because the novel is a difficult literary form to get right or because as a literary form it has something wrong with it? If so, why or what?”
No, I don’t agree. Some stories need a lot of time and space to get told. Some don’t.
Annabel Lyon's latest novel is The Sweet Girl. Her first novel, The Golden Mean, was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General's Award, the Ethel Wilson Prize, and the Commonwealth Prize. Winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Prize, The Golden Mean has been translated into fourteen languages and became a #1 bestseller in Canada. Among Lyon's other work is Oxygen, a short story collection nominated for the Danuta Gleed Award, and The Best Thing for You, a collection of novellas that was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. She lives in Vancouver with her partner and two children.
Photo credit: Phillip Chin