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Nancy Richler takes the Magic 8

The author of the 2012 Giller-shortlisted novel The Imposter Bride answers questions from the Canadian literati on the song she wishes she'd written and why she'd never have dinner with her own characters.

1. Lorna Crozier asks, “If you could come back as a musician, what area of music would you choose, and are you secretly a song writer, and if so, what is your song about?
I’d be a violinist in a string quartet. I’m not secretly a songwriter, but if I were I would wish I had written Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah."

2. Greg Hollingshead asks, “Name three Canadian writers you believe should be more widely read than they are. Why?”
Aryeh Lev Stollman. He lives in New York now but was raised in Ontario and his first novel, The Far Euphrates, is set in Windsor so I think he qualifies as Canadian. The Far Euphrates is the book of his that I would most recommend. I reread it every few years and the emotional impact of it only deepens. He writes about the most complicated, difficult and mysterious aspects of life with a grace and beauty that is all the more powerful for its quietness. 
Lydia Kwa. She’s a writer who trusts her readers’ intelligence and is unafraid to lead them into previously uncharted territory. Everything she writes is interesting.
Jen Sookfong Lee. I read her debut novel, The End of East, and found it memorable and impressive, both as a drama of family life and as a portrayal of the Chinese community In Vancouver from the 1910s to the present day. It changed the way I saw and inhabited Vancouver.

3. Greg Hollingshead asks, “What role does self-doubt play in your life as a writer?” 
A double-edged one. A bit of self-doubt spurs me, inspires me to push harder, to push beyond what I think are my limits. Too much, though, paralyzes me or has me putting my writing away in a drawer.

4. Kate Pullinger asks, “Is there anything in your own life that you would never write about?” 
There are always things in my own life that I don’t want to write about, but they shift and change over time. What I consider off limits in an unchanging way are private things in the lives of those close to me. I’m not a writer who thinks that everything is fair game and that those who are intimate with a writer should expect to find themselves exposed. I respect the privacy of friends and family members.

5. Timothy Taylor asks, “Are video games good for children?” 
I suppose it depends on the particular child and the particular game, but I don’t actually have an opinion about this.

6. Pasha Malla asks, “Please quote one egregiously stupid criticism—either specific or general—of your writing, and address, refute or mock it.” 
My writing has not been criticized in a way I find egregious. There have been some reviews I’ve found disappointing, in that I’ve felt the reviewer misunderstood something, but none of those reviews were thoughtless or malicious. I had a review of my first book that I found a bit stupid and narrow in its vision, but that was 17 years ago now so thankfully I can no longer remember what the reviewer said!

7. Sharon Butala asks, “Do you ever feel trapped by your writing life and wish you could escape?” 
Never. I didn’t start writing in a serious way until I was in my thirties and there’s no work I enjoy more than struggling with words and sentences to tell the story I want to tell and to capture precisely what I want to say. When I have nothing I feel compelled to write I simply don’t write, but I’m always happy when a new voice or story comes to me.

8. Gail Bowen asks, “You are hosting a dinner party. Choose seven characters that you've created to join you at table. Feel free to bring people back from the dead. Why did you choose these particular guests?" 
I wouldn’t be interested in having dinner any of the characters I’ve created—I’ve already spent enough time with them!  

Nancy Richler's latest novel, The Imposter Bride, is shortlisted for the 2012 Giller Prize. Her first novel, Throwaway Angels, was published in 1996 and was shortlisted for the 1997 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Crime Novel. Her second novel, Your Mouth Is Lovely, won the 2003 Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction and Italy’s 2004 Adei-Wizo Prize. It has been translated into seven languages. Born in Montreal, Nancy Richler lived for many years in Vancouver but has recently returned to her hometown. 

Photo credit: Michael Beaulieu

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