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8 random questions, crowdsourced from Canadian authors.

Miriam Toews on the war she didn't know she was winning

The author of All My Puny Sorrows, winner of the 2014 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, fields questions from the Canadian literati on Mennonite backlash and whatever "tree ball" is.

1. Cathy Marie Buchanan asks: How do you know when your book is finished?
When I stop having frustrating dreams and when my head stops hurting and I stop seeing “signs” everywhere and I can hear what other people are saying to me and also birds singing.

2. Zsuzsi Gartner asks: What are you so terrified of?
Something causing great pain to my loved ones.

3. Sharon Butala asks: What do you think of the age-old notion that the best writing comes out of a life led outside the bourgeoisie, where so-called "rules" of normal middle-class life are deliberately broken and impulse is your guide, rather than duty or convention?
I think f--kin’ A plus! I think no shit, Sherlock!

4. Helen Humphreys asks: If you write in a room with a window, what is the view out of that window?
An old cinder-block auto parts factory stupidly being turned into billion-dollar condos and blocking out my Western sky. 

5. Andrew Pyper asks: Have you ever been surprised—deeply and honestly shockedby the violence of a reader's reaction to your work, whether positive or negative?
Yes, both. Some department head at a local Mennonite college just west of here declared that if they don’t educate their students “properly” about what it is to be a Mennonite, then “Miriam Toews wins.” I didn’t know I was at war. 

6. Vincent Lam asks: What is your favourite editorial stage, and your favourite type of editorial conversation?
The one at the very end when my editor says let’s put this bad boy to bed. Like when Chaucer said: Fly away, little book. 

7. Lorna Crozier asks: If you weren’t sitting at your desk writing, what would you be doing instead?
Playing Tree Ball, of course.

8. Pasha Malla asks: Which would be preferable: a life of relative contentment and comfort, and having your books die alongside you, or being miserable and destitute, and having your books read long after you are dead?
Haha, the first. Hands down.

Photo credit: Carol Loewen, courtesy of Random House of Canada

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Miriam Toews is the author of All My Puny Sorrows, winner of the 2014 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her 2004 novel, A Complicated Kindness, won the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the 2006 edition of Canada Reads. Her book, The Flying Troutman, won the 2008 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

Also read: Miriam Toews reflects on startling changes to the Mennonite prairie village of her childhood in "My Hometown" »

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