Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Alissa York on mismatched teacups and canine converts

The author of The Naturalist answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Alissa York is the author of the novel The Naturalist. (

It's hard to tell whether author Alissa York is obsessed with the natural world, or whether it's nature that's obsessed with her. In her critically adored book Fauna, a group of misfits find a sense of community in an untamed swath of Toronto's Don Valley. Her latest novel, The Naturalist, takes readers on a trip up the Amazon, circa 1867.

Below, Alissa York answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Cordelia Strube asks, "What keeps you writing?"

The internal pressure of the narratives themselves — the bigger they grow, the more they need to get out of my head/heart and onto the page. (And then there's the fear that excising writing from my life would result in a psycho-spiritual black hole... ) 

2. Jordan Tannahill asks, "What is the most ridiculous thing you found yourself doing out of distraction/procrastination instead of writing?"

Driving to the edge of town in search of mismatched teacups. 

3. JJ Lee asks: "If you had to write a country song right now, what would the chorus be?"

I done my best but now I find 
my best done left me far behind.

4. Linda Spalding asks, "What moves you to tears?"

Those moments when the writing reveals connections that my daily brain is too small or too taken-up to perceive. 

5. Alison Pick asks, "What is your middle name?"

Ann — my mother's name. I like the idea of carrying her there, between the individual and familial aspects of myself. 

6. Lynn Crosbie asks, "Have you ever confronted, in your writing, the most shameful thing you have ever done? Should you?"

I'm wondering now, what is the most shameful thing I've ever done? Oh, right, there it is. And no, I haven't faced it on the page. I'm not sure if "should" comes into it: if a story comes along that requires me to do so, I will; if not, not a chance.

7. Saleema Nawaz asks, "What's the best response you've ever had from a reader?" 

Once, a self-confessed dog-hater told me she couldn't help but love Billy, the Newfie/Rottie cross in my novel Fauna. I counted that as a sizable coup.

8. Jalal Barzanji asks, "How did you feel when you finished your most recent book?"

As with every novel, I felt exhausted and elated, footloose and forlorn.