Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Anna Porter thinks you should avoid self-publishing and reading your book in translation

The author of The Appraisal takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Anna Porter is the author of the novel The Appraisal. (Charles Scott)

Anna Porter was born in Budapest, Hungary, studied in New Zealand and began her publishing career in London, England. After immigrating to Canada in 1970, Porter began working for McClelland & Stewart before opening her own publishing company, Key Porter Books. She was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 for her efforts in bringing Canadian literature to international markets.

Porter is also an author. Her latest novel, The Appraisal, follows an art expert who becomes entangled in corruption while trying to close a deal in Budapest.

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

1. Alisa Smith asks, "If you could pick an era to live and write in, when would it be?"

The 1970s and early 1980s in Canada.

 2. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family — parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc. — when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write?"

Sometimes, but only when their comments and/or suggestions seem to fall into a "Why-didn't-I-think-of-that?" category.

3. Jocelyn Parr asks, "Do you think that your politics inform your writing? If so, how? If not, what does it mean to you to think of your politics as separate from your writing life?"

Yes, my politics do inform my writing. My new book, The Appraisal, is a thriller set in the virulently corrupt milieu of east-Central Europe, a land where democracy has turned into kleptocracy for the few and disillusion for the many.

4. Emil Sher asks, "Would you recommend self-publishing to first-time authors or encourage them to follow the traditional route of submitting their work to established publishing houses, large and small?"

I would recommend submitting to publishing houses, and going to the self-publishing route only if you do not get a reasonable offer. Self-publishing is exhausting and requires a vast amount of self-promotion that most writers find difficult.

5. Melanie Mah asks, "What are your daily rituals other than writing?" 

No rituals other than lots of coffee. But I do have weekly rituals that include dogs, kids, shopping, cooking and a 94-year-old mother.

6. Matti Friedman asks, "What's the most beautiful language other than English?"


7. Xue Yiwei asks, "Would you feel comfortable with the success of your book translated into a language you have no knowledge of?"

Yes. Several of my books have been translated into languages I can't read. One piece of advice for writers: avoid reading your book translated into a language you understand.

8. Eric Walters asks, "What would you like to experience — as research — for a new book?"