Canada Reads·My Life in Books

The books and authors Canada Reads author C.L. Polk loved reading

Olympian and broadcaster Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021. 
The Midnight Bargain is a book by C.L. Polk. (Erewhon Books, Mike Tan)

C.L. Polk is a fantasy writer from Calgary. They are the author of the novels Witchmark, Stormsong and The Midnight Bargain. Witchmark, their first book, won the 2019 World Fantasy Award for best novel. 

The Midnight Bargain is their latest novel. Olympian and broadcaster Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain on Canada Reads 2021. 

For Polk, reading started at an early age and they quickly got attached to books: "My mother read to me before I knew how to read. It was how she convinced me to go to sleep. And I loved books so much that I would play with them — and then I could read them, and then it was over!"

Polk says the political and social events of the past year have shown how important it is to get into the pages of a book: "I'm kind of an internet extrovert. I connect with a lot of people every day online — and sometimes I think my reading time is something that I need in order to kind of get away from that."

Polk spoke with CBC Books about the books that they loved reading.

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles was the second children's novel ever written by Julie Andrews, the star of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images, HarperCollins)

"We read it in school. It was this neat kind of quest story. The children are transported to a magic land that can only be reached by the imagination. 

It's a quest fantasy. It's really wonderful. It really captured my imagination.

"But we had a bit of a discussion about whether the Whangdoodle's world was a real place you imagined yourself to be or if they were just kind of sharing and collaborating on a story. I was firmly in the camp of Whangdoodle's land is real. 

"It's a quest fantasy. It's really wonderful. It captured my imagination. And when I found out the book was written by Julie Andrews, I was pretty thrilled."

Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was a bestselling British novelist, short-story writer, poet, screenwriter and wartime fighter pilot. (Puffin Books, Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Getty Images)

"We read a lot of Roald Dahl as a kid. But while a lot of people will say Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, my favourite book was actually Danny, the Champion of the World, because it was fun. 

"Danny and his father live in a trailer in the woods and they decide that what they want to do is to be great pheasant hunters. It's very clever, this book."

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is part of YA science fiction series Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle. (AP Photo/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Sigrid Estrada/Penguin Random House)

"This book sealed the deal for me. It was another book that we read in class, and that was basically it for me.

"I was a science fiction and fantasy reader at that point." 

Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was a British science fiction and fantasy writer. (Penguin Random House)

"I continued to read these franchise series books like Sweet Valley High and  R.L. Stine's Goosebumps. I was a voracious reader. I had such an appetite for books. I read so many things. That continued through high school, where I had an Anne Rice phase and read all her books.

I rarely ran into a fellow reader who hadn't heard of her, or who hadn't read any of her books, but somehow she just didn't get the prominence she deserved.

"Tanith Lee, who is a British writer, is the science fiction and fantasy author who is nearest and dearest to my heart. 

"She wrote a ton of books. I rarely ran into a fellow reader who hadn't heard of her, or who hadn't read any of her books, but somehow she just didn't get the prominence she deserved."

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is an American author and puppeteer. (Mary Robinette Kowal, Tor Books)

"I know a lot of people compare The Midnight Bargain to Jane Austen novels and certainly, looking at the legacy of my reading life, Austen is a part of The Midnight Bargain

It's much in tribute to Jane Austen. I love this book.

"But what inspired me more directly was Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. It's very much a book that reminds you of Austen — there's a strong influence there, right down to the choices in language, and the way the author chooses what people say. 

"I love this book. I kept thinking about it for years and years." 

Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole

Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole are known for their bestselling historical and sci-fi/fantasy romance fiction. (Jovanka Novakovic, alyssacole.com)

"I think my favourite romance authors are kind of a toss up. It's Courtney Milan, who writes a lot of historical romance novels, or it's Alyssa Cole, who writes a bit of everything. Cole's written historical novels and she writes a lot of contemporary novels. I love her contemporary novels. 

I was thinking about what Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole did in their books when I was writing The Midnight Bargain.

"I love her characters and the journeys that they go through in these books. I was thinking about what Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole did in their books when I was writing The Midnight Bargain."

Books by women fantasy/sci-fi authors

From left: Fantasy/sci-fi authors Kate Elliott, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Bear and Juliet Marillier. (April Quintanilla, twitter.com/TanyaHuff, Kyle Cassidy, julietmarillier.com)

"Compared to the big legacy names of fantasy writers, my reading experience of fantasy is more decades and decades of women who have written science fiction and fantasy.

"You have all of these big blockbusters that everybody has read, but I was reading books by women like Kate Elliott, Tanya Huff, Elizabeth Bear and Juliet Marillier. 

"I love these books so much."

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Nora K. Jemisin is an American speculative fiction writer. (Orbit/Laura Hanifin)

"I would be remiss if I didn't talk about N.K. Jemisin, who's probably already a legend.

"I read her first book series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I liked that. But I read The Fifth Season and quite frankly, she blew us all away. She knocked it out of the park. She did something so completely thoughtful with the world-building, the story, the characterization, the structure of the book and the narrative voices.

She did something so completely thoughtful with the world-building, the story, the characterization, the structure of the book and the narrative voices.

"For a lot of writers that I know, when they read books, they can't help that when reading a story, they have a little copy editor in their head that pipes up and says, 'I would have written this sentence differently, I would have done this, I would have done that.'  I have learned to live with it. 

"When I read The Fifth Season, that little voice did not pipe up once. The prose is unbelievably good. She's amazing."

C.L. Polk's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now