Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Dianne Warren on what comes to the surface, and what should stay buried

The author of Liberty Street answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Dianne Warren is the Governor General's Award winning author of Cool Water and Liberty Street. (Don Hall)

In Dianne Warren's latest novel Liberty Street, a middle-aged woman blurts out a decades-old secret and detonates the identity she spent most of her adult life constructing. 

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

1. Kim Thúy asks, "Doctors are often the worst patients. Are writers better readers, or worse?"

Both. I think we might be more curious about how someone else tells a story or uses language, so we read in layers. That makes us good readers in one sense, but also bad, because sometimes we forget to sit back and enjoy the ride. I often finish what was obviously a good book and ask myself, Why didn't I enjoy that more?

2. Robert Currie asks, "What book by someone else do you wish you had written, and why?"

None. I just don't think that way. I only wish to write the next one that is in my head, although there are many, many books I admire.

3. Linwood Barclay asks, "What keeps you from physically harming people who ask, "Would you have written anything I might have read?""

I have certainly been asked what kind of books I write, which is perhaps a more polite variation of the same question. Each to her own. I think some people are afraid of books that might be too "literary," so that's perhaps what they're trying to find out. And they don't want to be bored. I get that. Neither do I. 

4. Kenneth Oppel asks, "Would you ghostwrite a trashy book if you were offered enough?"

Probably not. I don't think I'd be very good at it. I would have to take it seriously if I agreed to do it, and then I and the book would get all serious and I'd get fired. And I couldn't do it quickly, which would be the only way. Otherwise, I'd be wasting my writing time. 

5. Charlotte Gill asks, "What does your afterlife look like?"

No afterlife. Reincarnation might be okay, but for a pretty selfish reason. It bugs me that I won't be around to see how things in this world play out. When I was a child I used to look at the sky at night and think about all the knowledge that is out there for humans to discover, and I'd get depressed that I wouldn't be around long to know everything. Since then I've discovered that my brain isn't big enough for everything anyway, but I still feel more or less the same way.

6. Joan Clark asks, "What part does the subconscious play when you are writing fiction?"

When I'm writing, images or incidents are always popping up or presenting themselves. I don't use them all but I do consider them and make meaning out of them if I do use them. I suppose they go from unconscious to conscious. I think that's how creativity works. It's not that mysterious in the end, because what you do with something is conscious and based on your knowledge of your own writing process. But some of the connections might come from the subconscious.

7. Rudy Wiebe asks, "Why do you write?"

I feel compelled to tell stories, and I get a lot of pleasure from trying to figure out what the story is and how I can manipulate it to come up with something that satisfies me. I like the surprises of writing fiction, the problem solving, the choices. It's like temporarily existing in a made-up world, or living in someone else's life. A book always ends up being harder work than you thought it was going to be, but there's a reward in that too, in being driven to make it good.

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

No, because my writing is not about me. Dealing with something shameful I've done sounds too much like therapy. I prefer to be repressed. Kind of joking, kind of not.