Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Emma Hooper on the patchwork quilt of people that have inspired her writing

Emma Hooper, author of Our Homesick Songs, takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Our Homesick Songs is a novel by Emma Hooper. (Submitted by Penguin Random House)

Emma Hooper's new novel, Our Homesick Songstakes place in Newfoundland in 1992 as a small community faces the disappearance of cod and the collapse of the local fishing industry. Residents of the fictional town of Big Running start leaving their homes to find work elsewhere. Finn, a 10-year-old boy, is one of town's last hold-outs and is doing everything he can to convince his family to stay. 

Our Homesick Songs is on the longlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Hooper, whose previous novel Etta and Otto and Russell and James was an international bestseller, takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A below and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.

1. Anne Michaels asks, "What do you hope to achieve in the span of your writing life?"

Well, my first and only real big goal was to publish something I was happy with, and that already happened, so everything else is a big, wonderful bonus… If I had to choose a secondary goal, I'd say it would be to be able to keep writing (things I'm happy with) for many decades more.

2. Meg Rosoff asks, "What's your favourite way to waste time?"

Eating. Especially eating cereal or licorice.

3. Canisia Lubrin asks, "How important is realism to you in your work?"

Not hugely, to be honest. It's important my work has a realism to itself, that each little universe created in a book or story follows its own rules and feels real in that way. One of the reasons I love writing fiction is because I get to make stuff up, invent and imagine. Yes, I know coyotes don't talk in real life, and there are no such things as ghosts or mermaids. But fiction lets you leave real life behind; isn't that the point?

4. S.K. Ali asks, "What does your outlining process look like?"

A piece of paper with some names and lines drawn on it that I will definitely forget about once I'm 1,000 words in and lose entirely by 5,000.

5. JJ Lee asks, "What time do you first brush your teeth when writing?"

This is an interesting question… I guess it's assuming I get up and write first thing in the morning, like a job? Sadly, I have no such routine. Actually, my tooth brushing schedule is way more reliable than my writing one. Brush teeth in the morning, sometimes before getting the kid to nursery, sometimes after and then again before bed. And sometimes in between if I/my teeth feel gross. As for writing: whenever the heck I can, rarely at the same time two days in a row, unless I'm on a special writing holiday of some kind…

6. Eden Robinson asks, "Who was your most influential mentor?"

To be honest there was no one such person. Instead there was a patchwork quilt of mentors of various kinds who each offered their own crucial bit of support. My manic grandfather who showed me it was possible to work three jobs and stay fit and smile all at once, my cliché of a brilliant high school English teacher, the numerous university profs who encouraged and guided me, the music teachers, the parents, the siblings, older and younger, on and on. I'm just lucky to have been surrounded with inspiring and generous people for so much of my development.

7. Gregory Scofield asks, "If you could change one thing about anything you've written, what would it be? And why?"

I'd find a way to remove the memory of my mortifyingly bad (and overly personal) first novel (unpublished, thank God) from both my own brain and that of anyone who had to misfortune of exposure to it.

8. Douglas Coupland asks, "What does your family think of you being a writer?"

My parents are proud and supportive, as they have always been. My partner is smug in a I-told-you-so kind of way, because, well, he believed in me and all this long before I really did. My kids are confused and slightly betrayed re: why I disappear for these little streaks of hours or, sometimes, days, but like that I have books with my own picture in them.


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