Books·Magic 8 Q&A

How Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted author Zoey Leigh Peterson procrastinates

The Scotiabank Giller Prize-longlisted author answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
Zoey Leigh Peterson is the author of the novel Next Year, For Sure. (Doubleday Canada/Vivienne McMaster)

Zoey Leigh Peterson has made the Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist for her debut novel, Next Year, For Sure. In Next Year, For Sure, a thirty-something couple who seems to have it all decides to become nonmonogamous in an attempt to figure out if they are indeed happy. 

We asked Peterson to take the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answer eight randomly selected questions from eight authors.

1. Samuel Archibald asks, "Cormac McCarthy once said: 'I felt early on I wasn't going to be a respectable citizen.' When did that realization come to you?"

My high school principal tried to expel me for publishing an underground newspaper. It kind of spiralled from there.

2. Erin Bow asks, "How do you know if a new project has enough juice in it to be a novel (or other long-form piece)?"

First, I try to squash the idea for a year or two. If that doesn't work, I try to squish it into a short story. If it can't be squashed or squished, I know it has to be a book.

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

I suppose I do what we all do: I make up songs on the ukulele and sing them to my sleeping dog.

4. Paul Yee asks, "Do you find that readers read more into your work than you had intended?"

They sometimes draw very different conclusions than I would, but I really want people to climb inside my stories and make themselves at home. I'm okay with them rearranging the furniture.

5. Diane Warren asks, "Do you like doing public readings? Why or why not?"

I love public readings. The hardest thing about writing a book is having to spend all those years alone in your room, cut off from readers. Imagine picking up a telephone and talking into it for five years straight before the person on the other end says something back.

6. Shani Mootoo asks, "Do you find that you are influenced in any aspect of your writing by other art forms? If so, which and how. If not, why not?"

Music is a huge influence on everything I do. I can't listen while I write, but I always listen before I write, and I'll often take breaks to hear some specific song. I listen to music the way a painter mixes colours: "I need some yellow ochre over here… mix in a little bone white at edges… and a slash of crimson right here."

7. Lawrence Hill asks, "If you could start your life all over again and writing were not an option, what work would you most love to do?"

I'd probably go back to what I was before — house cleaner by day, musician by night. And in my free time, I'd study to be a physiotherapist. Or a veterinarian. Or a dramaturge. Or a mechanical engineer. Let me get back to you.

8. Camilla Gibb asks, "What's the best advice you've been given in your writing life?"

I've had some wonderful mentors, but the best advice I've ever received is what my partner tells me every time she catches me singing to the dog. "Go write your novel."


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