Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Kathleen Winter has a giant pile of books she's been meaning to read

The author of Lost in September takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Kathleen Winter is an award-nominated author based in Montreal. Her novels include Lost in September and Annabel. (Roger LeMoyne)

In Kathleen Winter's novel, Lost in Septemberan ex-soldier named Jimmy wanders the streets of modern-day Montreal, suffering from PTSD and bearing a striking likeness to an 18th-century British general. The historic general in question is James Wolfe, war hero and frustrated artist, who died in a 1759 battle that would have a tremendous impact on Canada. The book is a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

In the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, Kathleen Winter, who is the author of the novel Annabel and the memoir Boundless, answers eight questions from eight writers.

1. Tracey Lindberg asks, "What book is on your nightstand right now? How long has it been there?"

Hot, Wet, & Shaking: How I learned to talk about sex by Kaleigh Trace. Love Street by Susan Perly. Lucky Peach magazine's gender issue from the summer of 2013. Jeramy Dodds' translation of The Poetic Edda. The Promise of Canada by Charlotte Gray. These are the most recent atop a towering pile. Mrs. Dalloway never leaves the pile. I think I spy Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders flying toward it. 

2. Heather O'Neill asks, "What's the strangest thing you've done while researching a book?"

For my new novel Lost in SeptemberI hired a self-proclaimed world-famous handwriting expert, a lovely man named Doris, to give me a psychological and forensic analysis of General James Wolfe's letters. 

3. Madeleine Thien asks, "When does talking to oneself become a problem? Or, when does not talking to oneself become a problem?"

I used to worry about it until I saw a writer doing it in a Montreal café and realized it didn't look that bad. It just looks like someone mumbling in an unending but dignified stream. 

4. Emma Donoghue asks, "What quality or tic in your writing, or flaw or dearth in your works as a whole, makes you blush?"

I have to check every manuscript for invasions of the words inchoate, subversive and magnolia.

5. Ivan Coyote asks, "If you weren't a writer, what would your dream job be?"

I would make vegetarian street food and cater events in urban parks out of a van. 

6. Beth Powning asks, "Describe the journey that you take after you have finished writing a book and are wondering what you are going to write next."

I'm in that place now. It involves lovingly hanging my handwashed laundry with wooden pegs on the clothesline and trying not to creep out strangers on my people-watching walks. 

7. Gary Barwin asks, "How or where does a piece of writing begin for you?"

I hear something or notice something whose story blooms in me like a jellyfish or passionflower or slow-motion fireworks.

8. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "If you could have any view just outside the room where you write, what would it be?"

There is a huge cottonwood tree in our backyard. From its top the crows and squirrels and cardinals have a 360 degree view of the following: downtown Montreal with its spangling lights, the Champlain bridge lacing its way over the Saint Lawrence River, the streets of Verdun (my neighbourhood) and the river's course both to the sea and inland to Ile des Rapides wild bird sanctuary and beyond. I'd love swaying in wind and rain and sun while I could see all those things. 


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