Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Kirstie McLellan Day reveals the most surprising part about writing a book with Wayne Gretzky

The co-author of some of the bestselling books of the past decade, including 99: Stories of the Game, answers eight questions from eight fellow authors.
Kirstie McLellan Day co-authored the bestselling book, 99: Stories of the Game, with Wayne Gretzky. (Kirstie McLellan Day)

Kirstie McLellan Day is one of Canada's most successful and prolific authors. In fact, she has FIVE books on the list of 150 bestselling Canadian books of the past 10 years, second only to Robert Munsch. Her secret? Becoming the go-to co-writer for some of Canada's most celebrated names in hockey. Her books include Playing With Fire with Theo Fleury, 99: Stories of the Game with Wayne Gretzky, and Cornered and Hockey Towns with Ron MacLean.

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

1. V­­incent Lam asks, "What is your favourite editorial stage, and your favorite type of  editorial conversation?"

Jim Gifford, my editor at Harper Collins, is my friend and mentor. His steady hand has guided me through many stages of my career. My favorite editorial stage is the pitch, coming up with an idea and pitching it to Jim. And that leads to my favorite editorial conversation, shaping and refining that pitch with him until we have what we think is a winner.

2. Shani Mootoo asks, "What was the best surprise you had in the process of writing your latest published book?"

My latest published book is one I wrote with Wayne Gretzky called 99: Stories of the Game. The best surprise in working on it was that although I was aware Wayne has a great sense of humour and likes to laugh, I had no idea how wickedly funny he is. 

3. Anthony Bidulka asks, "What book do you wish you'd written?"

Ooo boy, there are so many. I write non fiction so in that genre, I'd say Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.  If we are talking North American fiction, I wish I'd written The Main by Trevanian (pen name for Rodney William Whitaker).

4. Jalal Barzanji asks, "What is the purpose of writing and what changes does your writing bring to your life?"

I can't say I'm driven by purpose. But I do fiddle around with people I meet, or things I see, or hear or do and create stories in my head. And because these are just common human experiences, I'm able to use the best bits in the books.

5. Larry Tremblay asks, "Could you imagine never writing again?"

Hi Larry. If I couldn't write, my brain would be a jumble of thoughts and ideas constantly banging on my skull. I think I'd go mad.

6. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "If you were to have a dinner party, which two characters from everything you've created, would you like to have sit at your dining room table and chat with?"

There are times I throw a blanket over my id, ego and superego and literally look at the world through the eyes of my co-writers. I write their stories, which means I have to go deep into their heads. So, I've had the privilege of sitting with each of them around a dining room table. That's led to some fascinating, unfettered conversations with Theoren Fleury, Wayne Gretzky, Bob Probert, Marty McSorley, Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey.

7. Nicole Lundrigan asks, "Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what sort?"

When I first started writing, I'd grab any time I could while taking care of my five kids. You know, 10 minutes while they were in the tub, half an hour while sitting outside in the car waiting for the end of a dance or drum lesson, 20 minutes while my hair colour processed. Because writing time was so rare, I learned to shut everything out and focus. So, no, I don't listen to anything while I write. I'd just tune it out anyway.

8. Mariko Tamaki asks, "How much of your writing process involves actual physical writing these days? Do you go right to the computer or do you work things out with pen and ink first?"

When I interview the guys I write with, not only do I record every conversation, I take notes. Pen and paper help me process what they are saying. But I do all the actual writing on computer.


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