Lynn Crosbie on literary doppelgangers and the Stepford curse
Lynn Crosbie isn't afraid to make waves. In her latest novel, Where Did You Sleep Last Night, the poet, cultural commentator and author tackles bullying, physical abuse, dead boyfriends and drug overdoses — and that's just on the first page.
Below, Lynn Crosbie answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
1. Karen Solie asks, "Do you remember who you were reading when you first realized, not that you wanted to be a writer, but that you were intrigued by writing and what it can do?"
A YA (but in no way wholesome) book called First Person Singular by Vida Demas. I was in love with its poppy cover, featuring the contents of the teen girl's stash-box (dope, candy, pictures, letters) and by the (1960s) heroine's to-me exotic otherness, her intelligence and doomed romance. The book is so beautifully written, and I would read it like I was eating caramels. I just located a copy and reread it: it's still sexy and sad and a strong inducement to tell one's own story, and to do it well.
2. William Deverell asks, "Claims of suffering writer's block are just excuses for laziness. Agree or disagree?"
I think the term has passed out of favour, but there are times when we can't write, obviously.
Usually when we have nothing to say and no way to say it.
3. Emily St. John Mandel asks, "Do you write full-time, or do you also do other work? And if you write full-time now, what other jobs have you had in the past?"
I completed a Ph.D, taught, and worked in advertising. I have always written in my spare time, or made the time.
4. Jane Urquhart asks, "How interested are you in fashion?"
Very. I write for Fashion magazine, and love clothes. I am always disquieted when a character is poorly dressed in a novel, and once tried to pitch myself as a stylist for writers after reading about a woman on a date in a visor and culottes.
5. Tomson Highway asks, "What keeps you going — first as a writer, and second as a human being?"
As a writer, knowing I have a repository for all the things I see, and have experienced. As a person, books, movies, my snoozy dog and snarly cat and very good friends.
6. Linda Spalding asks, "What moves you to tears?"
I am moved to tears by stories of abuse of any innocent creature/person. Also by reading about the death of loved ones, and occasionally, hellacious beauty.
7. Lori Lansens asks, "Tell us the funniest or most embarrassing or most humiliating thing that happened to you on a book tour. I know you have many. Just pick one. How did you handle it? What did it teach you?"
I can't think of something not embarrassing. Once, a sullen woman in an old car filled with rocks picked me up at the airport to take me to a festival. She looked momentarily happy. "Are you Aritha van Herk?" she asked. When I demurred, she stared straight ahead, miserably, and of course, did not attend my reading. It and other wretched snubs have taught me that I am not the kind of writer that the book bag ladies like.
8. Kenneth Oppel asks, "Even after so many books, do you still feel like you're doing it wrong?"
In graduate school, a colleague despaired that his dissertation didn't sound like the theory he cared about. That's the thing: one feels one is not writing the books one wants or likes to read. Still! And then there is the sneaky feeling of fraud that overcomes most writers, especially when you can't for the life of you make a character seem like much more than a sub-Stepford robot.