Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Martine Leavitt on why storytellers must change the world

The author of Calvin answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Martine Leavitt is the author of the young adult novel Calvin. (House of Anansi)

Martine Leavitt's books run the gamut from romantic historical fantasy to gritty present-day reality. But there's one constant: Leavitt's characters draw upon wells of hidden courage when they most need it, like the protagonist of her YA novel Calvin, which won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature (text).

Below, Martine Leavitt takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. How does it work? Authors give us the questions they always wish they were asked in interviews. We pose eight of these questions randomly to any new takers. Then they give us questions to add to the Magic 8 pool. And on it goes...

1. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"

"Can we buy the movie option on that new book of yours?"

2. Lynn Coady asks, "What are the common themes (or settings, symbols, etc.) you always seem to come back to in your fiction (like bears, wrestling and Vienna in John Irving novels)? Where do those elements come from and what makes them so tenacious?"

All my stories in one way or another explore the notion that story and language create reality, and that storytellers are in charge of the world. This means, of course, that as long as the world is a mess, we writers have nobody to blame but ourselves.

3. Charlotte Gill asks, "What is your Kryptonite?"

Maynard's Wine Gums. Each one I eat, and I eat a lot, shaves a thin slice off my life.

4. Raziel Reid asks: "If it were revealed that the inspiration to write was bestowed upon mere mortals by the angel Lucifer, would you forsake him?"

How could this be? Lucifer was the father of all lies, and stories are truth! I would assume a grave error had been made and keep on writing. Besides, as Jessamyn West said, "Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter."

5. Susan Juby asks, "What is the most painful literary rejection you ever received?"

Somehow I managed to avoid bad rejection letters, but I did get a review once in The New York Times that ended snidely. Why is the world so mean?

6. Shyam Selvadurai asks, "Do you think the portrayal of certain character types are beyond you? Can you name a character in a novel, whose personality/point of view/character traits you know you could never write?"


7. Bill Richardson asks, "If you were to see someone reading your book in a public place — a plane, a café — would you introduce yourself?"

Likely not, but I would smile smugly. For a long time.

8. Kenneth Oppel asks, "Even after so many books, do you still feel like you're doing it wrong?" 

Yes. And that is probably because I am doing it wrong.