Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Meg Rosoff on the childhood questions she still ponders

The author of Jonathan Unleashed answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Meg Rosoff is the author of the novel Jonathan Unleashed. (

Fresh off her Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award win — the world's richest prize in children's literature ($763,500 CDN) — Meg Rosoff has released her first book for adults. Jonathan Unleashed follows a young New York copywriter whose life is changed when he agrees to take care of his brother's two dogs.

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

1. Martine Leavitt asks, "If your child came to you and said, 'I want to have a career as a writer,' what would your response be?"

I think I'd suggest she did something else as well, unless it had been obvious from an early age that it was her sole destiny (it clearly isn't). I'm obviously prejudiced by my own experience, but I think the best writers are the ones who've led rich and varied lives beyond writing.

2. Jonathan Auxier asks, "If you could write an authorized sequel to someone else's book, what would it be?"

I kind of hate this trend for sequels and prequels. I don't even want to write a sequel to my own books, much less someone else's. Wide Sargasso Sea is the obvious exception. But I think I'll pass on this. (Maybe the Bible?)

3. 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?"

As long ago as I can remember being alive. It took me thirty years to accept it though.

4. Alison Pick asks, "What is your middle name?"

Jill. I don't much like my middle name. It feels meaningless.

5. Susan Juby asks, "What gets you through the inevitable hard parts of writing a book?"

First of all, writing is my job, so I keep going because that's how I make a living. Second, I like to know how and if the book I'm writing is going to turn out. Third, I'm stubborn, and once I present a problem, I want to solve it.

6. Kate Pullinger asks, "What relationship does your writing have to your own childhood, both in terms of where you grew up as well as whether or not you were a happy child?"

I don't think you need a miserable childhood to be a writer, but most writers are born thinkers and questioners. I was asking difficult questions as a child, many of which are the questions I'm still asking now: "How do you become a person?" "Why does everyone believe in God?" "Why do men wear ties? They look so idiotic."

7. Frances Itani asks, "Describe a walk that would and could feed your imagination and your writing. In what part of the world would this walk take place?"

For the past couple of years I've been trying to plan a 3-month walk in the Himalayas with my husband, who lived in Nepal many years ago and speaks Nepali. I'm hoping it might happen this year. I'd also like to retrace Isabella Bird's 1878 walk through rural Japan.

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

I've got Astrid Lindgren's war diaries, which have just been translated into English, Goethe's Elective Affinities, which I'm re-reading, Sylvia Loch's book on Classical Dressage and Frank Cottrell Boyce's Desirable, which was sent to me by the publisher and is very funny. All are reasonably new additions to the night table except for Elective Affinities, which I've been meaning to reread for months. My paperback copy is so old and tattered that it's broken in half.