Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Riel Nason thinks it's time to visit to your local bookstore

The author of All the Things We Leave Behind answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Riel Nason is the author of the novel All the Things We Leave Behind. (Shane Nason)

Riel Nason's debut novel, The Town That Drowned, painted a picture of growing up in small-town New Brunswick in the 1960s. The book won the Commonwealth Book Prize for Canada and Europe and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her new novel, All the Things We Leave Behind, jumps ahead by a decade to the late 1970s, still exploring issues of coming of age, love and loss.

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

1. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family — parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc — when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write?"

My parents and my husband are the only people who read my manuscripts for feedback besides my agent and editor. I trust them. Both my novels are set in the small area where I grew up, but The Town That Drowned takes place before I was born and All the Things We Leave Behind takes place when I was still a young child. I get my parents to read for accuracy of the feeling/sense of time and place. When my husband reads my work, I just joke with him that he adds way too many commas.

2. Marina Endicott asks, "Can you love a book written by a lousy human being?"

I doubt it. I am a slow, slow reader, and I only manage to read a small shelf of books a year. I don't see why I'd bother reading one written by someone lousy with so many other great choices.

3. Lynn Coady asks, "Why do you write fiction? That is, why is it your chosen genre? What is it about the genre that you think makes it distinctive and vital?"

I like to tell stories. I like to make up whole imaginary worlds — people, places, plots. I think it's distinctive because as a writer you have to think up and ask your characters all the questions, then have them ponder, confuse and sometimes struggle with all the questions, and then (mostly) answer or solve all the questions.

4. Rudy Wiebe asks, "Who helped you most in becoming a writer? How?"

This is a hard question. My university degrees have nothing to do with literature or creative writing, so I didn't have any teachers or mentors in the area. But years ago, for three consecutive summers, I attended the Maritime Writers' Workshop at the University of New Brunswick, which was like a week-long camp for writers that definitely got me excited about the possibility of what I was doing. I am grateful to the editors of the literary journals who published my early stories. I am thankful to my agent Hilary McMahon, who agreed to represent me, and my editor Bethany Gibson at Goose Lane Editions who I think is very patient and asks me all the right questions.

5. Alissa York asks, "Do you have a system whereby you convince yourself that you've accomplished enough in a given day?"

No. If I have a deadline, I am diligent and can work for hours, days, evenings until bedtime. Otherwise I have a very short attention span. I also go long periods of time (weeks, months) sometimes without writing anything.

6. Saleema Nawaz asks, "If you had to be something other than a writer, what would you choose to be?" 

Lottery winner? Seriously, I am also a textile artist (quilter), so I think if I didn't write fiction, I would concentrate only on that and try to expand to commercial fabric design as well.

7. Greg Hollingshead asks, "Name three Canadian writers you believe should be more widely read than they are. Why?"

I can think of many, many Canadian writers who should be more widely read. If you want to discover a new Canadian writer who may not be well known, I would head to your favourite independent bookstore and ask them for a recommended title published by an independent Canadian publisher.

8. Linwood Barclay asks, "What keeps you from physically harming people who ask: 'Would you have written anything I might have read?'"

Up until this year I had a grand total of one novel published, so I'd probably have to say to them "not likely" and smile.


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