Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Susan Juby on her crafty backup plans

The author of The Truth Commission answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Susan Juby is the author of The Truth Commission. (Delgado Phtography)

It's good to know that Susan Juby has a good backup plan — but honestly, the writing thing seems to be going pretty well for her. Her hilarious Republic of Dirt has won the 2016 Stephen Leacock Medal for humour writing, and her latest novel, the The Truth Commission, showed up on a slew of Best of 2015 lists.

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

1. Todd Babiak asks, "If you had to stop writing, due to some fantastical calamity, what career would you pursue and why?" 

I love teaching. Also, needle felting. I might go the Etsy route. That way leads directly to superstardom and financial freedom, right?

2. Linden MacIntyre asks, "To what extent is Google becoming a substitute for experience, real research, and even the imagination?"

Google may not be helpful for serious research, but I love being able to quickly look up the root of a word or find photos of the typical head coverings of a particular religious sect in seconds. I just need to remember to double-check what I find. Those who yearn for first-hand experience will get it and those who want to do real research will continue to use the libraries and books and databases and Google will continue to be a somewhat disturbing, but astonishingly convenient tool.

3. Lynn Coady asks, "Is there a poet, philosopher, musician, painter or any other type of artist outside the world of fiction who has inspired your work in a concrete way at some point or another? If so, who?"

Barry Moser's prints from his 1982 edition of Alice in Wonderland were a touchstone when I wrote my first novel, Alice, I Think. I tried to capture in my character some of the essence of his print "Alice in Her Sister's Dream." 

4. Vincent Lam asks, "At some point in the writing of a book, have you ever had a real low point? Can you tell us about that, if you feel comfortable doing so? What did you hold on to to get out of that place? "

I've had a low point during almost every book. It feels like despair. You show up to work and produce terrible scenes, sentence by sentence. You go off in directions that take you into barren wilderness. Characters go flat. You need roadside assistance, a GPS, a travelling companion. But all you have is your own wavering belief that the book will finally come together. Writing is an act of faith. Experience helps.

5. Zsuzsi Gartner asks, "How do faith and science intersect for you as a writer?"

There is far more faith than science in my work. I'm in awe of science and the near magic it is accomplishing in some fields, but the ability of humans to have faith in themselves and each other is what animates my work. When I tried to write a science fiction book I ended up writing a satirical fantasy shaped like science fiction.

6. Drew Hayden Taylor asks, "Other than writing novels, what other art form (i.e. plays, movies, music, visual art) do you wish you possessed or had a better grasp of?" 

Making movies, drawing, painting and playing the banjo. 

7. Alexi Zentner asks, "What's your worst writing habit?"

I often have no earthly idea what's going on until I'm well into any given book. And my first draft sentences are often best described as "tortured." Sometimes my second and third draft sentences as well.

8. Cordelia Strube asks, "Do you think your work will still be around 50 years from now?"

I cannot answer that for fear of tempting the fates.