Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Teresa Toten on that time she made her character apologize

The author of Beware That Girl answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Teresa Toten is the author of the novel Beware That Girl. (Matthew Wiley)

Teresa Toten's not one to shy away from the darker side of life — in her fiction, at least. The Governor General's Literary Award winner for The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B has given her young adult characters their fair share of challenges, from alcoholic parents to OCD and mysterious burn scars. In her amped-up psychological thriller Beware That Girl, two girls at a prestigious private high school discover the truth about a predatory faculty member as they try to hide their own dark pasts.

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

1. Kelley Armstrong asks, "Which has been harder for you: becoming an author or staying one?"

Becoming an author was shockingly easy — the intervening 20 years was the real test. I'm a drama queen at the best of times so there was a fair bit of foot stomping, whining and "leaving" in a huff. Still, none of it lasted more than a few days or hours before I'd be lured back to the page.

2. Linda Spalding asks, "Did you feel loved and protected as a child?"


3. Jonathan Auxier asks, "What's the strangest or most obscure word you've ever worked into a book?"

"Digress," and then I made my teenage character apologize for using it.

4. Dianne Warren asks, "What two Canadian writers, living or dead, would you like to see interview each other? Why?"

Alistair MacLeod and Robertson Davies! They loom so large in my head. Would they be generously elegant and oh so civil? Would they leap across the table at each other?

5. Karen Solie asks, "Do you need, do you want, or do you have your own room to work in?"

I have a tiny little room off my bedroom that overlooks the street and is covered in books. I can't write a first draft anywhere else. I wander throughout the house testing dialogue out loud and then sit and write for a few minutes and wander around the house testing dialogue and then...

6. Nino Ricci asks, "Do you think you would be a better writer if someone just gave you a big whack of money and you didn't need to worry anymore about earning an income?"

Actually, no.

7. Alissa York asks, "Have you ever strengthened a bond with a loved one through something you've written?"

Strengthened? I'm deliriously grateful that all the people whose lives I've "stolen" pieces of and shoved into my books are still in my life. But I'm pretty sure that they're terrified about what I'm going to write next.

8. Andrew Pyper asks, "Authors often speak of an Ideal Reader they think of as they write, a generally sympathetic kindred spirit who understands and endorses the work-in-progress. But do you have an opposing presence in your mind sometimes too? A Demonic Reader who mocks and challenges and titters at your efforts, and whom, if the finished book is successful, you look forward to seethingly telling to stick it in their pipe and smoke it?"

Dear God, I'd give anything to plant that Ideal Reader guy in my head even for a few minutes! The Demonic Reader takes up all the room and is very, very loud.


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