Why Sheena Kamal ran away screaming from this Q&A
Sheena Kamal's new novel It All Falls Down returns to protagonist Nora Watts, as she investigates her biological father's alleged suicide. The mystery takes Nora to Detroit, where she encounters danger at every turn. Nora, a biracial woman who grew up in the foster system, was first introduced in Kamal's debut book The Lost Ones, which won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for genre.
Below, Kamal takes the CBC Books Q&A, answering eight questions submitted by eight of her peers.
1. Robyn Harding asks, "Do you read your own reviews? How much stock do you put in them? Do good reviews make your head swell? Do bad reviews make your heart sink? How do you deal with that?"
I avoid reviews at all costs. Good or bad, they add to the voices in my head — and I already have enough of those to deal with! When I am professionally reviewed, I do pay attention to the critique, if any, and consider areas where my writing can be improved.
2. Eliza Robertson asks, "What music do you associate with your work?"
The suspense series I write largely to a soundtrack of blues music, as my main character used to be a blues singer. Music is the tool I use most often to get into her head.
3. Cherie Dimaline asks, "When do you feel the most confident and purposeful as a writer?"
When I first get an idea for the book. It's all downhill after that.
4. Michael Christie asks, "Is there some thematic or structural characteristic of your work that you feel is representative of what we call CanLit? Do you see yourself as a CanLit writer? Why or why not?"
(Runs away screaming)
(Returns after two glasses of wine)
Nobody has accused me of maybe being a CanLit writer before… um. I live in Canada and write it, so in that way my work is CanLit. But. Crime fiction, which is what I write, is not taken seriously by the gods and gatekeepers of CanLit institutions. This is both a blessing and a curse. In Canada, crime writers generally don't get the prestige or the accolades (or the splashy profile pieces in major media outlets) but we also aren't mired in the internal politics. For which I am profoundly grateful. If you're including crime fiction in your definition of what CanLit is, then I guess I'm a CanLit writer… but let's just keep that on the down low for now.
5. Adeena Karasick asks, "What recurring themes, tropes or obsessions appear through all your books?"
Music and voice play a huge role in my writing, but I do write largely about gender and gender violence. It's an important topic for me, personally, so it does filter in through the work — whether I like it or not. One day I'd like to become obsessed with some happier theme like ornithology or how to achieve your Zen. Pray for me that this happens soon, before my dark side takes over completely.
6. Jesse Jacobs asks, "Name the book that every teenager needs to read."
Son of A Trickster by Eden Robinson. It's a funny, dark and imaginative work. I think all adults should read it, too.
7. Rabindranath Maharaj asks, "Was there a point when you were certain you wanted to be a writer?"
When it became clear to me that I'm better at writing than anything else. And that I'd do it even if I wasn't published or recognized for it in any way.
8. 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 don't think it was ever a conscious choice for me. It was so instinctive that I didn't stop to consider writing anything else. As I learn and grow as a writer I do branch out, but fiction is always my tool to understand the world.