Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why YA author Katherine Lawrence doesn't believe in inspiration

The author of Stay answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Katherine Lawrence is the author of the YA novel Stay. (

Saskatchewan-based author Katherine Lawrence has combined her love of YA with her love of poetry in her latest book. Stay, a YA novel told in verse, is the diary of 11-year-old Millie. She keeps a journal so she can stay in touch with her twin brother Billy, who died before he was born. 

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

1. Esta Spalding asks, "Which is harder for you — the beginning of a piece of writing or the ending? And why?"

The beginning is always a challenge and I think the reason has everything to do with my early training as a journalist. I learned that I had only a few seconds to grab the reader's attention and I've never been able to shake that lesson, thank goodness.

2. Kit Pearson asks, "How important is setting to you, especially Canadian settings?"

In my work, character and voice determine the setting. To date, all of my books are set in Canada because that's the geography that I saw in my imagination as I wrote.

3. Paul Yee asks, "Do you find that readers read more into your work than you had intended?"

Yes, absolutely. Readers bring their own experiences to the stories and poems they read. I think this is why public readings, public conversations, and book clubs are important to the culture of reading. The experience is enlarged when we share our insights with one another.

4. Ian Brown asks, "Do you get dressed to write? Or do you get to the computer as fast as you can?"

I treat writing like a job. So yes, I arrive at my office dressed and ready for work.

5. Eden Robinson asks, "What was the most unexpected inspiration you've ever had?"

I think that inspiration is a romantic notion, much like waiting for a white knight. I don't like waiting. I'm impatient. So what I do is this: I sit down at the same time every day and I write for a few hours. Sometimes an extraordinary line will appear in the course of a humdrum work day and when that happens I feel rewarded.

6. Todd Babiak asks, "Do you ever feel so scared in the dark, when you're alone, that you have to turn on a light? If so, what are you afraid of?"

Darkness doesn't frighten me. I find comfort in darkness because I like being alone and I enjoy the quiet that often attends darkness. My great fear is being buried alive. I like the notion of being tossed into a casket (when my time comes) with a tiny silver bell at my fingertips. Just in case.

7. Will Ferguson asks, "How far into the process do you go before you choose a title? Which of your titles are you happiest with, which are you least happy with?"

I adore this question because I'm a geek when it comes to titles. I love naming things. Often a title will arrive before the poem or story. I'm especially happy with the title, Stay, because it suggests several different layers of meaning. Millie wants her family to stay the same; she wants her dad to stay in the family home; she wants to teach her pup how to sit, come, stay. But of course, everything changes and nothing ever stays the same and that's something that all of us work to understand and, hopefully, accept in life. Which title am I least happy with? In truth, I love 'em all.

8. J.J. Lee asks, "If you had to write a country song right now, what would the chorus be?"

J.J Lee, J.J. Lee, 
You've asked a question of me, 
So I'll answer best I can 
And I'm sure you'll understand 
When I say this country song
Will do us both bad wrong 
'Cause the chorus is an old trope 
About heartbreak & lost hope 
J.J. Lee, J.J. Lee, I'd rather end this happily.