Prefaces & Afterwords

Welcome to the Prefaces & Afterwords, Q&A interviews with authors. Watch this space for our conversations with writers who will be featured in upcoming events.

Roberta Rich

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Three years ago I attended the writer’s conference in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. That night at dinner the woman sitting next to me, whom I had never met before told me that several years ago her father had murdered her mother by flinging her off the balcony of their 14th floor apartment. By the time she was finished with her tale, I needed another margarita.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My latest book, The Harem Midwife, is set in Constantinople in the 16th century. The one I am working on now is set in a Palladio villa outside of Venice. I would recommend that reader abstain completely from reading anything whatsoever, not even the directions on a package of muffin mix, until this one is published.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

The Idiot’s Guide to Making Soap by Sally W. True and The Perfect Aquarium by Jeremy Gay.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Being on the other side of the podium. I have attended Writers Fest events for years and have always dreamed of being a presenter.

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Brian Fawcett

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

During the 2003 Vancouver Writers Fest, I met a burley Scottish writer named David R. Ross who’d just suffered a mild heart attack and was reluctant to drink or otherwise have fun.  As it happened, I was reading Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, and happened to have the book with me. So I read him Nuland’s graphic description of what happens when a person dies of a heart attack. The clearly frightened Scottish writer’s face turned white, and he left the room a few minutes later and went for a 4 hour walk.  When he returned we had a long conversation about living and dying, and then we went off to a party together, where I noticed that he was eating and drinking with considerable gusto.  I guess he’d made some sort of fundamental decision that living and dying were different things, and that he’d best have as much fun as possible while he could.  (Ross lasted another seven years, and died of, you guessed it, a heart attack.)

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My latest book is The Last of the Lumbermen.  I can’t think of another book that’s like it, so I’d recommend that if they really enjoyed it, they should either read my own Virtual Clearcut, Or, The Way Things Are in my Home Town, which offers the documentary background for the novel. They could also rent the movie, Slapshot, to which The Last of the Lumbermen has a few parallels, particularly when it comes to slapstick comedy. 

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Probably the percentage of serious science books, or the complete works of Italian writer Primo Levi, who is the writer I most admire, and am, by both temperament and life experience, the least able to emulate.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I lived in Vancouver for 26 years, and because I was an urban planner there for a decade, I have a pretty intimate knowledge of the city and it’s infrastructure. Whenever I’m there, I enjoy wandering around and cataloguing the changes. I also have a large number of old friends to visit, including four ex-wives.  In 2003, after one of my events, I spent 10 minutes talking to an attractive stranger before I realized it was one of my ex-wives.  

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Ayelet Tsabari

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Earlier this year I read and gave a talk at Spur Festival in Toronto. It was the first time I participated in an event where I was the only author, and up until the last minute, I didn’t know if I’d make it. I was nine and a half months pregnant, a week before my due date, and had booked the event against the strict orders of my midwife. I was also on crutches: I had fallen and twisted my ankle because my huge belly had thrown me off balance. I was quite a sight. To top it off, the first question from the audience was, “Are you a Zionist?” which I believe I handled quite diplomatically.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

I’d like to recommend two new collections of short fiction by Canadian women writers: Nancy Jo Cullen’s Canary and Eufemia Fantetti’s Recipes for Disaster and Other Unlikely Tales of Love (which is coming up next month).

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Shelves upon shelves of comics. Actually, they belong to my partner, but I have my own, modest collection of graphic novels and memoirs, and an even more modest collection of tiny comic books I created myself.  I’m hoping to expand one of my essays ("You and What Army," about my time in the IDF) into a graphic novel one day.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I love this Festival, and I usually end up going to more events than I can handle. One year my friend and I were so exhausted by the end of the week, we could barely speak to each other beyond simple, fragmented sentences. Our brains were over stimulated. I actually said, “If anyone talks to me and it’s longer than a sentence, I’m going to freak out.” If I have to narrow it down, I’ve always loved the Literary Cabaret and the Poetry Bash.  And the go-go dancers. Tell me you have go-go dancers this year!

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Rebecca Sky

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

This one time at a festival I got trapped behind two elderly ladies in a line. They had their noses buried in a Harlequin novel—One of them was reading it out loud and the other was providing sound effects. Did I mention these ladies were old? Cause I’m talking, like in their eighties, old! Needless to say I am now scared of: elderly women, Harlequin novels and line-ups.
 
If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My next book! *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* No seriously read it! But, if you get tired of me bossing you around and want to try something new I suggest reading my older books.
 
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I may or may not have the Twilight series. They were a gift, I swear!
 
What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

First off, I’m going to apologize in advance, but I’m pretty sure the highlight of my time will be stalking Maureen Johnson and Maggie Stiefvater. I’m also looking forward to new authors to fall in love with so that I can stalk them at next years Writers Fest!

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Maggie Stiefvater

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

My favorite experience is actually a recurring one. Does that count? Is that cheating? For The Raven Boys, I would ask someone in the audience to volunteer to be the voice of Gansey, and then together we would read a chapter to the rest of the audience. It's always great — when the reader is perfect as Gansey, the audience is delighted. And when the reader is impossible as Gansey, the audience is delighted. I love it when it breaks down into utter silliness.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Either Fire & Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, because it's dreamy, or Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, because it's thievy.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I find it very hard to shock people these days, so I'm not certain people would be surprised by anything I did. I say things like "I'm taking a stunt driving class" or "I just bought five miniature fainting goats" and they just say "Of course, what are you doing next weekend?" Possibly people would be shocked by all the Jack Higgins novels on my shelf. I was a huge fan of his books when I was a teen.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I've never been out to Vancouver, though many, many readers have asked. So I'm looking forward to meeting them. And I also hear that Vancouver is beautiful—I have heard rumors of mountains? And anyone who has read my latest series might know I have a bit of a thing for them.

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