I’ve decided that I want to feature interviews a couple times a month with writers and authors to help promote them, their interests and the what the craft of writing has meant for them in their lives.
I love reading interviews of writers, so I thought it would be fun to begin quizzing the writers I know and enjoy.
Up first is Michele Gagnon – a member of the Pontiac & Ottawa Valley Writers’ Circle (POVWC) who has had two of her poems published by NorthWord literary magazine out of Wood Buffalo, Alberta, this past September. Michele actively contributes her poems, stories, creative energy and positive vibes to the POVWC on a regular basis. Please enjoy this interview with her.
1. What was the first thing you ever wrote?
I illustrated little story books and asked my mother to write the words for me before I even learned the alphabet. I think I’ve always wanted to tell stories. By the time I was in grade seven, I was a moody teenager who carried a notebook covered in Nirvana symbols everywhere I went and who wrote EVERYTHING down. I had so many emotions pouring out of me all the time, and writing was a way to channel my angst. I still use writing in that way. Often, I am left with a sense that I have no other choice but to write. It’s how I keep my shit together.
2. Do you remember how you felt after you wrote your first story/poem? And how was it?
I can’t say I remember much from the pre-alphabet days, but I can definitely attest to how I felt the first time my mom recognized one of my poems as “good”. It gave me a sense of connection to a world where I often feel like an outsider. I thought, “This is it. This is the way I can communicate.” I am a very sensitive person and, it’s very hard for me to communicate my true feelings face to face.
3. What book(s) are you reading right now?
I am on a children’s book reading spree right now. I’ve been focusing on the 10- to 12-year-old category. I’m calling it research for a book I’d like to finish, but it has actually been such a pleasure to dip into the crazy world of a child on the confusing precipice of adolescence. I just finished The Thing About Jelly Fish by Ali Bejamin. It was one of those books where I read 3 pages and I knew I was going to love it.
I am now reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio because my kids want to see the movie, and I hate it when a movie ruins a good book.
4. What was the most recent “great” book that you read?
I recently finished Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. Atwood’s style isn’t for everyone, but I like her. She prompts you to think about things in a different way. Her stories have a weirdness to them that sticks in your brain. I also really loved The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. I lost sleep trying to read that book in as few sittings as possible.
5. What do you love in a book?
I like all sorts of different kinds of genres. What makes a book excellent is believable and interesting characters as well as the flow of the language. If it’s choppy and awkward, I won’t finish it. If there’s too much going on, I also tend to lose interest. The details of the emotions and the dialogue are more important to me than the details of the landscape or the car they’re driving. If there are too many characters, I also tend to drift away from the story. When I finish a good book, I feel like I’ve made a new friend. I like to have a chance to build a connection with the character. When there are too many characters, there isn’t any intimacy and I might as well go and watch a Justice League movie.
6. What do you dislike in a book?
I dislike when an author spells out every detail for the reader and leaves little space for the imagination to play.
7. What do you like in a poem?
A good poem begs you to read it again, to book mark it, to contemplate it. You want to run your tongue along the words of a good poem over and over again, to feel its texture, to taste it. The characteristics of what makes a good poem is completely individual, kind of like a person’s favourite food.
8. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was born, I emerged with a notebook and a sharpie pen.
Seriously, when I was about twelve or thirteen I became convinced it was something I HAD to do. I watched The Basketball Diaries with Leonardo DiCaprio and decided that 1) I should stay away from hard drugs and 2) I should write.
After that movie, I read the book and then I started writing in a notebook constantly. In fact, I wrote in one such book, “If you are not a published author by the time you’re 25, then you’re a loser!” Guess who’s a loser?
9. What are your writing goals?
My goal is to be a published author by the time I’m 35 or else I’m a DOUBLE loser. Kidding. I don’t really have a goal that is set in stone, mostly because I’m always changing my mind about what I want to write about. I’m enjoying writing short stories right now. I might get my act together long enough one day to assemble a respectable collection.
10. Have you any publishing credits? What are they?
I had two poems published in Northword, a literary magazine out of Wood Buffalo, Alberta, this past September (2017).
11. What is a typical writing session like for you? What are your habits?
I work well with deadlines. Setting small goals with hard deadlines is the only way I get anything done. Otherwise, I just let life get in the way. I have four children running around my home, so writing sessions before their bedtime can be quite noisy. I plug some music into my ears, and pick songs that reflect the mood of what I’m writing. I work on my laptop in the most horrible, non-ergonomically-friendly positions and have given myself carpal tunnel syndrome as a result.
12. Without spoiling the plot or the intrigue, what are you working on now?
I have a very rough draft of a children’s book that is taunting me from the Dropbox of my computer. I wrote it in a month during the NaNoWriMo challenge in November and, now that I have stepped away from it, I truly hate it. All is not lost, however, as I learned that I can write a whole lot of words when I put my mind to it. I’ve learned how to create a habit of writing and how to create consistently.
I definitely think that I could change up the story in a way that would make it work, but I’m not quite ready to delve back into that pit yet. So I think I’ll work on some more short stories in the meantime.
13. Off the top of your head, what’s a prompt or technique you would give to a writer experiencing writer’s block who needs something to inspire them?
Something I used during NaNoWriMo when I hit a hard brick wall of hating every character in my book was to challenge myself to write from a different perspective. I took my 12-year-old character and made her 16. I switched from the third person POV to a first person POV. This exercise actually turned out to be a way for me to possibly save the idea behind the book. I ended up loving the more grown up voice of my character.
14. Shakespeare is credited with inventing several words through his writing, one of them being “assassin”. If you could make up one word, what would it be and what would it mean?
Dlouser. For Double-loser. As in, “you’re such a Dlouser. You’re almost 34, and you haven’t even written a novel, let alone published one.” No. Actually, that is a horrible word to be credited with…it would make me seem like such a loser. I take it back… Can I take it back?