Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions With Deborah Ellis

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Deborah

January 10, 2008 -

OB:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

DE:

First book published was a very badly-written novel called Hailey and Scotia, about two women in Southern Ontario falling in love while working against the Klu Klux Klan. It sold about a dozen copies and the small San Francisco publisher went out of business soon after. Then came Looking for X in l999, published by Groundwood, which did much better.

OB:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

DE:

The arrest of a dozen or so people in Mississauga, including 2 high school students, on allegations they were planning an act of terrorism, was the basis for Bifocal, which I wrote with Eric Walters (the idea was his). Not exactly a cultural event, though.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

DE:

From Anna, by Jean Little; Out of Poverty, by John Stackhouse; and Paddle to the Sea.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

DE:

I live alone and try to keep the writing to one room, so that my house doesn't get taken over by paper. I live near Lake Erie, so when the weather's good, I write on the beach. When the weather's bad, I write at Tim Horton's or somewhere similar. I use a pen and paper, so I'm very mobile.

OB:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby Dick (with Winnie the Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

DE:

I wish I'd written A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith; We Have Always Lived In the Castle, by Shirley Jackson; and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark.

OB:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

DE:

The Dead Sea Scrolls.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

DE:

The Drowned and The Saved, by Primo Levi; Hitler's Willing Executioners, by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen; and The Complete Works of Saki, by HH Munro.

OB:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

DE:

The publisher and editor sort out the age readership of the book. While I'm writing, I don't think about it. If the main character is a child, then what the character goes through is determined, in part, by what a child would reasonably do, see, and understand in that situation.

OB:

What are you working on right now?

DE:

Right now, we're finishing up the edit on two non-fiction books. One is a book of interviews with Canadian and American kids who have a parent serving overseas with the military. The other is a book of interviews with Iraqi refugee kids in Jordan.

OB:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

DE:

Entering competitions is a wonderful way to get focused and to learn to write to deadlines, and to get your stuff read by others. Order the Canadian Writers' Contest Calendar (from White Mountain Publications www.wmpub.ca). Write often. Don't be afraid to rewrite.