Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

NEW SERIES! The Entitled Interview with Anakana Schofield

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Anakana Schofield

Some book and story titles just stick in our minds, either for their oddness, their humour or simply the connection we feel to them before we've even picked up the book. But how do authors arrive at their titles, and what makes a title effective? We're excited to launch our newest ongoing interview series, The Entitled Interview to talk all things title with talented Canadian writers.

Best of all, we've got Scotiabank Giller Prize nominated Anakana Schofield here as our very first Entitled Series author! With her evocatively titled new novel, Martin John (Biblioasis), she's the perfect author to get us started talking titles.

Martin John is the story of the titular character, a sexual deviant who terrorises subway passengers while living inside an OCD-like web of habits and repetitions. The National Post praised Martin John, exclaiming that the novel cemented Anakana's status as "one of the highest-flying and funniest working today".

Today Anakana tells us about walking through the doorway of a title, how a typo of a single letter changed a title significantly and the titles that most attracted her as a reader.

If you're in Toronto, you can catch Anakana in person TONIGHT, September 15, 2015, at the Biblioasis Fall Launch at the Garrison (1197 Dundas Street West), along with other fantastic Biblioasis authors. The event begins at at 7:00pm.


Open Book:

Tell us about the title of your newest book and how you came to it.

Anakana Schofield:

Martin John is the title of my second novel. I came to it by literally not wanting to get away from it or the he in my novel. The novel delves inside the mind and literal circuits of a sexually deviant and delusional man called Martin John. It was critical not to avert gaze from him, since in life we tend to imagine deviant behaviour as an aberration, over there, far away from us. Thus we must not avoid him in the title. For we spend much of the novel inside his mind.


What, in your opinion, is most important function of a title?


The title is an entry point, doorway through which we’ll hurl our reading selves. It’s the plaque above the door or label on the doorbell. I’m sure it’s also something of a summation for many writers. Definitely an encapsulation.


What is your favourite title that you've ever come up with and why? (For any kind of piece, short or long.)


I think the title of my next novel, if it endures, will be my favourite. So far it’s called Transactional Sex and Two Cups of Tea. I also have a short story called "Strawberry Plants and Cabbages" (published recently in Emily Donaldson’s CNQ issue), which way back a submission respondent once accidentally retitled "Strawberry Pants and Cabbages in a rejection type letter. (Rejecting both my story and my title inadvertently).


What about your favourite title as a reader, from someone else's work?


César Aira’s How I Became a Nun. I like Nuala O’Connor’s new novel title Miss Emily as it’s compact, perky yet prim. Emma Donoghue’s The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits pleases me, and on that same note The M Word anthology (edited by Kerry Clare) was a great title. It sounds filthy and Motherhood can be mucky with all manner of grazes. Maidenhead by Tamara Faith Berger, J M Coetzee’s The Life and Times of Michael K and The Master of St Petersburg, plenty of M’s! I can’t think of books in singular terms, hence the cluster of titles.


Did you consider any other titles for your current book and if so what were they? Why did you decide to go with the title you eventually picked?


I didn’t but my wunderbar editor John Metcalf sent me 7 alternative titles. I had a fainting fit at the sight of such a thing and declared upon recovery that not as long as there was air in my lungs would the title Martin John change.


What are you working on now?


I’ve started working on two different novels. One is a fiction of Irish history, the other is a very fun to write (for a change) bawdy Vancouver novel. One of them will have to dwarf the other at some point. Away from literature, I’m also working on trying to fall asleep at a sensible hour and learning the concertina. Neither is going very well. The title: Total Disaster with Zzzs and Reeds covers it. I’ve abandoned woodworking, Mandarin and gymnastics due to old age and resounding ineptitude.

Anakana Schofield won the First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 for her debut novel Malarky. Irish-Canadian, she has lived in London and in Dublin, Ireland and presently lives in Vancouver. Malarky was also nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick and named on many best books of 2012 lists. Schofield has contributed criticism and essays to the London Review of Books Blog, The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Globe and Mail and more. Her newest novel, Martin John, is longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

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