Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Anne Simpson

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Ten Questions with Anne Simpson

Anne Simpson is the award-winning author of three books of poetry, Light Falls Through You, Loop and Quick. Her first novel, Canterbury Beach, was shortlisted for the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. Her most recent novel, Falling, was published by McClelland & Stewart.

OB:

Tell us about your latest novel, Falling.

AS:

Falling is about a young artist, Damian, whose guilt over his sister’s accidental death still consumes him, a year later, when he travels with his mother to Niagara Falls to scatter his sister’s ashes. I’d say that this is a novel about how ordinary people deal, bravely, with tough situations, and how they come back to the world after having experienced these things. It’s also a novel about risk and desire, and people who are trying to live creatively.

OB:

How did you research your book?

AS:

I went to Niagara Falls many times, and walked around as much as I could, taking photographs of houses where I thought my characters would live. I also read a great deal, especially about the daredevils at Niagara Falls. There were some fascinating anecdotes about the tightrope artists who went across the Niagara Gorge in the nineteenth century. I also talked to people at the Niagara Falls Public Library, at the Lundy’s Lane Museum, and at the Niagara Parks Police. Some of the best bits were fragments of things people told me, like the fact that my own father saw the collapse of the Rainbow Bridge when he was a child. Niagara Falls is iconic for all of us; it’s part of our imaginative landscape.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Falling?

AS:

I don’t think that I write for specific readers; I write because I’m compelled to do it.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AS:

Virginia Woolf once wrote that a writer needs a room with a door that closes, and five hundred pounds a year. It’s very clear, practical advice about the need for money and space (though a writer also needs time). I have an office with a desk, chair, computer, and, on the walls, several bulletin boards covered in photographs, scraps, letters, and pictures. An ideal writing space, for me, is filled with light, and overlooks trees and water.

OB:

What was your first publication?

AS:

It was a poem about the birth of my son. When I got the letter saying that it was accepted in a literary magazine, I was overwhelmed. I kept reading and re-reading the letter.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

AS:

I’m reading Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov, because I saw it in the library at StFX University. I’ve never read it, and often meant to, so when I saw it on the shelf – well, it was a serendipitous thing for me.

OB:

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

AS:

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling, The Prophet’s Camel Bell, by Margaret Laurence, Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje, A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry, Another Gravity by Don McKay and Plainwater by Anne Carson…(I can’t stop at three books!)

OB:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

AS:

The poet Don McKay once said that if you want to be a writer, take a Tylenol and see if you feel better by morning. But the best advice came to me in an essay by a writer in New Hampshire who was living in a small town. At the time, I had moved to a small town in Nova Scotia. The writer in New Hampshire wrote that she had turned off the television and started to write. So I tried to do the same thing. At first, writing was something of an experiment, and then it stopped being an experiment: it began to be something I was doing a lot of the time.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

AS:

I can’t think of particular responses, but when someone says that my writing made him or her want to write — that’s the highest praise.

OB:

What is your next project?

AS:

I’m working on a series of essays about poetry and art. Then I’ll start on another novel.

Falling by Anne Simpson “[Falling] moves forward much like the rushing river that ends up as the tumbling waterfall, unstoppable, a force of nature, like life itself. . . . The novel deserves the highest praise: Simpson has brought together character, plot, language and metaphor with both subtlety and intensity. The result is a potent mix, one that might well result in a Giller award to stand beside her Griffin Prize.” -- National Post

For more information about

Falling by Anne Simpson, visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

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