Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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Well, it's not that I haven't read the book. I wrote SAILOR GIRL, so I read it a few times. (Although it's been awhile, so I probably forgot stuff.) It's just that, when a book club invites you as their guest, you need to come prepared.

Tonight is my third book club visit, and the first where questions were submitted in advance. But by all accounts this is a seriously organized group, running now for two decades. They even eat dinner first, to get some of the socializing out of the way before tackling the subject.

So I'll have some time to think about the questions -- but here's a stab.

Q: What is the advantage of writing a novel of personal experiences versus a memoir? (Well, novel means you can make stuff up; of course memoir seems to mean that today too, but it can get you into serious trouble with Oprah.)

Q: Are the photos in the book yours? (That one's easy, yes.)

Q: There are many lovely word images and descriptions in the book - "dishes juddered in tepid water like clams in a tide pool" is just one, but there are lots especially describing weather and water - how much of writing is just doing it, getting the words down, how much is rewriting and revising and how much is editing? (That's a hard one. Doing it, overdoing it, undoing it, redoing it. I'll need to get my calculator.)

Q: Why 1981? (Historical fiction needs recognizable events to contextualize it. Charles and Diana got married that summer, which brings it back for many women.)

Q: In the first part of the book you reveal the character of Kate almost entirely through her sexual experiences. Why did you choose to do that? (Sorry, what's the question?)


I can't think of anything more difficult than turning one's life into a novel. Novels by their very nature are fictitious: Life is obviously, very real. If one is new to fiction, and thinks the easiest way to break in is by making his/her life THE story [s]he could not be more wrong.

But was there ever a memoir written without made up parts? Seems impossible, no?

Yah, a novel is way more fun cause you get to make things up. And you get in trouble when you make things up in a memoir.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sheree-Lee Olson

Sheree-Lee Olson is a Canadian novelist, poet and journalist. Her first novel, Sailor Girl, was published in 2008 by The Porcupine's Quill.

Go to Sheree-Lee Olson ’s Author Page