[Writing in 🇨🇦 Canada] Author Interview with Genevieve Graham

A while back, probably a year or so ago, I had been talking with my friend Ambur about an author friend of hers who was looking for some promotion within Canada. I was eager to read her book, but the format of the book meant I could only read it on my iPad and I absolutely hate reading anything on my iPad, so I apologized and said I probably couldn’t commit. Fast-forward to the last few months, I had been shopping and saw this author’s book on the shelf and so I bought it, hoping to read it for my Month of Canada – it didn’t even clue in to me that this was the author I had been talking to Ambur about until I contacted her about a spiel about reading in Canada and saw our previous conversation in the messages – and lo and behold, the author I couldn’t read was Genevieve Graham!

Now I’m so happy that I have two of her books – I’ve read one and LOVED it, and I want to read everything she’s written now! The best part is that she writes one of my favourite genre, historical fiction, AND it’s Canadian historical fiction. I love getting a glimpse into Canadian history with these sweeping tales.

 

I had been chatting with Genevieve off and on on Twitter prior to asking her to do this interview, and she’s so fun and so friendly! So, without further adieu, meet Genevieve Graham!

1. It’s Canada’s 150th! Is there a special way you like to celebrate Canada?

I celebrate wherever I am on Canada Day. I grew up in Toronto, moved to Calgary for seventeen years, then moved to small town Nova Scotia, so I’ve seen all different kinds of Canada Days. Lately I’ve enjoyed lazily driving around our little Eastern Shore village, appreciating the community spirit and the history of our area. Also food. It’s kind of a tradition for my family to pig out on fresh donuts at Memory Lane Heritage Park, free cookies at Fisherman’s Life Museum, mussels at the Yacht Club, then ice cream right in the middle of town. Sometimes we feast on freshly caught lobster for dinner, and if the bugs aren’t too bad you might catch us out by the fire, making the perfect s’mores. I’m not usually a crowd kind of person, but this year I think we’ll be heading in to Halifax to take part in the events. There’s just so much going on, and so much to celebrate!

2. I see that you live in Nova Scotia, which is one of the most beautiful places in the country, in my opinion. Do you have a favourite place in Canada, or maybe one you long to visit?

I do love Nova Scotia and its understated beauty. There’s so much variety in this province depending on what spot you choose to visit that day. My favourite season out here is autumn, because well, seriously, you’ll never see colours like we have here. Especially if you drive up to Cape Breton, where you’ll wind through steep roads, and breathe in fresh mountain air while you admire the mirror reflection of the autumn leaves on the deep canvas of the Atlantic. That is an incredible journey, and the culture you discover along the way is almost as rich as the drive. But you asked about my favourite place in Canada, and I’m going to take you back across the country for that, because I have a deep love for the mountains of Alberta and BC. My husband and I met in a chairlift line-up at Sunshine Village (Alberta), and he proposed to me at Emerald Lake Lodge (BC) on a silent, almost ethereal winter night. We raised our two daughters on those mountains so they were skiing from the age of three, just like we had as kids. I do miss Calgary and Banff, and I’m really excited to be travelling there for a week in August, both to visit my Mom and to do research for my next project.

3. Why do you think it’s important for people to read Canada? Who are some of your favourite Canadian authors?

It’s important for people to read Canada because I think it’s important for people to realize who we are! We are the quiet, apologetic neighbour of the life of the party, and it’s time for folks to get to know the amazing personality behind the smile. We are welcoming, we are proud, we are generous, and we are beautiful. And there’s something up here that feeds the souls of artists. Something really special. The talent up here is incredible, though once again it’s under appreciated. I don’t read a lot these days (I find other authors’ writing interferes with my own writing process so I only indulge after I’ve completely finished writing and editing my latest book), but for Canadian authors my #1 recommendation is always Susanna Kearsley and her gorgeous time-slip novels. Here in Nova Scotia I love the work of my friend, the humble and gifted Lesley Crewe. She has a knack for weaving the Cape Breton people right into the fibre of a story.

4. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

I began writing in 2007 just for fun. For years I hadn’t done much for myself because I was focused on my full-time job of being a stay-at-home mom, Then my Mom gave me a copy of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and I was lost. I read all her books then read everything else I could find of that epic kind of historical fiction (Sara Donati, Penelope Williamson, Paullina Simons, Wilbur Smith) then I went back to Gabaldon and read the series (including audiobooks) seven times. Seven times! Well, after that I decided to see if I could ever write anything. I told my husband I was going to go try to write, and hours later I came back upstairs with pages and pages of historical fiction based in 18th century Scotland. I had no idea what I was doing, but he said, “You know, that’s not bad.” That’s all I needed. Ever since then I’ve been glued to the keyboard. I absolutely love what I do, and I feel incredibly fortunate.

5. Your books are sweeping historicals with so many elements to them, from romance to war to family, etc. What challenges do you face when it comes to writing historical fiction? Have you always had an interest in history?

The honest truth is that I hated history as a kid. To me it was names and dates and places to be memorized for exams, nothing more. I found museums interesting, but I never felt compelled to visit them, never felt connected to them. Everything changed for me after I caught the Historical Fiction bug. When we first moved to Nova Scotia in 2008, my first stop was not the beach (where I would assume most people go to celebrate) but the Halifax Citadel Historic Site. Everything about its cold stone walls captivated me. I could practically see the soldiers shrugging into their coats, preparing for the day. Nova Scotia history, I realized, was awesome … but I had a problem: I knew very little about it. In order for me to learn about history, I needed to put myself inside the story, and that meant I had to bring in my characters to do the work for me. The thing about characters is that they don’t really care about history, but they live it. Everything they experience is a lesson for me. Of course I research carefully, but when it comes to the characters’ experiences, they belong to them. Sometimes in historical fiction an author will talk about facts to the point that the history no longer belongs to the character. For example, after the Halifax Explosion (in Tides of Honour), we now know the city was covered in sixteen inches of fresh snow the day after the city blew up. Well, my characters didn’t know that. They knew it had snowed a ton, that it was cold, and everything was more complicated than ever. The Acadian Expulsion (in Promises to Keep) saw over 10,000 Acadians ripped from their homes and dumped on dilapidated, rented ships before being shipped out to random ports, but all Amélie knew was that her family was divided, their home was lost, and nothing would ever be the same. I guess the challenge with writing Historical Fiction is knowing a lot then making sure you don’t tell too much. I don’t find it that difficult to do, because my characters are very outspoken in my head. They tell me what they say and do, and it’s my job to give them the setting and background.

When I write Canadian History, I am bringing it back to life for people who don’t know and don’t care about our past. The more I learn the more I know we can’t afford to forget the past. Canada was a land of adventure and survival, of love and passion, of growth and innovation. Authors all over Europe and the United States celebrate their histories, and the world eats those stories up. It’s about time we served them a good helping of the Great White North, don’t you think?

6. What is the writing atmosphere like when you write — do you prefer silence, or do you listen to music?

I need silence to write – then again, sometimes silence just descends when don’t plan it. In the summer I like to sit in my “outside office” (our gazebo), and while I’m in there I’m accompanied by the scratching and cooing from our small flock of chickens. It’s soothing, but even that can distract me because I need to go see which ones are out there (though I already know most of their voices without looking) and talk to them. But when a strong, important scene comes to me, the rest of the world disappears.

7. What are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?

I don’t read a lot of fiction when I’m writing because I find the voices of other authors influence my own voice. I love historical fiction (I have no objection to reading the Outlander series for the eighth or ninth time) but I don’t want any of those scenes to be put there by anyone but my own characters. I usually pick up one of the books from my wobbling t.b.r. pile when I’m done a book, but that doesn’t last long because I always have a new story bubbling in my head that needs writing.

8. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your time?

I’m a hermit, so my favourite things to do are quiet and spent with my family. I do read when I get a chance, and if I can do it in the sunshine surrounded by chickens I’m entirely happy. My husband and I are also binge watchers of far too many series. This year we will officially become empty nesters, so I see travel in our future. Somewhere exotic, like maybe Vietnam.

9. What has been the most challenging part about writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Learning to write, for me, was a joy. The process of writing is like meditation for me. Research is fascinating when you follow the right thread. For me the nightmare came when I had to look for a literary agent. A good literary agent is the key to a good contract, though writing a good book is the key to getting follow-up contracts.

There are three things I recommend to aspiring writers.
Step One: WRITE. Don’t bother editing until later (advice I find hard to follow with my own work), and write for yourself, no one else. If you don’t have anything interesting to write about that day, just write a little about how bored you are, your favourite food and why—anything to keep those synapses snapping.
Step Two: LISTEN. Let the characters lead you, and try not to argue with them. When you think you’re done, find a beta reader who will tell you how it really is. Listen to their suggestions, take them with a grain of salt, and don’t take it personally.
Step Three: GO BACK to Step One.

10. Can you share any details on what you’re working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

I always have projects in the works. Actually, right now I have three or four. The first (working on final edits now) will be out next spring, and it’s the companion novel to Tides of Honour. We’re back to Danny and Audrey on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, but twenty years later, so during World War II. Right now I’m starting work on one that I think will be the biggest of my novels, set during the Klondike Gold Rush. What a time in our history. I’m loving the research, and I can’t wait to share more Canadian History with readers!

Connect With Genevieve: 
Twitter | Web | Goodreads

Thank you so much to Genevieve for being on the blog today. And being from Alberta, I look forward to her next book – the Klondike Gold Rush? Sounds great! Have you read any of Genevieve’s books? Which one is your favourite?

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[Writing In 🇨🇦 Canada] Author Interview with Kelley Armstrong

The first time I had read a Kelley Armstrong book was way back in 2009 and I don’t think I even realized she was Canadian back then! It wasn’t until some book blogger friends of mine were talking about this great new series coming to TV, Bitten, that was an adaptation of Kelley’s book of the same title, that I finally started paying attention. Of course, the book was amazing and that year I read two of Kelley’s books.

I very vividly remember reading Kelley Armstrong’s book Omens, the first book in her Cainsville series, back when I was very pregnant with my son in 2013. I had fallen in love with her writing and had the opportunity to see her a few times when she was on tour in a few cities near me and she was such a joy to listen to and in the past 4 years I’ve been hoping that she would come back for tour because little did I know that I would fall majorly hard for her books and that she would become my most favourite Canadian author!

Me meeting Kelley Armstrong way back in 2013. Don’t mind the tired-looking pregnant lady.

I remember I was about halfway through Omens when I was suddenly admitted to the hospital and had to have a c-section that day. I had my book with me and I remember reading it in the hospital, and then finishing it during those foggy first days of having my first child. Needless to say, I needed to reread it later down the road, which I did via audiobook and I will tell you, listening to that book and then binge reading the rest of the series (the last book comes out next month) just skyrocketed Kelley to the top of my list.

After finishing Omens, I fell in love with her YA thriller book, The Masked Truth, which literally kept me up at night reading, it was that freaking good. After that I was completely hooked. I went and bought EVERYTHING of hers I could get my hand on. I’ve had such a great time this year catching up on her back list and falling in love with all of her books and characters (though I still have lots to read!) and now any book she releases I anticipate so much and, really, everything now goes on my auto-buy list. She’s THAT good.

When I started to think of authors I wanted to interview for the blog, I was so nervous. Would they ignore me? Would they say yes? I know Kelley has a huge following and I honestly thought she wouldn’t be available, but she said yes! Welcome to the blog!

1. It’s Canada’s 150th! Is there a special way you like to celebrate Canada?

Travel! My preference is always for travel within Canada, and I’m hoping to see a few new places this year.

2. I’ve noticed that a lot of your books take place in, or have, wooded areas or forests, which tend to bring peace to characters in your stories. Where I live, I’m surrounded my gorgeous trees and rushing water, which brings such a calmness to me, so I can relate. Do you have a favourite place in Canada, or maybe one you long to visit?

I have many favourite places–Prince Edward Island, Vancouver Island, Banff… I’m particularly fond of the Yukon, though, and recently bought some land to build a cottage there.

3. Why do you think it’s important for people to read Canada? Who are some of your favourite Canadian authors?

Supporting Canadian authors is always good, but I’d particularly suggest seeking out genre books set in Canada—in the publishing business there can be a bias toward setting those in the US, and it helps if readers are actively looking for those set in Canada. Favourite Canadian authors include: Tanya Huff, Guy Gavriel Kay and Eve Silver.

4. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

I’ve been writing since early childhood. I think what inspired me was the opportunity to tell my own stories. As a child, I started writing because I loved reading, and writing gave me the opportunity to “tell” myself the stories I wanted to hear.

5. You write for middle grade readers, young adult readers, and adult readers and always seem to have a new book for a different age-set coming out — how do you keep all of your stories straight? Do you find it hard to flip the switch from writing from one age group to another?

I use series bibles to help me keep track. It’s hard to remember all the details, and I hate making mistakes, though I know I still do. Flipping the switch isn’t a problem for me. I’ve been doing it so long that it only takes a chapter or so to “remind” myself which age group I’m writing for—to say, for example, “Oh, that’s right, this is YA, so I probably shouldn’t use the F word.” If the first chapter reads too old or young, I can easily adjust, and by the time I’m past that initial bit, I’m fine.

6. What is the writing atmosphere like when you write — do you prefer silence, or do you listen to music?

No music for me. I need quiet to fully immerse myself in my character’s voice. If I need to write in a noisy public place, I’ll use headphones, but the music is white noise that I can just tune out.

7. What are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?

I just came off judging for a bunch of contests, which means lots of reading and nothing I can discuss! Right now, I’m editing my own stuff, which isn’t nearly as much fun. The problem with answering the favourite-writers question is that I know so many authors whose work I love, then I worry about forgetting someone if I list them! So, I only pick people I don’t personally know. All-time favourite is Stephen King. Others are Anne Rice, Richard Adams and Jane Austen.

8. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your time?

Reading, of course! Then movies, music, TV, cooking, hiking, camping and hanging out with my family.

9. What has been the most challenging part about writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

At this stage in my career, the most challenging aspect is finding a happy medium between satisfying reader expectations for “more of the same” and satisfying my own need to branch out. It’s gotten easier, though, with the more series I’ve written. Readers have come to expect change from me. My advice is always: keep writing. It’s boring, but it really is the most important thing. Keep at it, even if you don’t get published quickly (most authors don’t!) Do it for the love of writing, and your chances of publication will rise as you perfect your craft.

10. Can you share any details on what you’re working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

In adult, I’m working on my Yukon-set Rockton series, currently editing book 3 while starting book 4. In YA, I’m writing standalone thrillers right now. My next one is called Aftermath, and it’s about a girl who returns to her hometown three years after her brother was involved in a school shooting. That comes out in April 2018. 

Connect With Kelley: 
Twitter | Web | Goodreads

Thank you so much to Kelley for being on the blog today. Are you a fan of medical mystery books? 

[Writing In 🇨🇦 Canada] Author Interview with Laura Langston

I can’t even remember where exactly I got Laura Langston’s book, The Art of Getting Stared At, whether it was at a book sale, or if I bought it after reading some reviews on it, but it was three years ago and it wasn’t until recently that I realized Laura was from Canada! Since I was preparing for my month of Canada by reading Canadian books, I bumped this one up on my list and I’m glad that I did because it was so good! Laura reminded me of one of my favourite authors, Lisa Genova, with her medical mystery-type stories and I was just so engrossed in this story. It really made me excited to read more of Laura’s work!

So, naturally, I was very excited when I asked Laura if she would be interested in doing an interview for my Canada feature and she said yes! Welcome to the blog!

1. It’s Canada’s 150th! Is there a special way you like to celebrate Canada?

When my kids were really little I’d always make a strawberry pie on Canada Day and serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream. We’d have that after dinner before heading down to the Inner Harbor to watch the fireworks. Even though they aren’t so little anymore, the tradition still sticks.

2. I see that you live on Vancouver Island, which makes me envious since I love the water and think it’s such a pretty place! Do you have a favourite place in Canada, or maybe one you long to visit?

I have lots of favorite Canadian spots – my hometown of Victoria, BC as well as the small community of Tofino near B.C’s Long Beach and the big city across the water, Vancouver. I also love Montreal and I think Ottawa is pretty great too. I’ve been lucky enough to live or visit most Canadian provinces though I haven’t been to Prince Edward Island yet and I’d love to go there.

3.Why do you think it’s important for people to read Canada? Who are some of your favourite Canadian authors?

I think it’s important for people to read, period, so I wouldn’t limit it to Canadian writers though I do think it’s important to support local writers, and since those closest to me are Canadian I like to read them. It’s impossible for me to pick just a few favorite Canadian authors; I have so many. In YA I like Tanya Lloyd Kai, Teresa Toten, Don Aker, Beth Goobie, Kelley Armstrong. For historical fiction Susanna Kearsley can’t be beat and I adore everything Pauline Gedge has written. For good suspense or mystery I like Eileen Cook who writes YA and Joy Fielding who writes for adults. And I’ve loved Margaret Atwood ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale.

4. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?

I was one of the lucky ones because I knew by the time I was in Grade Four that I wanted to be a writer. I was pretty well driven and began making up stories at a really young age. Since I didn’t know any writers and didn’t know how to ‘be’ a writer I became a journalist instead. However, the drive to tell stories wouldn’t go away, so when my first child was born I devoted myself to fiction writing and I haven’t stopped since.

5. Your book, The Art of Getting Stared At, deals with a very unique medical issue. What inspired you to write about that subject?

A number of years ago, my daughter had a friend who didn’t spend much time on makeup or clothes. She cared about her appearance, but not to the same extent the rest of the young women did. Whenever the group of them would be at our place getting ready for a school dance, my daughter and her friends would spend hours doing their hair and makeup and figuring out what to wear. The other girl would spend maybe 20 minutes getting ready. I was intrigued by that and by the dynamic I witnessed between the group of them. They were all good friends, but they thought she was weird and she thought they were shallow. Around the same time, I met a woman who had lost her hair to alopecia. She said she’d never truly appreciated her hair until it was gone. I began to wonder how it would be for my daughter’s friend if her appearance was significantly altered. What if she began to obsess about her looks? How would she feel if she’d always ‘prided herself on being a little bit better than the girls who spent so much time on their makeup?’ From there, the novel took shape.

6. What is the writing atmosphere like when you write — do you prefer silence, or do you listen to music?

I prefer silence but I don’t always get it because I have two shelties (Team Sheltie) and they can be vocal, especially when I turn on my treadmill desk and walk and write at the same time.

7. What are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?

I’m always reading two or three books at a time, usually a novel, a non-fiction book and sometimes a book for research. Right now I’m reading The Couple Next Door by Canadian writer Shari Lapena; The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben; and Psychics, Healers & Mediums by Jennifer Weigel. I have so many favorite writers but lately I’ve been on a real Jojo Moyes kick. I love her books.

8. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your time?

It depends on the time of year. In the spring and summer, I’m cycling or working in the garden. I have a big garden and a greenhouse and I like to grow a lot of my own food. In the winter, I do more yoga, attend more lectures, have people over for dinner more often and I try to fit in a trip somewhere warm. Oh, and I’m always reading no matter what time of year.

9. What has been the most challenging part about writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I think the most challenging part is waiting – waiting on editors and publishers, then after a book is accepted you must wait for it to be published. That’s always a challenge. The best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to read a lot and to write a lot. Read widely; get a sense of what you like and don’t like. Write passionately, from the heart, and don’t censor yourself.

10. Can you share any details on what you’re working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?

I’m always juggling two or three projects. Just last night, we launched In Plain Sight, my latest YA with Orca Book Publishers. I have another YA called One Good Deed that I’ve finished revising and will be sending out on submission soon, and I’m at the brainstorming stage of another YA which I can’t talk about yet because the embryonic stage is a delicate one for me. I also write for women under the name Laura Tobias and I’m working on a second Tobias novel at the moment too.

Connect With Laura: 
Twitter | Web | Goodreads

Thank you so much to Laura for being on the blog today. Are you a fan of medical mystery books?