I had the privilege of meeting Gail Anderson-Dargatz at the Grimsby Author Series in September. Gail is an author, a supporter of literacy and also provides mentoring and support to other writers. I have enjoyed the rich fiction of Turtle Valley, A Recipe for Bees and am looking forward to her latest novel The Spawning Grounds (which is on hold at the library) and The Cure for Death by Lightening (my signed copy is in my growing TBR pile).
As part of the Novel Questions series, I am thrilled to share Gail’s responses. I would like to thank her for these detailed answers which will provide more insight for readers of her beautifully crafted novels. I hope that everyone is enjoying this new blog feature and am happy to receive comments, suggestions of authors and questions for future Novel Questions.
What is your favourite childhood book? Why?
The Velveteen Rabbit. My mother gave me a copy, which I still have. I experienced childhood illness and so the book really resonated for me. And, of course, we all had those childhood objects that became very real to us. The book still makes me weep. (I too love this book and treasure the copy that I read to my own children).
Did you always want to be a writer?
My big sister, who is 17 years older than me, tells me I told her I would be a writer when I was seven. She wrote, just as my mother did, and my father was a great reader. I grew up in a house where writing and reading were valued, so both were a natural pastime for me. We were a farm family, though, so I didn’t expect I would make a living doing what I love. That was a wonderful surprise.
Where is your favourite place to write and why?
I used to write in an office. Then I had kids and had no office (we needed the room for them). Even now that I have an office again, I roam around the house with my laptop, writing wherever it feels right. My favorite place to write, though, is at our summer home on Manitoulin Island. I take long walks on the boardwalk and its there that I do much of my “writing,” working out ideas as I stroll and take in the gorgeous dunes and shallow, light-filled bay. Manitoulin is a wonderful, magical writers’ retreat. That’s why we ended up running our Providence Bay Writers’ Camp there. I wanted to share that magical landscape with the writers I work with. (Gail this sounds amazing and I hope to join one of your writers’ camps one day).
What work are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of my literary novels, and that they’ve done so well both nationally and internationally. But the work I’m most proud of are the literacy learner novels that I write for adults struggling to improve their literacy skills. In the past I wrote these books through ABC Life Literacy’s Good Reads program (Grassroots Press). Now I write them through Orca’s Rapid Reads program. Before these publishers began offering these books, adults who were working on literacy skills had to turn to children’s books. How disheartening! The Rapid Reads novels are “hi-lo” books (high interest, but at grade two to six reading level) written specifically for adults, covering issues of relevance to them, and not teens or middle school children. I’ve heard back from readers that my literacy learner novels were the first books they ever read, and that they fired their interest in reading, and that they have now become avid readers. There is no higher compliment to a writer than that. (What a great literacy initiative!!!)
What is the last book that you read and why would you recommend it… or not?
I recommend Ann Eriksson’s The Performance. Here’s why (from the blurb I wrote about Ann’s book):
Ann Eriksson is known for tackling difficult social issues within her writing. Her latest novel, The Performance, is no exception. Eriksson has chosen the privileged world of a concert pianist to illustrate the deep social and economic disparity between the wealthy and those forced through circumstance to live on the street. In The Performance, Eriksson makes us take a hard look at homelessness and forces us to ask uneasy questions of ourselves. Yet she does so within a compelling story and writes of both poverty and music — and the unexpected moments where they intersect — in confident, lyrical prose.
I admire writers who find innovative ways to challenge readers about social issues, but do so without preaching, and Ann manages to do just that with this novel. She’s a deeply compassionate writer. (This sounds like another book to add to my TBR pile and the description makes me think of Richard Wagamese’s novel, Ragged People which provides gritty insight into the lives of homeless people and provides a different perspective on how individuals may end up living on the street).
Here is a link my reviews of the Grimsby Author Series event, my book reviews and to Gail’s website which has a wealth of information. Special thanks to Gail!!