Thank you May for sharing this great post about your evening spent with Lawrence Hill and Lynne Kutsukake with the Girly Book Club. It sounds like it was a fantastic evening! I am very lucky to have met Lawrence Hill at the 2015 Hamilton Winterfest event and am looking forward to meeting Lynne Kutsukake as part of the Grimsby Author Series in March. The readers of A Year of Books will appreciate your insight, May!
I belong to the Richmond Hill Girly Book Club, an in-person book club chapter that is exclusively for women. Currently they have chapters in 8 countries and 30 cities. The Girly Book Club Live event was held on January 17, 2017 and featured Lawrence Hill, Lynne Kutsukake and Nadia Hashimi. Because of poor weather Nadia was not able to make it, as her flight never took off from Washington, D.C.
I met Lawrence Hill at another event recently, with Susan Gibson, at Giller’s Prize Between the Pages last October. Book of Negros remain one of my most favourite books of all time. I enjoyed his latest book The Illegal as well, the winner of the 2016 Canada Reads. Interestingly enough, I found out one of my old bosses was consulted for The Illegal and one of my colleagues went to school with Mr. Hill at UTS in Toronto. He commented that Mr. Hill back in the days was an excellent runner, so not surprised that he had a marathoner as the main character for The Illegal.
The event was a relatively small one, with about 70 participants. Erin Woodward, the president of the Girly Book Club, introduced Lawrence Hill and Lynne Katsukake. Mr. Hill has had a lustrous career in journalism and writing. He is also currently teaching at University of Guelph. Ms. Kutsukake on the other hand, has been a librarian at the Toronto Public Library. The Translation of Love is her debut novel.
Mr. Hill talked about his past career as a journalist. At the age of 27, he packed up his life and went to Spain for a year and a half, just to write. It was then that he decided he wanted to write full time. He commented that this year will be his first time going back to Spain with his wife for 5 weeks after the completion of his latest book.
Ms Kutsukake never spoke Japanese until she decided to study Japanese Literature. Since then, she has travelled to Japan many times and has learnt to speak Japanese along the way. She described she always wanted to write about the occupation of Japan post second world war and the letters written to General Douglas MacArthur by Japanese during that period.
When asked whether any of the characters were somebody the authors know. Mr. Hill said some of the characters are people he knows, but most are fictional. Ms. Kutsukake developed her characters from the letters she read.
When asked whether they wrote or typed their books. The answer from Lawrence Hill surprised most of us. He types his first draft, but hand writes his second draft. He also does 8 drafts for each book!! Ms. Kutsukake types her drafts.
When asked whether they based their books on real historical events. Mr. Hill indicated he would stick very minimally to true historical events and/or characters. He wants to stretch his imagination when writing. He mentioned for example that for the Book of Negros, the skin colour of one of the characters is still being debated, and he decided to make him black, because it fits the book better.
Erin Woodward asked how book clubs have been a part of their journey. Ms. Kutsukake mentioned that her experience has been minimal, but is looking forward to promoting her book to book clubs. Mr. Hill said that book clubs were what made The Book of Negros to have the success it has today. He further elaborated that when the book first came out, it was never on the bestseller list for the first year. Just when he thought all was lost when he found out that book clubs were starting to read his book, and somehow this word of mouth grass root movement promoted his book to the bestsellers lists for next 2 years in a row!
The evening ended with a cocktail reception and book signing. I had both my copies of The Book of Negros and The Illegals signed as well as the Translation of Love.
Overall, both writers were very good speakers, but especially Lawrence Hill. He is just such an amazing storyteller and I enjoyed the evening!
Thank you Susan for her generosity allowing me to post on her blog.