Such a good time last night reading in the vintage section at Victoria's glorious Russell Books. Lee Henderson read his tragicomic parable of a pine beetle, Chris Humphreys gave us a section from his dashing new 1930s-set Chasing the Wind, and Michael Christie treated us to a preview from his forthcoming family saga, Greenwood (out in August--it's going to be brilliant). We had a friendly full house and and lots of discussion afterwards. Thanks to Russell Books for hosting in their beautiful space.
Last night at Bolen Books in Victoria, the inimitable Miriam Toews read from her newest novel, Women Talking, for a packed house of 400. Hearing that excerpt in her voice somehow drew out the humour in the huge tragedy that book covers. Onstage, she and I discussed rage (and aspirin), voices, the imaginative filter, and our old pal St. Augustine. I'm honoured to have had the chance to interview her and witness her connection with the audience. If you get a chance to see her, go. And don't pass up a trip to Bolen Books either.
Ian Weir and I had a great talk about writing (and TV, and perseverance) with students, faculty, and community members at Thompson Rivers University on Friday. The next evening, we read in the most beautiful venue, Kamloops's Old Courthouse, which brought all my Law and Order dreams to life (see Ian reading from the bench). Glorious live music from Crossbow, lovely booksellers from the local Chapters, and an inquisitive audience. Can't wait to read Ian's newest novel, The Death and Life of Strother Purcell, especially now that I've heard some in his own voice. Big thanks to the Kamloops Society for the Written Arts for having me! (That's the indefatigable JP Baker and Lindsay Curry with us below.)
Some photos from last night's hometown start to the book tour. Dania Tomlinson was my special guest--her novel, Our Animal Hearts, is a beauty, and you should read it. Both our books refer to water monsters, however obliquely! Thanks to her, our host Mary Ellen Holland, and friends and readers for coming out.
Photo credits: Suzy Larsen.
Here's a list of tour dates for My Name is a Knife events this fall, starting this week. Hope to see you!
Sept 13: Kelowna launch with Dania Tomlinson, Bohemian Cafe, 7-9 pm
Sept 14: Kamloops, TRU student event, 3 pm
Sept 15: Kamloops launch with Ian Weir, The Old Courthouse, 6 pm
Sept 16: Victoria, in conversation with Miriam Toews, Bolen Books, 7 pm (tickets in-store)
Sept 17: Victoria, reading with Michael Christie, Lee Henderson, and Chris Humphreys, Russell Books, doors at 7 pm
Sept 28: Kingston Writers' Fest fiction masterclass, 3:30 pm
Sept 29: Kingston Writers' Fest Speakeasy reading with Waubgeshig Rice and many more, doors at 8:30 pm
Oct 1: Toronto, In Her Voice series with Nick Mount, Ben McNally Books, 6 pm
Oct 20: Vancouver Writers' Fest, Scars of History panel with Esi Edugyan and Rawi Hage, 8 pm
Oct 21: Vancouver Writers' Fest, Afternoon Tea event with Emma Hooper and many more, 3:30 pm
Oct 28: Ottawa International Writers' Fest, Living History panel with Wayne Grady and Natalie Morrill, 8:30 pm
Oct 29: Montreal, reading at Drawn & Quarterly, time TBA
Nov 29: Penticton, reading with Corinna Chong and Adam Lewis Schroeder at Okanagan College, time TBA
I've been putting together a playlist to go with the novel--it's under "My Name is a Knife" at Spotify (if you don't have it, you can download a free version!). Below, I've listed a few of the pieces that have YouTube versions too.
Some are traditional, some more random, but all of them tie to the book's situations or moods, I think, or were songs I listened to while I was writing. Thanks to my friend Suzy Larsen for some of the Bach suggestions. (Bach is really good for writers.) Also happy to entertain your suggestions.
Hurray for the Riff Raff, Down by the River
Shawnee Pow-Wow Drums
Bach, Cello Suite #2, Prelude
Bach, Cello Suite #4, Sarabande
Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Body Electric
Bach, Violin Partita #3, Gavotte
Shawnee Stomp Dance
American Revolutionary ballad, All Things are Quite Silent
Couperin, Les Barricades Mysterieuses
Tanya Tagaq, Nacreous
Buffy Sainte-Marie, Love Charms (Mojo Bijoux)
Here's My Name is a Knife's first newspaper review--thanks, Toronto Star, for this thoughtful reading. I'm so happy the reviewer saw my characters, especially Rebecca, so clearly, and understood their conflictedness. And it's always nice to be called "vivid" and "disturbing."
Had fun at the book birthday party for My Name is a Knife last night, an appropriately hot summer evening, as it is when the novel starts. We were at Mosaic Books in Kelowna (the best store!). My smart novelist workshop friends Corinna Chong and Adam Lewis Schroeder read from their latest--that's us posing as a trio below--and I read a little of Dan's and a little of Rebecca's parts in the new novel. I saw some friends I've known most of my life, and some new readers. And cake.
Thanks to Mary Ellen Holland, Corinna Chong, Adam Lewis Schroeder, and Suzy Larsen for photos.
Here is an interview about My Name is a Knife that I did with Katie Heindl for Hazlitt. She had a lot of good and tough questions about my writing process, the history behind the book, and my characters. I'm so proud she calls it "sweeping, tender, and gutting." I hope you get a chance to read it.
It's publication day for My Name is a Knife, which shares a birthday with David Hasselhoff and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (so it's a Tuesday's-child-is-full-of-grace, and a Cancer, in the French-World-Cup-winning Year of the Dog, and I don't know what else). It certainly feels like a strange time for book promotion (Angela Merkel was also born on this day, as it turns out). I've been thinking about parallels with the book's world, another tumultuous and uncertain era. The American Revolution was barely through, the British and French were still present, making and breaking various Indigenous alliances, and the settler push westwards was roiling.
This book is in many ways about people's inner spheres, and these events make the background as Dan returns to Boonesborough to warn of an impending attack by the Shawnee who adopted him. His mental turmoil mirrors the historical one (and I know a lot of us have been feeling similarly in the last months). His wife Rebecca, who has left the fort with most of her children, is also full of uncertainty about what's happened to Dan, and what's going to happen to her family. Her rage at his lack of consideration for them in his drive to explore is a kind of #MeToo, and writing about the damage to their marriage felt very modern. The novel is in both Rebecca's and Dan's voices; we also get the attitudes of more ferocious settlers, and of some of the Shawnee, like Chief Black Fish, Dan's adoptive father and a powerful leader, and Pompey, their interpreter and a former slave. The roots of now are there.
Dan and Rebecca are complicated characters who aren't always right, for all their hopes to make things work. Here's Emily Wilson, the brilliant translator of The Odyssey, the story of another legendary figure in a fraught time, and the fallout around him:
I think the capacity of literature to create these rich, complex questions or fault-lines, between what
this or that character thinks, and what the whole story might be saying, is one of the biggest reasons
why literature matters. It makes us see / feel / be more.
I hope my book will do that in its small way.
I'm the author of All True Not a Lie In It (Knopf Canada 2015, Ecco USA 2016) and The Old Familiar (Thistledown 2008).