When the Shuswap BookFest organizers asked me if I would interview Elizabeth Hay onstage on October 2, I said yes, yes, a thousand times yes!
Without really thinking. Though I love doing the Storybrain interviews here on the blog, I've never done a live performance. But hey! Elizabeth Hay, CanLit superstar, whose work I've admired since I stumbled on her story collection, Small Change, years ago. I figured I'd wing it.
Until I was knocked sideways by a ghastly bug and lost my voice for more than a week. I lay around and read her new novel, His Whole Life, which centres on a small family moving between New York City and a summer cabin in Ontario against the backdrop of the 1995 Quebec referendum, and reread earlier ones. Still croaky but on my feet, I went to the first night of the festival to hear Eleanor Wachtel, Queen of the CBC, talk about her 25 years of interviewing on Writers and Company and Wachtel on the Arts. Talk about tough acts to follow. When Eleanor said she has at least 20 pages of questions and prompts for a one-hour radio interview, and how much more difficult and unpredictable live interviews are, my heart sank. I went home and looked over my three pages, and didn't sleep much.
I should have slept better. As it turned out, and in spite of germs and rain, Elizabeth makes live interviewing very easy. She's warm, funny, and very generous in her talk, letting us into her writing process and her thoughts on fate, politics, parenthood, and envy. I didn't look much at my notes--our conversation took its own turns, from writing difficult and unpleasant characters (Janet the Jerk, I'm talking about you), to Pierre and Justin Trudeau as Shakespearian figures. The hour flashed by, and the terrific audience had plenty of smart questions afterwards. Shuswap BookFest, I'm inviting myself back for 2016.
I'm the author of My Name is a Knife, All True Not a Lie In It, and The Old Familiar.