“Love Letters…” Live on Calgary Radio

Last winter, I traveled to Calgary to do a live radio interview at CJSW about my debut novel. My hosts were Paul Kennett and Emily Ursuliak, a writer deservedly known as one of the most generous and hardest working people in the Calgary literary scene.

Since it was live, I didn’t get to hear the interview anywhere but in my headphones and I was pleased this week when Emily sent me a link to a podcast of our talk.

Here I am talking about the Catholic Church, my bff, and commenting on technical elements of the book that I’d never had a chance to speak about in public until this smart interviewer raised them.

Jenn Quist on CJSW, right here.

Anthologies Are the Friendliest Literary Form

My Name — Among Way Cooler People’s — on the Back Cover of “40 Below”

Last year, a piece of my short non-fiction was included in 40 Below: Edmonton’s Anthology of Winter.  As always, I was thrilled to get the gig.  The book was released three months after my novel’s debut and it turns out to be the gig that keeps on giving.  It helped introduce me — a little hick in the sticks — to the big city Edmonton literary scene.  It got me invited to some cool events (most of which I couldn’t attend because of the winter weather — is that irony?) and also got me a slot in the podcast series produced to accompany the anthology.  Here’s a link to me and editor/writer/nice guy Jason Lee Norman celebrating the book writer-style — locked in a little room.

Jennifer Quist’s 40 Below Interview and Reading

Return of an Edmonton Cleaning-Lady as an Audreys Author

The best thing about being from nowhwere is being from everywhere.

I lived in thirteen different houses by the time I moved away from my happy, nomadic family at age eighteen (only to have them move right along after me a few months later).  That counts as growing up everywhere doesn’t it?

When I made my first solo move, the place I went was Edmonton, Alberta.  Don’t know Edmonton?  It’s a metropolitan area of about a million people at 54 degrees latitude.  If anyone’s thinking, “That must be a pretty great city for people to put up with living that far north,” they’re right.   I went there to get an education at the University of Alberta.  I met my husband on Whyte Avenue, earned my degree, published my first guest column in the Edmonton Journal, and my two eldest children were born in Edmonton.  I was there for eight years — longer than I’ve lived in any city.  My Edmonton days were happy but not glamorous.  Most of the time, I lived in Strathcona walk-up apartments like this:

The Apollo Apartments, just off Whyte Avenue

The Apollo Apartments, just off Whyte Avenue

Even this place was only affordable because I worked as the resident manager and cleaning-lady. I don’t live inside the city limits anymore but if the weather is good, I can get to them in under an hour.  Edmonton is still one of my many hometowns — part of the everywhere I’m from.  In fact, several of the chapters of the book I wrote are set in city — University of Alberta campus, the High Level Bridge, Cloverbar Waster Transfer Station — all Edmonton.

This coming Tuesday night, I’m bringing my book home to Edmonton.

A few weeks ago, my novel was nicely reviewed by Edmonton Journal book columnist (and fellow newly debuted local author) Michael Hingston.  He called it, “A surprising, thoughtful and captivating debut that uses death to illuminate all that’s at stake in life itself.”

The good local review sets the stage for my author reading hosted by Edmonton’s indie bookstore mainstay, Audreys Books. (No, there isn’t supposed to be an apostrophe in the name.  It refers to more than one Audrey and is grammatically above reproach.)  Audreys is a place little girls slogging away at their Arts degrees, and young-mother-cleaning-ladies writing indignant guest columns keep in their minds as the setting for scenes from the futures they want for themselves.  The store is a landing-pad for Edmonton writers in traditional, book-length publishing.  I am beyond happy to be appearing there.

And since my publicist, Sarah, is a total animal, I’m getting right up in Edmonton’s face about my homecoming.  I’m doing a radio interview with talk radio station 630 CHED on Monday, Sept 23, at around 7:20am.  The morning of the reading itself, Tuesday Sept 24, I’ll be interviewed outside the safe, blind box of radio on television with the CTV Edmonton Morning show.  I’ll be on for just a few minutes at around 8:40am.  So crazy!  And if I botch it, remember that we must never speak of this again.

So, What’s It About, Anyways?

What’s this book about and where does it fit?

Ever since I got my book deal last autumn, I’ve been fumbling with the inevitable, perfectly natural question of, “So what’s your book about?”  Maybe I’m over-thinking it but I find this question difficult.

The first thing that makes my book hard to explain is the fact that it doesn’t fall neatly into a genre — and I’m not just saying that to try to sound cool and transcendent and stuff.  If the book was about sorceresses with magic necklaces and metal undies I could say it was fantasy.  If it was peopled with smoochy vampires it would be paranormal romance.  If it was about stabby psychopaths I could call it a crime novel.  If it prattled on about dating and shopping it would be chick-lit.  But it’s none of those things.  It’s kind of lovey-dovey, a bit creepy in parts.  It’s a little otherworldly yet it’s realistic and earthy.

When I was still submitting the manuscript, still ticking boxes in search engines of databases listing publishers’ interests, the box that fit best was called “literary fiction.”  And it’s the classification now stamped on the back cover of the book.  However, it’s also a term that gets sneered at for its elitist implications.  Who’s to say what’s of literary merit, and on and on and on… Still, if for no other reason than its acknowledgement that a flashy, racing story-line can come second to arty, thematic prose, literary fiction is the category that suits the novel best (she said, cringing, hoping not to sound elitist).

Another category fits simply because of my geography.  It’s “Can-Lit” — Canadian literature.  I am Canadian so, in some ways, I can’t help but write Canadian literature.  I’ve fallen back on this description a few times.  But Can-Lit has gained a character of its own over the years and when I offer it as an answer, I need to be prepared to embrace that character.  I need to be able to wave my hand and believe myself when I say, “It’s CanLit — you know, bad weather and complicated relationships.”

Nothing I say is very precise or descriptive or satisfying for nice people asking about my book.  So here’s a short Q&A with me about my novel.  It appears in my publisher’s online literary mag, Salon .ll., and hopefully it will shed some light on what I’m writing and why someone might want to read it.  Go ahead and click the link below.

http://www.lindaleith.com/posts/view/280