Rob Byrnes

Rob ByrnesInterviewed by Jeffrey Ricker

Rob Byrnes has been making me laugh since I met him in 2009 at a writing conference in New Orleans. He also deserves credit for prodding me to submit an essay to an anthology that became my first published piece of creative writing. The author of six novels, he won a Lambda Literary Award for When the Stars Come Out (2006) and was a Lambda finalist in 2009 for his novel Straight Lies. His most recent novel, Strange Bedfellows, was published in 2012 by Bold Strokes Books. Originally from Rochester, New York, Byrnes is a graduate of Union College and lives in New Jersey with his partner.

Your first novel, The Night We Met, came out in 2002. What inspired you to become a writer, and what was the process that led to the novel’s publication?

I was encouraged to read a lot as a child, which no doubt was an influence, but I think the desire to write is innate – like the desire to create music, or even become an accountant. That said, I was in my early thirties before I tried to tie the desire to actual work. I failed at first, of course, but I kept writing, and sought out peer support through the CompuServe writing forums. (Remember – this was the early ’90s!)

The men and women I met online became mentors and taskmasters, and the forum served as a workshop for the novel that eventually became The Night We Met. And let me add that when you’re getting personal feedback from people like the writers Diana Gabaldon and John L. Myers – not to mention the artist who eventually became the noted novelist Rabih Alameddine – you’d be a fool not to take their advice.

That’s not to say that publication of The Night We Met was a slam-dunk after that. It took a few more years, a lot of rejection, and perhaps a bit of luck before the book was published in 2002. Still, my willingness to put my words out there and listen to some (occasionally raw) feedback was the most significant step I took on the path to becoming “A Writer.” [Read more…]

Susin Nielsen

Susin NielsenInterviewed by Clara Kumagai

Susin Nielsen credits her big break to her time as a caterer for the cast and crew of Degrassi Junior High, though she had been writing long before that. It was Degrassi that began her career, though, after a spec script led to her writing sixteen episodes, as well as four books in the Degrassi novel series. After graduating from Degrassi—so to speak—Susin went on to write for and work on TV series, including Ready or Not, Madison, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes and Heartland.

Susin’s writing is not limited to the TV screen, however. She has written three children’s books: Mormor Moves In, The Magic Beads and Hank and Fergus, which won Mr. Christie’s Silver Medal award. In 2008, Susin published her first original young adult novel, Word Nerd, followed by Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom. In 2012, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen was published, and subsequently won the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Text.

Having read all of Susin’s young adult novels, I was struck by her ability to capture the hilarious highs and troubling lows of the teenage experience. Sensitive without sugar-coating and humorous without belittling, Susin is one of the most engaging young adult authors in Canada.

Did you want to write from a young age?

Yes. I found my first diary, written when I was 11 years old, in the garage a few years ago. It starts with this paragraph: “This is the first day I’ve really written in a diary. The reason I am is ‘cos I LOVE writing stories, and if I do grow up to be a famous writer, and later die, and they want to get a story of my life, I guess I should keep a diary.”!! Although I did have other ideas for a while, like “I’m going to be a famous actress” and “I’m going to be a TV news reporter.” [Read more…]