Catherine Banks

Catherine Banks photoInterviewed by Sarah Higgins

Catherine Banks is a renowned, award-winning Canadian playwright. She received the Nova Scotia Established Artist Award in 2008 for her body of work and has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama twice – in 2008 for Bone Cage and in 2012 for It is Solved by Walking. The latter was translated into Catalan by the Tant per Tant theatre company and toured Barcelona in 2012. Her other works include Three Storey, Ocean View and Bitter Rose (which also aired on Bravo! TV’s Singular Series). Her latest work, Miss ‘n Me, will premiere as a Sarasvati Theatre production in Winnipeg in May, 2015.

Banks’ plays reflect the rhythm of life in rural Nova Scotia with humour, pathos and poetry. Through the particularities of specific lives, she expresses universal stories – and through the universal stories, she highlights the particular highs and lows of life in the Maritimes.

I had the pleasure of hearing her read from It is Solved by Walking at an event in Halifax several years ago, and the beauty and breath of her work enthralled me. I was grateful to be able to chat with her, over email, about her craft.

Let’s start at the start – how did you get into playwriting? Or, what was your first experience of theatre, and did that inform your choice of genre?

I grew up around my father’s family of storytellers and wits. I acted in high school and university and even wrote a monologue for my one theatre class ever (acting) but it really wasn’t until I saw Michel Tremblay’s Les belles soeurs that I understood that I had something to write about—up until that point I thought writers lived exotic lives. Tremblay characters were so grounded in real life that I understood that I had lots to write. I have said many times that the first time I sat down and wrote dialogue I felt I had come home. [Read more…]

Whiskey Blue

blue2Interviewed by Becca Clarkson

Whiskey Blue is the author of Brooklyn Love, a collection of literary erotica or ‘fine lesbian smut.’ She is also a contributor to Psychology Today, advice columnist extraordinaire for Everyone is Gay, and has published with The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, AfterEllen, Curve Magazine, Bitch, and more. You can follow her at @topshelferotica.

Whiskey reached out to me two years ago when my older sister, her close friend, told her that I’d been accepted into UBC’s Creative Writing Program. Her genuine interest, sincere advice, and impressive range of publications stuck with me and made her an obvious choice to interview, years later. Luckily, the Brooklyn-based writer moved back to Vancouver in 2014, and we were able to meet for coffee at Turks on Commercial Drive. It should also be noted that Whiskey is a very savvy dresser, and took the time to discuss our mutual love of the television series Broad City once the interview was done.

I’ve been struggling how to word this question so that it doesn’t sound like I’m encouraging kids to do drugs and not prioritize school. In your article “Coming Out in Psychology Today, you describe your adolescence as hard—not because you’re a lesbian, but because being an adolescent sucks for everyone. You also describe experimenting with ketamine and frequenting raves at that time. After high school though, you went on to work in a law office and wear power suits, and now you’re a successful writer who people seek advice from in columns! I guess I was hoping to hear your take on the anxiety many students feel about not being successful enough, or the best in their program, sleeping in, drinking too much, etc. Do you that your lack of focus on a specific career, perfect resume and cover letter, etc., affected how you became the writer you are today?

When I was in high school I was a really bad kid. I was doing bad things: drugs, dropping out of school—it took me a very long time to get my high school diploma. I was always feeling like a little bit of an outlaw. By my late teens and early twenties I was so off the grid that I wasn’t really worried or thinking about getting a degree and going down a certain path to get a certain job. I’m not saying it’s a good thing to exist in these parameters but it was definitely my reality. When I did go back to school, I never felt like taking creative writing would make me a writer, I just wanted to go to school instead of bartending and working so many jobs, and have X amount of hours a week for writing. School allowed me to spend X hours in class, surrounded by peers who are also thinking about writing, and be with mentors and teachers who know more about writing than me. I felt like that would create inspiration and opportunity but I never really saw university as a track to a career in the way one might if they’re taking engineering. A part of what makes writing so difficult and annoying is that there isn’t really this straight line or path. I think that a lot of the writers that I’m interested in didn’t take a very straight path either though. To feel on the outside is a pretty valuable and, I think, very typical experience for a writer. To feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, or feeling bad for sleeping in or not doing enough, that’s part of the experience. It’s good for a writer to be a little bit of a fuck up. [Read more…]

Mohsin Hamid

hamidInterviewed by Rumnique Nannar

Mohsin Hamid would prefer that you to call him a “nomadic novelist.” Hamid is the author of Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, but each of these novels were written in between continents. Hamid summoned his memories of 1990s Pakistan in Princeton, conjured up a post-9/11 New York in London, and shaded in an unknown metropolis while in Pakistan. His latest book Discontent & Its Civilizations is a collection of essays that touch on Islamophobia, travel, and global politics.

Hamid’s writing is consistently stylish and daring as he breaks down the boundaries between reader and story. Whether it is the dramatic monologue in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a breakout book that hit the New York Times’ bestseller list, or the second-person narration in Filthy Rich, Hamid’s novels involve the reader in its narrative. We chatted over Skype about his journey as a writer, father, and even his favourite TV shows. (Spoiler alert for GoT fans!)

How did you start or decide to become a writer?

As a little kid, I was a big reader. I probably started with comic books and children’s stories, and then kept reading throughout my childhood and teens. I’m also quite a fantasist, so I would imagine countries and I loved atlases. I used to imagine little countries where no countries existed, and I was into Dungeons and Dragons as a kid (laughs). All of these things, in a way, were a real absorption into storytelling. When I went to university in the States, Princeton had a wonderful creative writing program with Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. I remember applying for one of the first creative writing workshops and getting in, and starting to write stories for them. Very quickly I realized that this was what I loved to do. So it was in university for the first time that I thought, I would like to be a professional writer. [Read more…]