Brett Josef Grubisic

Brett_Josef_Grubisic_photoInterviewed by Joshua Robinson

To regard reading and writing as, in a way, an exercise in the exploration of self is no revelatory concept for Brett Josef Grubisic.  Growing up, he found his passion early and preferred the company of the written word and a quiet corner to the bluster and bombast of social gatherings in his family home.  

Years removed from childhood, Grubisic occupies many roles within the writing world.  As a professor of English at the University of British Columbia, a contributor to Maclean’s and other publications, and an editor and writer himself, Grubisic has turned his childhood passion into a sprawling career. 

The editor of Contra/Diction: New Queer Male Fiction and co-editor of Carnal Nation: Brave New Sex Fictions, Grubisic’s debut novel, The Age of Cities, was a 2007 finalist for the Vancouver Book Award. His upcoming novel, From Up River and For One Night Only—due out in April 2016—is the next in a solid sequence of compelling prose that draws on experience-as-catalyst, attesting to the fact that to write is more than just an exercise in mechanics.  To write is to reach back into one’s life, to pull at the past to create something entirely new. 

I spoke with Brett about his influences, his upcoming projects, and how he approaches the craft of writing. 

What inspired you to become a writer?

My oldest memory of “being a writer” takes place in St. Mary’s, a weird once-upon-a-time segregated half-residential elementary school near Hatzic Island, BC. A teacher granted a few girls and me a spare because we’d finished our work earlier. We were being handpicked as “accelerated” I think. Alone in a room we were allowed to do anything creative and we came up with a gory play about a giant chicken’s heart terrorizing girls who were camping. We made a monster/chicken’s heart costume out of red construction paper. My first rejection slip came in the form of the teacher’s disappointment with the direction our unfettered creativity had taken. She told us that we couldn’t perform it and that our spare classes were cancelled. I’m pretty sure the essence of that boy was still in me when I began writing my first novel a few decades later!

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Moira Young

Young%2c Moira Please Use This for Publicity 2Credit www.benjaminharte.comInterviewed by Jessica Bradford

Originally from New Westminster, BC and a graduate of UBC, Moira Young moved to the UK to attend The Drama Studio, becoming a tap-dancing chorus girl in London’s West End before returning to Canada and retraining as an opera singer. She spent several years performing in Europe until 2003 when she fell off a bus on her way to her debut as a sketch comedienne, broke both her wrists and suffered a concussion. She decided it was a “sign from the universe” and took a course in writing for children.

Eight years later her debut novel, the YA fantasy Blood Red Road, won the Costa Children’s Book Award, the British Columbia Book Prize for Children’s Literature and France’s Le Prix des Incorruptibles. It is now being developed for film by Ridley Scott. Her second book, Rebel Heart, was a finalist for the Sunburst Prize, BC Stellar Award and Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. The final book of the trilogy, Raging Star, was published in 2014. Moira’s writing has been described by the New York Times as having “an elemental power, unfolding across achingly barren landscapes, full of blistering hot winds and swirling clouds of orange dust.”

Moira kindly took time out of finishing her latest novel to answer a few questions.

You have said that the landscape of your trilogy is influenced by your childhood in BC, by descriptions of the dust bowl and the landscape of westerns.  Living in BC and reading your novels I often felt like I was in familiar country, the descriptions were so tangible. Do you find yourself being drawn to the British landscape in the same way?

That large, visual landscape is in my DNA, it seems. I put that down to our summer driving holidays during my first nine years, exploring British Columbia. Those landscapes have been altered, filtered through memory and movies, to become something mythic; I mean, in a deeply personal sense. And it’s nothing to do with being an outdoorsy person. Generally, I find most Canadian landscapes too large for comfort, too immense to even comprehend. Yet if I’m away from them for too long, I feel an urgent need to return.

Much of the UK is on a much more human scale. You feel that you’re walking where people have walked for thousands of years and worn the land to their lives. The right to roam makes it easy to get off the beaten track. I love to explore the British countryside and I read a lot of UK landscape writers, Robert Macfarlane, for one. I’m more drawn to the fringes – Cornwall and Scotland, where my family come from – so perhaps I’ll write something set there one day. But it can only ever be from the viewpoint of an outsider. It’s not my land. I’m connected to Canadian landscape in a visceral way.

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