I interviewed Claire Louise Mulligan, author of the collection “Reading Abigail and Other Stories,” and the novels The Reckoning of Boston Jim and The Dark. She is just back from the latest writing festival in Vancouver (her former home), where she read alongside such famous authors as Eleanor Catton, the 2013 winner of the Man Booker Prize.
How long have you been writing?
I wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. Ever since I was a child.
Do you have a favorite author, one whose writing inspires you, or just an author you'd like to write like?
There are so many. But one is Rose Tremain, an English historical novelist. Her latest is Merivel: A Man out of Time.
So many novels today are plot-driven. The narrators are interchangeable. One-of-a-piece. But in Tremain's books, the character development is as important as the plot. Other than that, I love a poetic approach – a prose style that's distinctive without being overdone.
Are there any Canadian authors (besides yourself) that you'd care to name that Americans should be reading?
Definitely, more people should read David Adams Richards. He's very Canadian.
When readers become authors, they sometimes claim that they've lost the ability to enjoy reading. That is, instead of just reading for pleasure, they get involved in the mechanics of a story. Do you ever feel that way?
Sometimes, especially when I'm doing book club stuff. I tend to get very analytical. But that's OK – I'm in awe of great writing.
You've won or been nominated for many awards. Your first novel, The Reckoning of Boston Jim, was nominated for the 2007 Giller Prize and for the British Columbia Book Award. Once you've won or been nominated, is there pressure for to continue that with subsequent books?
Sure. Awards get you on the map.
Let's end with this: you've done many interviews. Can you tell us the stupidest question an interviewer has ever asked you?
My latest book, The Dark, has a theme of spiritualism. A radio interviewer once asked me “Do you believe in ghosts?” What does that have to do with anything? It's as if, if you're not a believer, you shouldn't be writing about ghosts.
Do they ask a writer who writes about zombies if he believes that zombies exist? Of course not. And they probably wouldn't ask if I believed in God – that's too personal. But they feel free to ask about ghosts. It's as if belief in ghosts lies somewhere between science and religion.
Another question I couldn't answer was “Why do Canadians support their writers more than Americans?” How would I know the answer to that? You'd have to do a sociological study to come up with an answer.
All I know is that it's true. Canada treats its writers like movie stars.
Thank you, Claire.
Claire Mulligan's website is www.clairemulligan.com She will speak to the Brandywine Valley Writers Group on Tuesday, 19 November, 2013 at 7 pm. Admission is free, but we meet upstairs at Ryan's Pub in West Chester, and the restaurant expects attendees to purchase some food or drink. For more information on this event, please go to http://www.meetup.com/Brandywine-Valley-Writers-Group/events/149486072/