The Questionless Books Interview: Novelist, Editor, and Reviewer Michelle Berry
In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales/publicity/production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.
Michelle Berry is the author of three books of short stories, How to Get There from Here, Margaret Lives in the Basement, and I Still Don't Even Know You (which just won the 2011 Mary Scorer Award for Best Book Published by a Manitoba Publisher and has been shortlisted for the ReLit Award, 2011), as well as four novels, What We All Want, Blur, Blind Crescent and The Book Will Not Save Your Life (which won the 2010 Colophon Award and was longlisted for the ReLit Award, 2011). Her writing has been optioned for film and published in the U.K. She is also co-editor with Natalee Caple of The Notebooks: Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writers, and has collaborated on an art book with Winnipeg artist, Andrew Valko, called, Postcard Fictions. Michelle taught creative writing at Ryerson, Humber College and Trent University, was on the board of PEN Canada and the authors’ committee of the Writer's Trust and served as Second Vice-Chair of The Writer's Union. She presently teaches online for The University of Toronto/New York Times, and will be a mentor at Humber College in the Spring. She is a reviewer for The Globe and Mail.
I am...constantly anxious.
I am known to...hide my anxieties from everyone but my husband.
I do this in...part because my empathy gene works on overdrive. Everyone is a potential worry.
I do this because...my imagination is a disease.
I do this when I...'m happy or sad or bored or busy or in a house or with a mouse or in a train in the rain or in a box or with a fox....
The way I do this is...I talk too quickly (see above), in an anxious sort of way. And I walk around with a worried scowl on my face which has led to wrinkles (which worries me more).
At his/her core, a Writer is...anxious? But driven. And single-minded. And empathetic.
As opposed to an Author, who is...probably also anxious (and maybe also driven), but doing a good job to hide it.
A Writer is responsible for...pleasing herself. Which makes her anxious.
As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for...making herself feel more talented than she really is.
At its core, Publishing is...a fool's game.
As opposed to Editing, which is...necessary. And under-applied.
A Publisher should always...let the editor make the final decision.
As opposed to an Editor, who should always...trust the writer.
A Manuscript that's ready to be read by others is...courageous.
As opposed to a Book that's ready to be read by others, which is...bound and covered.
A Manuscript should always...be the best a writer can do at the time.
As opposed to a Book, which should always...be even better than the manuscript.
At its core, Bookselling is...controlled by publishers, when it should really be controlled by readers.
As opposed to Book Marketing, which is...an oxymoron.
The smallest unit of narrative is...a question mark? As in “?”
The biggest reason to anticipate the future is...because it's coming and there is nothing you can do about it. This is hard not to anticipate.
The biggest reason to be scared of the future is...because it's coming and there is nothing you can do about it. This makes it hard not to be scared.
In the future we will all...still read books. Actual books. Real books. And e-books too. But mostly, books.
At his/her core, a Reader is...my boss, the person I respect more than anything.
However, the ideal Reader is...a boss who clears her mind, gets rid of all the busyness of life, quiets everything around her, and reads with abandon. Oh, and gives me a raise.