Tell us about yourself.
When did you realize you had a passion for writing?
I think I always knew. My father is a writer so we grew up eating books for breakfast. I learned to read in kindergarten. It was like unlocking a secret door. Books are power, knowledge and escape; books were everything to me as a child: if I had a book, I was fine.
What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?
Probably, as a younger poet and writer, clichéd as it sounds, Sylvia Plath. I was also very heavily influenced by music, namely David Bowie who created characters like Ziggy Stardust and structured albums around character-driven narratives. The photo I have enclosed reflects my “Heroes” Bowie phase. I admire Canadian writer Barbara Gowdy and American writers like Amy Hempel; Marilynne Robinson; Mona Simpson; Donna Tartt; Joy Williams and many of my colleagues at U of T, namely Alexandra Leggat and poet Catherine Graham.
How and when do you find time to write? / What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
I’m going to group these questions together as my biggest challenge with teaching is finding the time to write. Once you get over the fear of the page, which happens every day, it is okay. You just need the time to think and dream and ponder; that too, is part of the writing process which daily life doesn’t often afford.
How have you changed as a writer over the years?
My writing has always been muscular, fierce and non-linear but, as I’ve grown older I have, hopefully, been able to control it more. The themes I explore are always the same: family, abandonment, betrayal, loss. I am also interested in what makes people self-destruct and make bad choices. I like setting challenges for myself by creating characters who are complex and not necessarily morally sound. I don’t like loveable people in fiction; I think it is more interesting to write about broken people.