Friday, November 30, 2007

12 or 20 questions: with Lillian Necakov

Lillian Necakov lives in Toronto where she has been writing and publishing for the past 30 years. She is the author of Sickbed of Dogs, Wolsak and Wynn 1989, Polaroids, Coach House Press 1997, Hat Trick, Exile Editions 1998 and The Bone Broker, Mansfield Press 2007. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines in the U.S.A., Europe, China and Canada, including Surreal Estate: 13 Canadian Poets Under the Influence, Mercury Press, 2004.

1 - How did your first book change your life?

It absolutely didn’t. It just allowed me to move on to the next batch of writing, although it was kind of cool to see my name on an actual book.

2 - How long have you lived in Toronto, and how does geography, if at all, impact on your writing? Does race or gender make any impact on your work?

My family moved to Toronto from Belgrade, former Yugoslavia when I was 3 years old. Geography does impact my writing, but it’s my immediate geography, meaning my neighbourhood and the neighbourhood I work in. You tend to write about what’s around you, what you know. I work in an at risk neighbourhood in a pretty tough part of town where I see a lot of poverty and violence but I also get to see the good stuff that goes on there. All this is bound to affect what I write about. If you read The Bone Broker it’s all there.

3 - Where does a poem or piece of fiction usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

The work always starts with a tiny speck of an idea, a word or an image that is swimming around in my head. I never just sit down to write. There has to be something brewing before I can actually hit the keyboard. I usually write piece by piece or section by section, I tend not to think in terms of an entire book or body of work. I often have an entire poem or part of a poem composed in my head before I ever write it down. This process can take minutes or days.

4 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process?

I think they are part of my creative process. They can be positive or negative experiences but they almost always give me some kind of encouragement to go home and do more or better.

5 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Most of the time I don’t really know what the hell I am on about until later, when I go back and look at what I have written and how it may connect to what I have written before or what I am trying to accomplish. Really I think I write because it is the only way I know of connecting the dots of my existence, our collective existence. I suppose that is a kind of question I am concerned with.

6 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

If it is a good editor it is essential. You can never step outside of yourself enough to be able to look at your work with that eagle eye.

7 - After having published more than a couple of titles over the years, do you find the process of book-making harder or easier?

Easier, mostly because I am not self-publishing anymore!

8 - When was the last time you ate a pear?

Today, I love pears. My dad has a pear tree in his garden; I grew up with them falling all around me.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

I don’t really know, I try not to take any advice.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?

I don’t really move between genres much. I have written some fiction and it takes me a hell of a long time to write. I am a real perfectionist, every word and phrase has to be dead on, sound just right etc… not an easy transition for me.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

Typical day for me begins at 6 am, get the kids ready and off to school, then get myself ready for the long trek to work (bike in the warmer weather and transit during the winter). I work full time running a community branch library, so I have no real routine when it comes to my writing. I write when I can grab an hour or two, mostly late at night or on Mondays which is my day off. I think that is why I tend to compose a lot of my work “on the run” so to speak and then commit it to memory so that I can later write it down. Needless to say, my memory is pretty good, or at least I think it is?

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Usually to a good book. I read a ton of fiction as well as non-fiction. I don’t read much poetry.

13 - How does your most recent book compare to your previous work? How does it feel different?

I think my latest book is a lot more thought out in the sense that it works as a whole. The work is stronger and there are some real departures (more humor and longer pieces). I suppose I am getting better at it, writing I mean, at least I hope I am. I feel like the work is a bit more mature.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Sure! Films, music, nature, riding my bike all that stuff, how can it not? If you look at my stuff I think you will agree that it is pretty visual with all the imagery and so on. That is direct result of my love of film and visual art.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I love Octavio Paz, he is my favourite poet. Books on science and math, Kaye Gibbons, Barbara Kingsolver and great crime writers (Craig Russell and Stuart MacBride). But really everything, I read a whole bunch of different stuff, I work in a library I can’t go a day without seeing something new I want to read.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Ride in the Tour de France and write a novel.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had younot been a writer?

Film maker.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I am not a very good collaborator and I love pencils! (I suppose that means I would not have made a very good film maker).

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Film: Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai (re-viewing for the? time)

20 - What are you currently working on?

Staying out of trouble and ideas for the next poetry book.

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