Chelsea Rooney is the author of Pedal, a debut novel published in 2014 with Caitlin Press and a finalist for the 2015 Amazon First Novel Award. CBC Books named Chelsea Rooney a WRITER TO WATCH in2015. In 2014, Canada’s book blog 49th Shelf chose Pedal as a Bookof the Year. Chelsea hosts a monthly episode of The Storytelling Show on Vancouver Co-Op Radio.
1 - How did your first book change your life?
I now have to talk about myself in public a lot more.
2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
Good question. Artist John Baldessari says, “You have to be possessed, which you cannot will.” I don’t think we choose what possesses us.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
My process begins with one to three years of researching ideas I can’t stop thinking about before a story finally begins to take shape through the fog as I get closer to it.
4 - Where does 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?
Everything is a book. The work is chiseling out storylines that will have to wait until the next book. Once an idea obsesses me, I begin to see it (and its cousins) everywhere.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I very much enjoy the readings themselves. I do not really enjoy the day of the reading.
6 - 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?
I write to answer questions about empathy. I’m one of those people who think empathy is the capital “A” Answer to everything. I write toward: “What is this person/group/decade’s specific barrier to empathy? If we added empathy to this problem, what would change?”
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
The role of the writer is to observe and perhaps respond intellectually to their observations. Whether people read and/or find value in those observations and responses is a separate matter, one which the writer does better not to think about.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I find the process of working with an outside editor both magical and invaluable.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
“Write like a motherfucker,” said Cheryl Strayed.
10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?
Wake up, drink coffee, stare out the window, write fiction, get on bicycle, make money teaching teenagers how to write essays about novels.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
For inspiration I turn to what other people smarter than me have written about the topics in my current novel (Satanic panic, hip hop, 1980s California, crack cocaine.)
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
13 - 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?
Yes, all of the above.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Observing (quietly) communities on Twitter of which I’m not a part of has been hugely important to my work. Sometimes I hear old white men on certain radio and television stations say that no one has ever learned anything of value on Twitter and I just laugh and laugh. It’s like, wake up dudes.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Visit New York City.
16 - 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 you not been a writer?
I’m thinking about going back to school for Counseling Psychology. Since PEDAL came out, I have discovered that writing doesn’t fulfill every need I have in terms of giving what I can to others. The private conversations I’ve had with women over the past nine months have fulfilled me more than any publication credit ever could.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ‘90s and Changed Canadian Music by Andrea Warner. Film: Something from Nothing: the Art of Rap directed by Ice T.
19 - What are you currently working on?
I’m writing a novel that takes place during 1986 California and near-future British Columbia. It’s about mass hysteria and social technology. Thanks for asking!