Tuesday, February 09, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Corinne Wasilewski

Corinne Wasilewski was born and raised in Woodstock, New Brunswick but now makes her home in Sarnia, where she works as an occupational therapist. Her short stories have appeared in Front & Centre, The Windsor Review, The Nashwaak Review and The Battered Suitcase. Live from the Underground is her first novel. An early version of the manuscript was awarded the WFNB's David Adams Richards Prize in 2012.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Live from the Underground is my first book. So far the only change is I’m meeting cool people who love reading and writing at least as much as I do. Where have you people been my whole life?

I’m also tending a blog and a Facebook page out of a sense of duty to the work. I’m an introvert to the extreme and have shunned social media as a rule.  

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
Actually I came to non-fiction first. I was always a writer – a writer of letters and a keeper of journals and diaries.  As a girl, I maintained correspondence with a good twelve or fifteen pen pals at any one time. I was super-analytical (still am) and had a tendency to obsess on the meaning of life, always harassing my friends for the answers. As an adult I eventually realized there are no answers – at least not the cut-and-dried variety I searched for in my youth. I also realized that fiction is a wonderful vehicle for exploring the answers to my questions. 

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?
I just dive in head first. I am not one of those writers who plans ahead. I don’t develop a plot outline or character sketches. I have no idea how the story will end. I’m working things out as I go along. I travel down roads that turn into dead ends. I drop characters and pick up new ones. I do a gazillion rewrites. I don’t know what the answer is so how can I map it out ahead of time? Chances are the final version will bear a slim resemblance to the first draft, absolutely no resemblance in the case of Live from the Underground.  The writing generally comes quickly, but, the finished product come slowly because of all the rewrites. Live from the Underground took me ten years to write.

4 - Where does a work 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?
I know exactly what I’m working on from the get-go. If I’m looking to explore a question that has been plaguing me for years, then the piece is definitely a novel. To be honest, my short stories were only a way for me to get my foot in the door of the publishing world. I don’t particularly enjoy writing them. I love reading short stories, though. 

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I love readings. I love reading. To me, readings are separate from the creative process – they’re more like sales and marketing. That being said, theoretically readings provide an opportunity to meet new people, possibly creative types who might spark my own creative process.   

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 don’t have any global questions. My questions are deeply personal and only of relevance to me.

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?
I think the role varies depending on the writer. For me, fiction writing is like a spiritual practice. What I mean is, in well written fiction the reader connects with the characters. In order to create characters the reader cares about, the writer must see them with empathy. She must draw them with a compassionate eye and she must avoid judging them. That’s the spiritual practice for me…suspending judgment and cultivating compassion.

In terms of the larger culture -- and here’s a radical thought – maybe it’s not the book that matters. Maybe the impact lies in the writing process and the way it transforms the individual writer.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I am very open to any feedback that might improve the quality of my writing.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
I interviewed Alden Nowlan, who is probably New Brunswick’s best loved poet, for a major English project in grade 12. He told me an effective writer must learn to distinguish what she genuinely feels about something from the way in which she thinks the people around her expect her to feel. This, it turns out, has been the challenge of my life.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short story to novel)? What do you see as the appeal?
I don’t seem to have a problem moving between short stories and novels, but, I much prefer novels. Novels give me the time and freedom to penetrate the many layers of a story and are great for analytical types like 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?
I write best first thing in the morning. I get up at 5:30 am in order to get in thirty or forty-five minutes of writing before I leave for work.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
My writing rarely gets stalled. On the off chance it does, a good night’s sleep usually does the trick.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Homemade baked beans and brown bread, of course!

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?

I tend to shut out the emotional side of life so any situation that causes me emotional turmoil is good fodder for a story. Not quite what you’re looking for, but, this is the truth as it pertains to me.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I love the way Lynn Coady walks that fine line between tragedy and comedy as well as the honesty and vulnerability she shows in her work. I think she is a courageous writer. I would like to be the same.

I love Stuart Ross’ sense of humour and am inspired by his commitment to community, the small press and the written word. I like the way he has stayed true to himself through the years.  

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I would like to speak Polish fluently.

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 you not been a writer?
I would be involved in North Atlantic right whale rescue. I would work on a disentanglement team that frees whales from fishing gear. People that do this type of work are superheroes to me.

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

Writing is an obsession for me -- reading and writing both obsessions from the time I was young. Apparently my maiden name ‘Schriver’ means ‘writer’ in German. How’s that for cool? It’s my super-analytical personality that drives me to write (and read).  I love to explore different points of view and understand a subject from all sides.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
I watch very few films, but, I saw American Beauty for the first time back in the summer and it left an impression. I read great books all the time (check out my goodreads page). All Quiet on the Western Front is the latest.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a novel that explores the influence of mothers on daughters through multiple generations. So far, it’s going much faster than Live from the Underground did.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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