Sunday, June 26, 2022

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Sophie Mccreesh

Sophie Mccreesh is a writer living in Toronto. She is the author of Once More, With Feeling published by Doubleday Canada.

1 – How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

Right now, I’m just enjoying the feeling of having published my first novel. I have been appreciating all the support and kind messages from people who enjoyed the book. It makes my day when someone sends a note about the novel. I’m also really enjoying seeing people post photos.

2 – How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

For a while, I wrote poetry but then I realized I wasn’t very good, and I just stopped. At the risk of giving a boring answer, I’d say that I was drawn to fiction just from reading it when I was a kid. When I started writing, most of my stories evolved from a piece of dialogue that I found funny or interesting, so it makes sense for that to be the medium I chose. It’s also easier to for me to try and make jokes while writing fiction.

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 try not to overthink things when starting a new project. It’s important for me to try and navigate the pressures of perfection in the sense that I often remind myself that the project doesn’t need to be fully formed immediately. It’s easy for me to dwell on a piece, thinking over possible ways that it could simply be bad. For that reason, I find it useful to get a first draft out quickly without weighing in too much how I perceive its quality. I usually try and reach a point where I cut it off. My aim is to convince myself that it is the best that it can be and that only time can make it better. Then I move on to something else for a while.

4 – Where does a work of prose 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?

When I write, I’m always conscious of character, as that is always the first thing I am drawn to when I am reading a novel or even watching a show. I usually start with an idea of a character in mind as well as a vague question that I want an answer to. I try to figure out the answer to whatever questions I have, writing though the character’s perspective, asking how they would respond to whatever situation I’m playing out. How can I show what I think and feel through their perspective? How is their perspective helpful? Can it add either humour or insight into the situation?

5 – Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

It’s great to share my work with my friends and I usually enjoy hanging out at whatever bar the reading is happening at. Although I feel like some of my material doesn’t always translate as well in a live reading (as a good deal of it is heavily based in dialogue), I still enjoy doing public readings. I like to see how some of the more humorous aspects of a piece will land with an audience—are people laughing, or did whatever joke I thought was funny not land?

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 usually end up writing about whatever vague, unanswered questions that feel important to me, or whatever I’m obsessed with at the time. I find that any questions or theoretical concerns I have change throughout the process of writing and publishing a short story or novel, so for that reason it’s hard to pinpoint any.

One of my goals for Once More, With Feeling was to write about female friendship in a way that was new and interesting, which I hope comes out between Jane and the character Kitty. As I kept writing, I found I was relating some of my own ideas to do with feeling vaguely inadequate while making art to the two friends. I wanted them to navigate wanting a career and a certain fear of failure.

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

To get a silk pillowcase.

8 – How easy has it been for you to move between genres (short stories to the novel)? What do you see as the appeal?

It’s usually pretty easy for me to work on multiple projects at the same time. What I work on can depend on what mood I’m in. Sometimes, writing short stories can feel a bit more light-hearted and fun. When I’m working on a novel, I can start to take things too seriously, as I feel every scene/ interaction/ piece of dialogue must have more meaning in terms of the movement of the story.

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

Although I tried to make myself into a morning person, I really only get meaningful work done at night. I think there is something about the emptiness of the late hours when everyone has already gone to bed. For a while, I was experimenting with a set word count. The number of words kept slowly decreasing until I decided it would just be better to spend a certain amount of time writing. Sometimes deleting a sentence can be as important as writing a new one.

I worked on parts of Once More, With Feeling at night after work so I would listen to electronic music to try and keep myself stimulated, awake, but not distracted.

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

I try to start by reading more. Giving myself permission to pause the writing for a bit while I carve out time to read and experience new things.

11 – 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?

It’s hard to speak specifically about how all these forms influence my work. I used to like to go to the AGO alone to relax and listen to music. I like it when it’s quiet and there’s no one there. I have attempted to write about music in my fiction—something that is a way for me to grasp how I relate to it personally.

Music comes up in different ways in my novel, Once More, With Feeling. The main character Jane is always conscious of what’s playing around her, trying to place the name of the song in her head. Maybe it’s a way for her to make sense of things. In a way, I think Jane views whatever music she is listening to as a way to connect to her emotions while she feels isolated and alone.

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

I really like Mary Gaitskill’s writing.

13 – What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Make music. Or at least get to a point where I feel comfortable writing about it.

14 – 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 a ballerina, simply because I love watching ballet. I also like the idea of being an architect. Sadly, I think I lack the skills for both.

15 – What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I can’t really think of a definitive moment when I decided to be a writer. Writing just feels like something I enjoy doing and feel committed to improve upon. Forgive this answer, but I always liked the idea of being a person who “writes novels.” haha

16 – What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I really enjoyed Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This. I recently watched The Lost Daughter

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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