Usually I don’t pick on a writer’s actual manuscript, but I can’t resist this humdinger:
“My legs are suddenly the consistency of Jell-O. I’m so glad I decided to wear my best jeans this morning.”
Oh, my bad. That’s not from a query. It’s from Fifty Shades of Grey. You know, that series that has sold 7 million copies. Please kill me.
An Interview with Anne Holly // Author of Strings Attached
1) Where were you born, where do you live now, and are you close to perfect swimming water?
I was born in Nova Scotia, and now I live in Ontario. There’re lakes here, but no bay or ocean, so it’s not the right kind of swimming water for me, sadly. Too crowded, as well. I also can’t handle fake swimming water (i.e. chlorinated cement ponds).
2) What is your favorite smell?
Black licorice or vanilla. Also, sandalwood if it’s a man’s cologne.
3) Tell us about your education and what you do now (jobs and hobbies).
I have a PhD, and I teach at a university. It’s a great gig, but tiring. I’m a mother to a preschooler, so I spend a lot of time on the model trains my son and I are maintaining together. I love learning more about parenting. I read, I write, I blog, I watch movies, and I draw a little. I walk a lot. I write poetry that will never, ever be published. I love to sing, and I play a few instruments really badly. I love colouring with my son – it’s very relaxing.
4) What do you teach at the university?
I teach cultural studies, mostly in the areas of ethno-religious identity and gender in film and pop-culture, particularly in how we internalize these and create the self.
5) Since you’ve already published fiction, why spend time composing verse? Do you think a fiction writer branching out into poetry is similar to an actor branching out into music?
I have always written poetry, but not for publication. It’s something I do in my journals. It helps me think and process. In terms of what I do for public consumption, that is entirely fiction and non-fiction prose, as as well as some script writing. However, scribbling poetry as a hobby does help one practice some vital areas of prose craft - being succinct and finding the right words, and an appreciation for sound and cadence, which is important for strong dialogue. For the record, though, I have nothing against actors also recording music, if they have the talent. Many actors now chided for becoming singers actually started out as singers before they became famous as actors. However, I have no plans to ever publish in poetry. It’s too personal to me, anyway, and it’s just for me.
6) Do you have a dog or cat?
We have a cat named Ralph, who was my birthday present this past May from myself. I went a long time without a cat. I happened to be between cats when I got pregnant, so I didn’t get another (toxic litter boxes when gestating and all that), and didn’t have the energy while my son was a baby. So, when I thought about my birthday, and I figured my three year old could handle the new rules and would love a playmate, we headed to the Humane Society and found Ralph – a gorgeous midsize brown tabby male, who’s about a year old, and was brought in as a stray. He’s lovely – quite patient and active with my son, and sweet with me, though he does like to bite my toes a bit too much. The Humane Society claimed he was a cat, but he eats more like a tiny horse.
7) Is ignorance bliss?
It might seem like it, I guess, but the bad things are still lurking even when you don’t see them. I’d rather know, before they get too bad. Besides, if ignorance is bliss, it’s a selfish one. The only way to make sure all humans have a chance at bliss is to be aware. True bliss is knowing what’s happening, but still being able to enjoy the good parts, anyway, in my opinion. Loving your joy so much you want everyone to have such happiness, while knowing not everyone does.
8) Great answer. How did you get interested in writing?
I don’t really remember when I started, since I’ve been doing it since I was a small child. We didn’t have a TV as a kid, so I read and wrote to pass the time. Then, when my teachers praised me, that just added fuel to the fire and the rest is history.
9) How has your practice evolved over the course of time?
I used to have favourite places, favourite pens, favourite conditions. Now, I don’t. I work a job, and raise a child, so I write whenever I can. Being busy teaches you that you can’t sit around looking Byronic and hoping for inspiration. You have to get to it, or you won’t ever do it.
10) What do you consider to be your greatest success?
I’ll let you know when I reach it. Childbirth and my dissertation rank up there, of course, but I think there’s more to come.
11) Childbirth is definitely a great success. While pregnant, did you find your short-term memory at all impaired? Do you plan on having another?
Short term memory loss… I don’t think so, not physically-based anyway. I’ve always been a bit absent minded due to day dreaming, lack of sleep, and multitasking, so it’s hard to tell. No plans to have another. I came from a large-ish family, from long lines of large families, but I want to make sure I have a good child-to-resources ratio, and I don’t want to short change my son by spreading my time too thin. I come from farm stock, so large families made sense in that context. For me, in an urban apartment with no major labour to share, it doesn’t make environmental or personal sense. No judgment on people who choose to have large families, of course, but, for me, I feel like one is a good number, given my time and money. I’d hate to over-extend in such an important job, you know what I mean? I love my son, and, believe me, he’s plenty to keep me busy and happy!
12) And, I’m curious, what was your dissertation about?
Romance, actually! I looked at romance as a modern foundational myth (meaning the cumulative affects of the genre can be taken as a shared belief through continued genre communication) stemming from classical liberalism, and how this has played out in film ideology in both romantic comedy and romantic melodrama. After that, it seemed natural to write my own, since I knew the form inside and out, and I knew what I wanted to do differently and what I wanted to hold onto or pay homage to (or parody, in some cases). I believe in genre writers being experts in their chosen genre, even if they reject the conventions when needed.
13) Is there any thing that your family or friends would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m not sure. I don’t have a dissembling bone in my body, I think, so I am pretty much what I seem to be. Some of my friends don’t know I publish my fiction, but I doubt they’d be surprised, as such. Hmmm… Even after being a vegetarian for eighteen years, I still crave chicken. I think that’s my deepest, darkest secret. Shhh! Don’t tell!
14) What did you find out after finishing STRINGS ATTACHED? What weren’t you expecting?
I wrote Strings Attached in about 2000 or 2001 when I was about 22. I loved doing it, and my initial readers responded very well. I edited it up. I wrote a query and sent it off, thinking I had a solid contemporary romance on my hands, and I waited… And I got a form rejection. I’d never been rejected for anything before, so I admit I wasn’t expecting it. They didn’t even want to see the manuscript! So, I put the thing away, went off to grad school, and didn’t look at it again until about 2010, when I finished my PhD. I read it again with fresh eyes, reworked it, and realized what age and life can do for writing. It was still enjoyable, but naïve. Motherhood, and living in different places in Canada, breakups and new loves, and education, all that had made me better equipped to write. Then, I found a smaller publisher for whom you didn’t need an agent, and they accepted it. The whole thing taught me to stick with things, but don’t fear the passage of time. A good story can only get better by some time in a drawer, I think.
I’m cheating on Blogger.
I hope I don’t have any blond pixels on me when I return home.