Format: Trade Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada
ISBN: 978-0-307-39936-6 (0-307-39936-2)
Pub Date: February 7, 2012
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20 Writerly Questions for…Haley Tanner
1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Vaclav & Lena is the story of two children growing up in the Russian émigré community of Brighton Beach who lose each other, find each other again, fall in love, and together must navigate a complicated and treacherous past.
2. How long did it take you to write this book?
I think it took three years - I was working a lot, and it was pushed aside many times - times when I had to work more towards paying my rent.
3. Where is your favorite place to write?
I can and do write anywhere - I haven’t always had the luxury of a nice quiet desk, so I’ve written in my car, on the subway, and in crowded restaurants. If I could write anywhere? On a big comfy chair with my dogs napping in the same room.
4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Most of them come with names - sometimes the name is first. Vaclav is named after Vaclav Havel - ever since I was little I loved that in a country far far away there was a poet who became the president.
5. How many drafts do you go through?
I’ve done a few rounds of editing on this book, but I don’t draft very much.
6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, without a doubt. I wish I had written all of his books. I wish he would write my books.
7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
I would love to see teenagers who have never acted before, who didn’t grow up in Hollywood - it would be amazing to see actual Russian immigrants play Vaclav and Lena. I think Drea de Matteo would make an excellent Ekaterina.
8. What’s your favourite city in the world?
New York. Specifically Brooklyn. I’m completely addicted to it.
9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
I would want to talk to J.D. Salinger. I’d ask him to indulge me and have a conversation about the Glass family as if they were all real people that we both knew. I just want to gossip with him about Franny and Boo Boo.
10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?
I do! I have to listen to something that I know really well, otherwise I’m distracted by the lyrics. I love to choose music to set the tone of the scene as I’m writing it - and I love songwriters who play around with language - so when I take a break from writing, and sit back, I’m inspired to use words in a fresh way when I get back to the page. My favorites for writing are Regina Spektor, Paul Simon, and Leonard Cohen.
11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript?
Usually my best friend, Julie Sarkissian, who is a brilliant writer herself, and my dad, who is an excellent reader.
12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
I don’t think any reading should be a guilty pleasure! Really and truly.
13. What’s on your nightstand right now?
The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria by Bill Shore, and J.D. Salinger’s Raise High The Roofbeams Carpenters and Seymour an Introduction, which I am reading for the millionth time.
14. What is the first book you remember reading?
My parents read me wonderful children’s books, and I remember those vividly, but the first book I remember staying up all night to finish was Roald Dahl’s Matilda.
15. Did you always want to be a writer?
16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
I’ll drink or eat anything while I write. Pickles are almost my favorite thing in the world. I always need a glass of water, but I can’t say I’ve never written with a cup of coffee or a whiskey by my side. I do, however, frown upon drinking and writing. Writing is a job, and you should never show up to work more than a little bit drunk. Unless you’re a surgeon, then you shouldn’t be even a little bit drunk.
17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
Laptop and many pens and notebooks. I type directly on my laptop, but sometimes it seems my mind needs to do some big scrawly handwriting to get things flowing. I also make complicated maps and timelines on paper - mostly to procrastinate when I should be writing a hard scene.
18. What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
I hung up the phone, shaking, and hugged my husband, Gavin. I had been on the phone with my agent, and taking notes on a notepad, and he was standing behind me, reading along. He was beside himself - he was so excited. He actually lifted me up in the air. I was in my pajamas. Then I called my parents to meet us for drinks so I could tell them in person. They thought I was going to tell them I was pregnant. They were so excited, and relieved, and we had an amazing dinner.
19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
It just happened. In retrospect, I chose a quite annoying little situation - a third person limited omniscient narrator whose voice is occasionally (unavoidably) infected with the accent of the nearest character.
20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Oh, such a good question! Same thing everyone needs - unconditional love. It’s scary when you put yourself out there on the page. It’s nice to have someone who will love you even when your writing is crap. Also books. No one ever gives me books! I think they think I have all the books I need. I don’t! And I wouldn’t say no to a bottle of whiskey, either.
From the Hardcover edition.
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