The Great Genevieve Graham

I had the pleasure of moderating the Enemies, Allies and Antiquities: From Versailles to Acadia panel with historical fiction authors Roberta Rich, Sally Christie and Genevieve Graham at Toronto Public Library’s Appel SalonGenevieve was kind enough to provide responses to several questions I asked, and has given me permission to share them!

Genevieve graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music in Performance (she played the oboe) and began writing in 2007. She is passionate about breathing life back into history through tales of romance and adventure, and loves the particular challenge of capturing Canadian history. Her previous novel, Tides of Honour, was a Globe and Mail bestseller for eight weeks. When she isn’t writing, she can be found relaxing with her husband and two grown daughters, teaching piano to children in the community, or tending her garden along with a friendly flock of heritage chickens. She lives in a tiny town near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Why do you believe your historical novels are so popular with modern readers? How do you make your historical subject accessible to readers?

Dark Side by John Choi

Dark Side by John Choi

Dark Side by John Choi

It’s kind of crazy that both my brother and I published our first books this year. Like me, John took Creative Writing classes at the University of Toronto’s School for Continuing Studies. We even studied with some of the same instructors like Dennis Bock. The networking opportunities that came with being in our classes eventually led us to get our books published.

According to the National Reading Campaign’s review of Dark Side, the Young Adult (YA) novel “grips readers with its intensity, packing each page with relatable teen issues.”  Emerson, the protagonist in Dark Side, is overwhelmed with family pressures and parental expectations.  John, who works at Nexus Youth Services, explores themes that include domestic violence and teen suicide.

I really enjoyed reading the book because it spoke to so many issues and concerns that today’s teens deal with. As a teacher, I can see how young readers would connect with the characters and the challenges they face. John ends the book with an author’s note encouraging readers to seek help if they are feeling in any way overwhelmed by school or issues related to family and friends. Dark Side is available in bookstores and on Amazon. It was released by Lorimer Books, a Canadian publishing company, in August 2016.

 

Ann Radcliffe and the female Gothic genre

Radcliffe's most famous work

Radcliffe’s most famous work

One of the most challenging and rewarding courses I’ve taken is on Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823). Regarded as the principal creator of the female Gothic genre, Radcliffe is credited as establishing a standard and new formula for Gothic fiction which earned it great respect and a larger readership. Patriarchal authority and institutions were challenged and examined in the Female Gothic. Unlike male writers such as Matthew Lewis who wove scenes of sexual assault into their work, Radcliffe’s terrors come from implied or possible physical assaults, and the “explained supernatural”.  Her essay, “On the Supernatural in Poetry”, examines how she distinguishes between “terror” and “horror”.

We read four of her six novels in class: A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797). The Mysteries of Udolpho, which most recently inspired Guillermo del Toro and his movie Crimson Peak, is 672 pages long and is considered Radcliffe’s masterpiece.

Radcliffe is a great storyteller with an incredible sense of adventure. I found myself captivated by her exotic settings and intriguing characters. Although few modern readers have heard of her, Radcliffe has influenced several writers including Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Jane Austen (1775-1817), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), and more recently, Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) and Anne Rice (1941).

For more on Radcliffe:

Online:

Ann Radcliffe (biography)
Ann Radcliffe (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Ann Radcliffe – An Introduction
The Female Gothic – An Introduction

Books:

Davison, Carol M. History of the Gothic: Gothic Literature 1764-1824.  Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2009.

Ellis, Markman. The History of Gothic Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press, 2000.

Heiland, Donna. Gothic & Gender: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Mulvey-Roberts, Marie. The Handbook of the Gothic. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Wright, Angela. Gothic Fiction: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007.

 

The art of bookbinding

These are the books I made in the workshop

These are the books I made in the workshop

I recently attended my first workshop on bookbinding. Today, I spent the afternoon picking up some supplies and tools to keep practising the art. One of the stores my instructor, Vanessa, recommended was The Paper Place. Located in downtown Toronto, it’s a great shop that carries a wide variety of decorative Japanese papers, as well as the book binding and paper crafting tools needed for any book project.

I learned to type on one of these!

I learned to type on one of these!

After, I ended up wandering into Type Books, an independent bookstore, which is next door. This old fashion typewriter was on display there. It reminded me of the old manual typewriter I learned to type on decades ago!

I was happy that the store had Chang Rae Lee’s new book On Such a Full Sea which I ended up getting.

Read more about bookbinding:

The Art of Bookbinding

Bookbinding 101: Five-hole Pamphlet Stitch

Coptic Stitch Binding Tutorial (on youtube)

 

 

 

Editors and Writers

With Allyson Latta

With Allyson Latta

I was finally able to thank Allyson Latta in person when I met up with her last month. She was a guest speaker at a Markham high school where she spoke to students about her work as a freelance editor.  I was fortunate enough to work with Allyson on my first book which will be released early next year.

Allyson has worked with many prominent Canadian writers including two of my favourites, Marina Nemat and Lawrence Hill. Her website, full of guest posts, interviews, and all things that might interest any writer, is definitely worth checking out. Allyson also teaches memoir writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.

sweetlandThanks to a quiet March Break, I was able to finish reading a couple of books. One novel I would highly recommend is Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. After visiting Newfoundland a few years ago and falling in love with that province, I couldn’t resist reading this book. Set in a remote island community, our protagonist Moses Sweetland, fakes his own death and stays behind after everyone else relocates.

For more information:

Michael Crummey’s Sweetland is like a song of mourning – a review by The Globe and Mail

Michael Crummey: How I wrote Sweetland – Canada Writes

 

Paperbacks and fresh maple syrup

A horse drawn wagon filled with delicious maple syrup for sale

A horse drawn wagon filled with delicious maple syrup for sale

Local farmers were out selling fresh maple syrup at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. The place was packed with people, mostly families out enjoying a sunny March Break day. Located 1.5 hours west of Toronto, this is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada.

Along with some wonderful ready-to-eat foods like perogies, souvlaki, and apple fritters, you can find everything from handmade quilts to used vinyl records. I spent quite a bit of time perusing used books, finally getting the following copies to take home:

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. I read the book years ago and loved it. It’s a fast read so I can re-read it again fairly quickly. For a novel summary, click here:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s been on my list to read since 2010! For a summary, click here.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. The cover image has always intrigued me. I’d like to finally get around to reading it. For a summary, click here.

Hope In The Desperate Hour by David Adams Richards. Another book I’ve wanted to read for a while now. For a summary, click here.

Promoting Korean literature

Jae Kim is currently a student at the University of Toronto. In September of 2013, he founded the University of Toronto Korean English Literature Society (KELS). His goal is to encourage thoughtful reflection of Korean contemporary culture. He shared that while Korean pop music, film, and cuisine have gained tremendous popularity within North American society, books and other literary works by writers of Korean heritage continue to pass under the radar. You can find out more about KELS by visiting its website.

Three GenerationsI just started reading Three Generations by Yom Sang-seop. It’s the first Korean book I’m reading that has been translated into English. The story, set in Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s, chronicles the highs and lows of the Jo family. It is considered one of the most influential works of fiction in modern Korean literature. You can read more about Yom Sang-seop’s book here.