March 14th, 2018

A Year of So Much Love

One year ago that book of mine came out. So Much Love was so many years–and tears–in the making that it could not be anything but huge in my life when it actually became a public item. The subject matter is also dark and emotional, and I’d been deeply immersed in it for seven years when the book came out, in addition to the sense of vulnerability coming from events in my actual personal life. So even though I tell writers who are just starting out that one gets tough from having books in the world, inured to reviews and criticism simply by having experienced them–that wasn’t true this time. I was basically an open wound when So Much Love came out.

There’s a few paragraphs in one of the chapters about a character searching for waterproof mascara and I own that mascara in real life (research budget!) and wore it to the launch. I cried a lot about this book, literal and metaphorical tears both. It was shocking to have other people gain access to what was starting to feel like my own personal dreamscape. And even more shocking to talk to them about it–it was like letting the light in. I had been alone with the book for so long, and though eventually my brilliant editor Anita Chong came along shouldered so much of the load, I still felt cloistered with it. The many different reactions to the book–so many of them excited and engaged–let me finally step back from my own work and see it as a real book and not a dream. For the people who read it, So Much Love is a novel with a distinct shape and structure, characters and event, a beginning and an end. I never thought I’d be able to experience the book that way, but the longer I wasn’t writing it, the more viewpoints I heard–some very different from anything I’d imagined–the more it began to make sense to me as a finite object.

Other people related to Catherine and Julianna, Grey and Kyla, Sue and Donny, too–cried for them and got frustrated, and felt hope and sadness for them. They related to other characters or didn’t, felt suspense or eagerness, felt revulsion or impatience, felt so many things in the course of the novel. Readers of SML were reminded of people in the real world who had suffered similar crimes, of crimes they themselves had suffered. They thought of how incredibly difficult it is to suffer and recover. They felt the novel echoed that or didn’t, were troubled by its dissonances and resonances, were concerned, excited, questioning, scared, bored, thrilled.

Not everyone liked the book, and a few people were very clear in explaining that to me–in print, in person, on the internet–but pretty much everyone was civil. I’m actually startled by how well I coped with harsh words about the book,  given my feelings about SML per above. One reason is probably that I had kind people–mainly friends and family, but sometimes strangers–around to say, well, this is just one set of thoughts, there’s lots of other thoughts. And another reason is that I read Dana Hansen’s review in the Winnipeg Review and Marsha Lederman’s review in the Globe and Mail very early in the process, plus Bret Josef Grubisic’s in Quill and Quire and those were not only positive but seemed to read the novel in the way that I had written in. Because I saw in these reviews that people could connect with SML in the way I had dreamed–and because I knew they have a right not to–I was more or less ok with even the darkest comments on this book. It was still people sharing their thoughts on the most important thing I’d ever written, and that was generous, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.

Oh, the generosity of this year. From the moment I stood at Kerry Clare’s lovely launch for the very brilliant and funny Mitzi Bytes and she took time out of her own big day to give my book a little shout out–can you imagine a friend like that?–I thought things might be ok. So Much Love and I received so much heartfelt *thought* this year–from the really searching, interesting questions at the panel discussions to the TV presenters who tried so hard to get me to calm down.

And then there was the pleasure of all the other authors who I heard read and talk–one of the best things of being at so many readings and festivals was getting to hear about all the other fantastic books that were out this year. Getting to do events with my beloved Mark Sampson because for the first time we had books out in the same season. I will never get tired of hearing him read my favourite scene in his novel The Slip, when Philip tries to get the poppy that fell under the dean’s desk.

And the BiblioBash, the very fancy party in support of the Toronto Public Library, where I was a guest author!

And the time SML was nominated for an Amazon First Novel Award and there was a giant poster of the book cover and it was all so fancy!

And the many simple, kind, brief emails I received that said in so many words, I enjoyed your book and wanted you to know.

That time I was a headliner at WordFeast in Fredericton–a headliner!

It was an amazing year.

But also.

My dad died just shy of three weeks before So Much Love came out, so even though I was happy about so many things that happened this year, I was always sad too. He never read the book–by the time there was an edited version that was presentable, he was too sick to do so. I will be sad about that forever. He was upset about it too–we were sad together. He was proud of me and my book. When I finished the final edits, I sent then off and went straight to the hospital and told him. He was always happy to hear about stuff like that.

I did not talk much about his death this year because I didn’t know what to say. Often it seemed like my mind was perfectly blank. But all my grief seemed wrapped up with the book somehow. Every time I had to travel alone for a book presentation, I would be excited and enthusiastic and then afterwards wind up standing outside weeping. It’s hard book to present when you’re already in a dark place, and I wanted to be true to the novel and give my all to panel discussions, readings, anyone who wanted to talk to me. I knew I was never going to have this opportunity again, to share this work that I love so much and worked so hard on and cliche as it sounds, I knew my dad would want me to do it.

So I did. I don’t think I said no to a single event or opportunity with regard to So Much Love and I truly enjoyed almost all of it. I’m so grateful for the readers and the friends, and everyone who gave me opportunities to share the book or made those opportunities worthwhile.

The traditional duration of book promotion is a year–two publishing seasons, spring and fall. And there’s a weird little part of my brain that feels, well, now the year is over, and everything will go back the way it was. I wrote the hard dark book I needed to write and I took a year to share it with the world the best I could, and I now I can move on to other things. Because my father’s death and the launch of So Much Love were so close in time, part of me feels like once I stop working on the book, talking about it all the time, he won’t be dead anymore. Which obviously I understand is a strange little mental trick and impossible but the thought is there.

It was a strange hard year. Thanks for reading, for writing me notes, for coming out to readings, for all the kindness. New years and new books beckon.

April 16th, 2017

Amazon First Novel Award Shortlist

Guys, a thing happened: So Much Love got shortlisted for The Amazon.ca First Novel Award. It is very nice to have my book noticed in this way, especially considering the calibre of the other books on the list–I’m thrilled that So Much Love was seen to be on the same level as these four impressive books (imagine being nominated for a prize and you thought all the other nominees were terrible? What an awful experience that would be!)

I like literary awards, though I know very well there are problems with the “prize-culture” that hovers around them. But it does seem like a pretty good thing to have a happy enthusiastic conversation about good books, celebrate them at parties, and give a few beleaguered, tea-stained authors a little bit of stardust. I’m delighted for myself but also for my publisher, McClelland and Stewart, and especially my beloved editor Anita Chong, who worked so hard on this book and believes in it so strongly. I am so lucky to have had (and to continue to have) such incredible support and I want the M&S gang to be rewarded for it. And maybe the attention around the nomination will help a few more readers to whom So Much Love would mean something find their way to it, which my ultimate goal this season.

I have been nominated for things before but not in a while, and not of this magnitude, if we judge magnitude by the size of the prize purse or the number of people who have been excited on my behalf about the nod. So I know from experience that it’s great that there’s over a month until the big party at the Four Seasons where the award-winner gets announced, so all five of us can bask in possibility until then. And I know it’s not just important to go around saying “it’s an honour just to be nominated” but to really mean it, because it *is* and why not enjoy the process, since I can’t control the result? I’m going to read the whole list, pick out a party dress, and truly enjoy the chance to meet the other authors and ask them about their work. And if rumour is correct, I’m going to eat a lot of excellent snacks.

If you’ve written to congratulate me, thank you–I’m hoping to cash in all those kind notes in hugs in the near future.

April 11th, 2017

Me in May

Er, yes, sorry, it’s another post about me and my book. I’m just trying to keep the blog more or less up to date on So Much Love stuff while actually DOING all this stuff and also my 9-5 job, and that doesn’t seem to save much time for any actual creative work of any sort, even the little flights of fancy require for blog postery. I will get back to it, promise.

Anyway, I did a fun Magic 8 interview for CBC Books that’s live now, and an interview with Jamie Tennant at CFMU in Hamilton that will air in a month or so. In a cool turn, Jamie had a column in the Hamilton Spectator when I was a teen and I thought he was just the coolest–it was really fun and sort of a dream to be interview by him. Really looking forward to reading his new novel, too–it’s called The Captain of Kinnoull Hill and it’s about a man considered to be the least likeable person in the Chicago music scene!!

Looking forward to May, I’m a part of a dream event at IFOA on May 10 reading and talking with the ever-excellent Kerry Clare about our respective books with the also-excellent Amy Jones as our interviewer and Sheniz Janmohamed as host. That one should be a really great evening–you should come! But even if no one comes, I think we’ll have fun on stage.

And this one is weirder, but also cool…I’m an honourary caption for the First Book Pongapalooza event on May 16 in support of literacy for First Book! Come out and play some Ping Pong and help kids learn to read!

March 30th, 2017

Ongoing adventures

Hello from Vancouver, where last night I read at the Incite series and yesterday was on the Global BC News at Noon. I find the clip pretty unwatchable, but apparently that is how people feel about seeing themselves on TV–most other people who have watched it think it’s fine (or have been too kind to tell the truth). It was very fun to do the interview with Sophie Lui and Squire Barnes, who were total pros and very good and making me feel both comfortable and smart–what good TV presenters do! I still can’t watch the clip, though.

I’ve discovered this lovely blog review at the Bookshelf blog by Andrew Hood. Andrew is an old friend whose work I deeply admire, so this was a delight to stumble across.

I also finished off a blog interview with Steven Buechler at Sea of Pacific Tranquility about So Much Love. I talk about how we are all know about crimes like the ones described in SML but we know about them in tiny ways, and most of us have the privilege of turning off the news when it gets distressing–but some don’t. The people who experience the crimes and their families don’t, and I wanted to use fiction and whatever empathetic imagination I possess to explore that world and that experience, an experience that doesn’t end.

It’s hard thing to get right–and I’m never going to capture the breadth of experiences in the world, because I’ve only written about a handful of characters and also because fiction is an art and what people think of art can be subjective–but just because I’m done the writing of the book doesn’t mean I can stop thinking carefully and deeply about the subject matter and how I present it each and every time I’m in public or online. I think I need to work on that.

Can you tell I’ve had some tough talks recently? Or have been spending too much time by myself perhaps? Or both? I have one brilliant sunny day left in Vancouver and then I’m going to come home and read at The Ontario Writers Conference Festival of Authors. And then maybe lie down for a little while.

March 20th, 2017

Launch party tomorrow (and assorted other news)

Guys, I’m really excited about the So Much Love launch party tomorrow (Wednesday) night 6-8 pm at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street, just south of Queen). There will be drinks and snacks and chat until about 6:30, a speech from the incredible Anita Chong, a speech from me, a short reading, then more chatting and books! It will be very fun, I think, and I have been looking forward to this a long long time–my speech will probably cover how long.

I am also terribly nervous, of course, too. What if no one comes? What if the people who are supposed to bring the wine and cheese forget and everyone was secretly just there for the wine and cheese? What if I read poorly? What if it is all just terribly awkward? But I alternate with great hope for a fabulous evening. I went to the wonderful Kerry Clare‘s launch last week for her exciting new novel Mitzi Bytes which was a wonderful reminder of how much fun a launch can be. Kerry is pretty amazing at enjoying the good that life has to offer, and she has been really drawing me along in celebrating both our books as they launch.

She even wrote this lovely review on her blog, which made me really happy. So I do kind of believe that the launch will be fun, though probably not as fun as Kerry’s because she read a ventriloquist sex scene and who can top that?

But still, I am hopeful of good times–so please come if you are in town and interested. No need to RSVP, especially not for regrets–just turn up if you like!

March 6th, 2017

Now in book news (no other stuff at all)

My book is coming out in 8 days! There will be launches and interviews and actual humans reading it. I’m really excited. My life outside of the book is really challenging and sad of late, so I’m more determined than ever to enjoy the good bits of launching So Much Love into the universe. And there are a lot of good bits! I completely understand that some writers don’t enjoy promoting a book, but to me it is a reward. Finally getting to connect with readers and see how the book resonates with them is one of the sweetest plums of the writing life as far as I’m concerned–so much of writing is solitary, it’s thrilling to get to read aloud to real humans, or do an interview or Q&A and be asked insightful questions, or just have pieces online or in print and hear what people are thinking about them. So here’s some fun stuff…

–my Gritlit reading is booked for Thursday April 6, 9:30pm, with Iain Reid
–this sweet blog review at The Candid Cover. I know I shouldn’t google myself, and as often as not it yields something depressing or annoying, but this is a nice ray of sunshine!
–way off in the future, a reading at the Word Feast Festival in Fredericton in September
–a short piece posted at The Litter I See Project (which technically is a glimpse of what my next project might be, fyi)

There’s more stuff that isn’t fully fixed yet, like a reading in May with the fabulous Kerry Clare (whose book is also out in 8 days–preordered yet??) and maybe something cool in Montreal! Stay tuned…

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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