On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

 

 

Suzanne Craig-Whytock

is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her first two novels, Smile and The Dome are published by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com). Her short fiction has appeared in Slippage Lit and is upcoming in XRAY Literary Magazine. She also writes poetry, and funny/weird things on her website mydangblog (http://educationalmentorship.com).

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing in a variety of genres for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first poem at the age of eight and wrote poetry and short stories all through my teen years and twenties. When I was teaching, I ran my school’s Creative Writing Club, and that’s where I wrote the character piece that became the first chapter in my first novel. I’ve been writing Young Adult novels for the last 10 years; my first novel Smile was published in 2017, and my new novel The Dome will be out this coming October. I’ve had a couple of short stories published in the last little while, which is very nice, although I’ve had way more rejection notices than I’ve had acceptances! I also have a blog where I post humorous essays—people who are familiar with my blog are usually surprised at how dark some of my other writing is! Lately, I’ve gone back to poetry, and I’ve submitted a few pieces here and there, so we’ll see what happens.

2. Who introduced you to poetry?

I don’t remember a lot about poetry until grade 12. For some reason, my English teacher decided to have us study T.S. Eliot, and the second I read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, I was hooked. I think that was the moment I decided to pursue an English degree and become an English teacher myself. I was lucky enough to be able to introduce Eliot to my own senior International Baccalaureate students, and the first time I read Prufrock to them out loud, I teared up at the end. So I’d have to say it was T.S. Eliot who really introduced me to poetry.

3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

Very. I did my English degree over 35 years ago, and the majority of the courses I took focused on poets before the middle of the 20th century. My particular favourites were the Imagists, although I adored Tennyson and Dickinson. In terms of modern poets, Lorna Crozier, a Canadian writer, is probably my favourite, and I love Pablo Neruda.

4. What is your daily writing routine?

I don’t have a ‘daily routine’ since I currently work full-time. I find it hard to squeeze in solid writing time—I’m the kind of writer who needs several free hours in order to focus. I set aside two hours every Saturday morning to write something for my blog, which I post on Sunday morning. Other than that, I usually wait until I have some vacation time, then hammer out several chapters. For my second novel, I had every other Friday off work, so that was my writing day, and I would make notes and capture ideas until I was able to sit down on Friday morning and just write. Unfortunately, I don’t have those days anymore, so I’ll be doing some serious “power-writing” on my August vacation!

5. What motivates you to write?

The sheer joy of doing it. I’ve always loved writing—I sometimes wake up at 3 in the morning with an idea and put it down before I forget it. The creative process is very important to my mental well-being, and when I’m not writing, I’m painting or restoring furniture or doing something ‘craft-y’.

6. What is your work ethic?

I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I really enjoy the editing process. I do a lot of editing in my daily job as well, so it’s become kind of second nature to me to keep going back to my own work until I’m happy with it. But as we all know, you can revisit a piece a hundred times and still see something you want to change, so at a certain point, I have to just let it be.

7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I read a lot of absurdist literature when I was younger and loved absurd comedy like Monty Python; I think that gets channelled through my humorous writing. As a poet, I’m still influenced by the Imagists and most of my poetry is short and impactful, at least I hope it is. In terms of my novels, the first one is a ‘coming of age’ story that developed out of a love of things like Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and other writers I read when I was young who focused on characters with issues that had to be solved. However, my second novel takes place in a futuristic dystopian Toronto landscape, and it’s more heavily plot-oriented, more influenced by fantasy novels I read as a teenager as well as current issues like climate change. When I was in university, I studied Magic Realism, which had a huge influence on my writing—most of my short stories have that quality to them.

8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

David Mitchell is one of my favourite authors, along with Neil Gaiman. For short stories, I adore Stephen King, and Annie Proulx’s first short story collection Heartsongs is something I go back to again and again. Basically, I love writers with strange imaginations like mine! For Young Adult fiction, I really admire Pierce Brown—his Red Rising series is incredible.

9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?

Because I love to do it, and a lot of what I write is for other people; for example, I write my blog to make other people laugh. I always say that if I can tap into other people’s emotions and put a smile on someone’s face or make them cry (in a good way, of course!), then I’ve done my job. But in terms of “as opposed to doing anything else”, I think that writing is the creative outlet I need sometimes. Other times it’s doing something else.

10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

You become a writer by writing. Becoming a good writer—that’s a different matter. I think to be a good writer, you need to read a lot in order to understand the nuances of language. But you also need to be a good self-editor so that what you’re putting out is ‘audience-ready’. As I said, I do a lot of editing in my current work, but I’ve edited for other writers as well as for textbooks and on-line courses, so I know how people feel when it seems the writer hasn’t put much energy into making things clear and understandable. Also, I’m a very visual person (I also have a degree in Film Studies), and I tend to play out scenes in my head over and over, experimenting with the dialogue, facial expressions, plot and setting details first before I put anything down on paper, so I think you need to be able to describe things in a way that engages other people and makes them see and feel it too.

11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I’m currently working on my third novel The Seventh Devil— here’s the epigraph:

There’s the devil you know and the devil you don’t,
The devil you’ll meet and the devil you won’t,
A devil that’s tall and a devil that’s small,
And a devil that’s human after all.

It’s about a young woman named Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth, who travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and camper van, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: An On-line Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, Editor Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister, who disappeared when Verity was 16, but her biggest challenge is avoiding the mysterious Seventh Devil. I have the whole plot sketched out but I’m only 4 chapters in at this point, and waiting until I’m on vacation to write the next set. My latest novel The Dome will be released on October 15th, although it’s available for pre-order right now at all the major outlets like Amazon and Indigo—I’m looking forward to the book launch and the subsequent promotional work that follows. I’ve been writing poems here and there so I’m working on putting them together in more of a collection. And of course, there’s mydangblog—I’m always working on that!

3 thoughts on “On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

  1. Great interview, Paul!

    I would imagine part of what makes Suzanne’s writing (both her fiction and nonfiction) so rich is her wide variety of influences, from T. S. Eliot to Lorna Crozier to Judy Blume to David Mitchell. Canadian rocker Geddy Lee — from Suzanne’s hometown of Toronto! — once defined originality as having so many influences, you can no longer identify them in your work; they’ve all melded. And as your confidence rises in your craft, your personality steps in front of those influences to form your unique voice.

    The point is: Read outside your genre! Don’t even have a genre — just have a worldview that’s uniquely yours.

    Sean

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