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Archive for the ‘Hungry Novelist Questionnaire’ Category

Soon after finishing her graduate studies in history, Luba Lesychyn landed on the doorstep of Canada’s largest museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, where she worked for more than twenty years. Life after working at a museum included completing the Humber College Creative Writing program. Her debut novel, Theft By Chocolate, is a sassy museum mystery about a woman looking for chocolate, love and an international art thief in all the wrong places. The book was ePublished in May 2012 by the UK digital publishing company, Attica Books, and the novel is now also available in print. Luba currently works in the educational sector and teaches yoga in her home town of Toronto.

Website: www.chocolativore.com

Blog: www.chocolativore.com/blog.html

What’s going on in your writing life right now?

Having just published Theft By Chocolate, I have been focusing on promoting the book and writing masses of posts for my extensive blog tour. In addition, the next installment to Theft By Chocolate is playing out in my head and I am so looking forward to doing the research for it as it will involve consuming copious amounts of chocolate, hopefully around the world.

What’s your writing routine?

Upon waking, I laze in bed for about a half hour and do my imagining and creating. I then like to get active, i.e. running or going to the gym, yoga, etc. Only then can I settle down in front of a computer and get my fingers tapping on a keyboard. Even though I break between my creating and writing, I always trust that my best ideas will stay with me until it’s time to get them up on a computer screen.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

As I am in the habit of eating or snacking late in the evenings, I tend not to be ravenous in the morning. So, I start my day with a home-made vegetable or fruit smoothie to which is added a vegan protein powder, powdered sea vegetables, açai, maqui berry, and greens. It’s 100% organic and super tasty. That gets me through my workout. Following the workout, I’ll have a banana and a quinoa power bar or almonds. I know, sounds far too healthy. That’s why I don’t feel too guilty when I snack on chocolate later in the day.

What good books have you read recently?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova about a victim of early onset Alzheimer’s. It was heart-wrenching and told so skillfully and authentically. The down side to reading this book is that anytime you accidentally put something in the wrong place, you begin to wonder if you should have yourself tested. I’m currently reading Lucille Duff Gordon’s A Woman of Temperament. This remarkable woman created one of the first fashion empires, paved the way for women to become entrepreneurs, and broke through many Victorian barriers. She also, invented the catwalk as we know it today, was a single mother, has some Canadian connections, and if that weren’t enough, she survived the sinking of the Titanic. I’ve been spending so much time promoting my book with very little time to read, so this account has been such a great escape as it transports me to another world.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

First let me explain that I eat my main meal during the day, usually later afternoon. So dinner to me is what others might consider a snack. I had dried kale chips with baba ganoush. I never seem to tire of that combo.

Writing rules you live by:

Always keep honing your craft and listen to your mentors, even when you it’s difficult to admit they’re right! [Haha, way to suck up, but I like it – HN.]

A scene you’ve written that features food:

Chocolate is obviously a primary theme in my book, so it was hard to pick just one scene, but a representative passage starts with my lead character Kalena Boyko receiving a gift of Jeff de Bruges chocolates from her colleague, Brenda, who’s trying to cheer her up.

A favorite restaurant:

I was in Rome last fall and I was a little skeptical when I read in a guide book about the oldest and best pizzeria in Rome. But I was exhausted and the location was not far from my hotel, so I headed to what I expected to be an uninspiring tourist trap.

Possessing the worst internal GPS and wandering in a city with winding and twisted streets, it was a miracolo I even found the street for which I was searching. Dal Ricci was what I was looking for, but the sign at the noted address read Est! Est! Est! I looked up the restaurant once again in the guide book and there it was, “Dal Ricci, aka Est! Est! Est!” Whatever.

I snagged the last outdoor table available even though the establishment had just opened for dinner five minutes before. The universe was with me as it was a perfect night in the Eternal City. And no one was more surprised than I when served a rainbow colored salad, far superior to what most Roman restaurants offer. And the pizza, well, it was worth the trip to Italia. I ordered a vegetable pizza and it came loaded – and I mean loaded. It was saltier than what I am accustomed to, but once my palette adjusted, I was in paradise.

It was my last evening in Rome, so no doggie bags for me. I ate the whole thing and found myself in explode-mode. But I was also determined to have one last piece of tiramisu before heading back to Toronto. Luckily for me, it was a version that was so light it could have floated away.

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading:

Comfort food: Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate (really).

Comfort reading: I’ve made it a habit to read, over and over again, Gary Zukav’s Soul to Soul Meditations: Daily Reflections for Spiritual Growth. I love waking up and consuming a few pages of Zukav’s wise words. It really helps set the tone for my day.

What do you do when not writing, eating, or reading?

When not working at my survivor job or looking for my next chocolate fix, I can be found in dance classes, doing body combat workouts, trekking to remote waterfalls in the mountain rain forest in Puerto Rico, running through the streets of Paris, or any other number of calorie-burning activities that help offset my chocolate intake. I can also be found far too often in the darkness of movie theatres as I love film even more than I do food, if that’s possible. I’ve been blogging about film before the term even existed, sharing my experiences at the annual Toronto International Film Festival with my readers. This year, people can follow me on Twitter for daily tweets about TIFF 2012. My twitter handle is @LubaLesychyn.

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Isabel Huggan is a Canadian writer of fiction, essays and poetry. She makes her home in Tornac, France, where she recently established Le Mas Blanc Writer’s Retreat. She wrote about the years she and her husband spent renovating Le Mas Blanc in her best-selling memoir BELONGING: HOME AWAY FROM HOME (Vintage), which won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction (2004).

Website: www.isabelhuggan.com

Blog: http://masblancwritersretreat.blogspot.ca/

What’s going on in your writing life right now?

I’m mainly focusing on poetry – I seem to be going back to where I was when I first started out as a young woman at university many decades ago, believing I would “be” a poet. Wrong – but the urge to write poetry is still strong. There’s a recent poem in the current issue of THE NEW QUARTERLY.

What’s your writing routine?

I have no routine to speak of, as my days tend to have a variable structure, but generally I try to make time to write in the afternoons. I know that morning is “meant to be” the better time for the creative spirit, but I am happier clearing away email correspondence of every kind, household chores and various outdoor duties, and THEN getting down to my own writing life. Bad habit!

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

I almost never eat breakfast unless forced to do so in some social situation – i.e., visiting friends who expect me to eat breakfast with them. I start the day with a large mug of Yorkshire tea with milk, and that does me fine until around 10 or 11 when I have coffee with something to eat… maybe toast, maybe a boiled egg, maybe a handful of nuts, maybe some yoghurt with granola. Whatever. Now, I can get into breakfast on the weekend, if it is served at the end of the morning, and am a devotee of the English breakfast – porridge, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, fried tomatoes and mushrooms along with many slices of cold toast with butter and marmalade – but only on rare occasions.

What good books have you read recently?

I loved THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES by Edmund de Waal, as does everyone else.… it fits into a non-fiction category I like a lot, exemplified by Penelope Lively memoir A HOUSE UNLOCKED… I also loved THE GEOGRAPHY OF ARRIVAL by George Sipos, about growing up in London, Ontario… he’s a fine poet too, and that sensibility really informs his prose. I also fell in love with THREADING LIGHT by Lorri Neilsen Glenn, a marvelous mélange of prose and poetry exploring several aspects of loss and survival. And I am, as always, reading Montaigne, as he is good for the brain and good for the soul… but I just take a little at a time.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

For dinner last night I sautéed some green onions, a small courgette, some baby tomatoes and a few other left-over bits from the back of the fridge … and then I laid a huge handful of fresh spinach leaves on top of the pan, and put a lid on it, after I’d sprinkled loads of black pepper all over with a little lemon juice. I had some goat’s cheese I wanted to use up, and when it seemed to me that the mix was ready – only took a few minutes – I added it on top of the spinach where it melted to make a kind of sauce…. then I dished this over some warmed-up left-over tagliatelli. It was gorgeous, as left-over meals so often are…

Writing rules you live by:

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

A scene you’ve written that features food:

Strangely, I haven’t written much about food, although it preoccupies me in my actual life. The only scene that comes to mind, really, is in THE ELIZABETH STORIES when Elizabeth is taken to a Mennonite farm for the weekend and sits at the long kitchen table with the family who are eating food that seems quite foreign but utterly appealing – shoofly pie.

A favorite restaurant:

Bergamote in the 6th arrondissement in Paris. Small, cozy, delightful ambiance and serving good food presented in a delicate but not pretentious way. I had steamed fish in a bamboo basket that was as perfectly prepared with seasonings as any fish I’ve ever eaten anywhere, EVER…

Dishes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:

When my husband and I were making meals together, we had the same love of soups, salads, pasta dishes and easy stews and ragouts… Now that I am living alone as a widow, my meals have become somewhat more simple, but follow the same general format. For example… Thursday at the Anduze market (my nearest town), I often buy a roasted chicken (fermier, plein air) and pick up my usual supplies of greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, etc), carrots, celery, onions, leeks, garlic, and whatever else is going… broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc… I eat chicken for lunch that day, usually with the sauce and baby potatoes that come with it from the roaster, and then also for supper, after which I strip the carcass and use it to make soup stock, for which some of the day’s vegetables will be indispensible… The next day or two there may be chicken sandwiches, chicken curries, chicken this and chicken that, but most importantly there will be chicken stock so that I can make some REALLY good chicken soup.

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading:

My idea of comfort food is always along the lines of egg nog, or some thick, bland, sweet vanilla-based concoction… although I also devour nuts and pretzels when I need my spirits lifted by eating…My comfort reading is most often magazines such as THE NEW YORKER or THE WALRUS… or on occasion, favorite books of poetry, particularly anthologies where I’ll eventually locate JUST the poem I need to give me exactly the degree of comfort I seek.

What do you do when not writing, eating, or reading?

When I am not eating, reading or writing, I may possibly be buying food to eat, buying books to read, or walking while I think about what I am going to write or eat next. Walking is my favorite activity, especially as I get older…. While walking, one can observe the world – in my case (living out in the country among the vineyards) it is the natural world — and the beauty inherent in the changing seasons. Walking can be a time of deep meditation, contemplation or just plain old gentle daydreaming. It makes a good alternative to stressing out and if I feel the need to loosen the grip that the world has on me, I just go for a walk and you know what? It always works. I come back after an hour feeling just grand.

Coming soon: more from Isabel on glorious, fresh local food in France.

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Mahtab Narsimhan is the award-winning author of four novels for young people: her first, The Third Eye, won the Silver Birch award, and her latest, The Tiffin, was named a Book of the Year by Quill & Quire magazine.

Website:
www.mahtabnarsimhan.com

Blog:
http://mahtabnarsimhan.blogspot.com/

Twitter handle:
@MahtabNarsimhan

What’s going on in your writing life right now?

Doing a lot of promotion for my latest book, The Tiffin, published by Dancing Cat Books in August 2011. Also working on a futuristic YA novel which is an extrapolation of our current condition with overdependence on technology, dwindling energy resources and bizarre weather patterns. Simply described, it’s Matrix meets the Amazing Race.

What’s your writing routine?

I’m normally up early in the morning (5.30 am-ish) and write for about two hours from 6am to 8am. When writing a new draft, I give myself a daily quota of about 1500 words a day. I didn’t start out with this number but gradually worked my way up to it. This really helps in providing me with the discipline to write every day and by the end of the week I have added a substantial word count to my manuscript. If I’m revising, I still give myself a quota of a certain number of pages I have to complete in a day.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Whole-grain toast with cream cheese and lemon/mint tea.

What good books have you read recently?

Sanctus by Simon Toyne. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Divergent by Veronica Roth.
Just finished Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. It was fantastic!

What did you eat for dinner last night?

Jamie Oliver’s Mediterranean Chicken Breast with Sundried Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Parsley with a Green Salad with Ginger Dressing, pictured here:

Writing rules you live by:

When writing a new draft, have to write 1500 words a day. When not working on a draft, have to do some writing related activity such as research, thinking of new ideas, or catching up on my reading. Love that last rule the most. It’s so much easier to read someone else’s work.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days:

Smoked Gouda, Castello’s Mild Blue cheese with Jacob’s cream crackers, Pickerel rubbed with Indian spices and served with Quinoa. And as always,chocolate.

A scene or piece you’ve written that features food:

I love descriptions of food and so all my books (The Tara Trilogy and The Tiffin) have descriptions and scenes featuring food, but used to depict different scenarios. In my latest novel, The Tiffin, I’ve used food to introduce the lecherous cook, Badri. The setting is the kitchen where large pots of goat curry, boiled rice and sambar are boiling away, and Bardri lurks in that cloud of steam waiting for the protagonist.

Favorite restaurants:

Crazy Sushi
Fin Izakaya Super Japanese Tapas
Oliver & Bonacini. Great variations on the usual fare.
Bamiyon Kabob Best Afghani food I’ve ever eaten

Three formative books from your youth:

1) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
2) The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
3) Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
4) The Faraway Tree Series by Enid Blyton (Sorry, had to add this last one: loved it!)

Three formative books from your adulthood:

1) Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
2) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.
3) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:

Mutton Biryani, Jamie Oliver’s Roast chicken, Pork chops, and my ultimate favourite, chicken curry:

I also love fish and experiment with making it in every possible way, baked, fried, grilled and in a curry.

Random bits of writing advice

• Believe in the process of writing
• Trust yourself when starting something new. It will work out in the end.
• Set a small but achievable target on a daily basis. It will help you stick to it and you feel so much better when you have accomplished something every day.
• Learn to love revisions because as we all know, writing is basically rewriting!
• Have fun. If writing seems like a chore, find something else to do.

What do you do when not writing, eating or reading?

I love to walk but that’s also because I normally have my iPOD with a few audio books loaded onto them. So really, I’m never far from books, except when I’m sleeping!

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading?

Comfort food is a spicy chicken curry topped with fresh cilantro and a dash of lime juice served with cumin/onion rice and yoghurt.

Comfort reading: the Harry Potter series. Fantasy is my favourite genre of all (as you can probably tell from my reading list.). This series, especially the first four books, never fail to lift my spirits. I can read them at any time. In fact I probably would if there weren’t so many other great books that I had to catch up on.

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Marsha Skrypuch is the award-winning author of 13 books of historical fiction (and 1 book of non-fiction) for kids and teens. She lives in Brantford, Ontario.

Website: www.calla.com

On Twitter: Follow Marsha at @marshaskrypuch

What’s going on in your writing life right now?

My 14th book, which happens to be my first non-fiction, just came out. The book is called Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War. I am in the midst of promoting the book. Tuyet, the woman whose childhood rescue is examined in Last Airlift, is helping me with the promotion.

I also just finished the final edit for my Feb 1, 2012 Scholastic historical, called Making Bombs For Hitler.

Because the past year was spent doing the intensive writing of these two books, followed by leapfrog edits of the two, most of my non-promo time is now spent doing mundane things like cleaning out drawers and getting caught up on accounting, pleasure reading and long bike rides.

What’s your writing routine?

When I am in the midst of a manuscript, I write for about three hours most mornings. As soon as I’ve had breakfast, I go downstairs and get on my tread desk, which is a treadmill equipped with a desk top big enough to hold my laptop, all sorts of errant notes and reference books, a glass of water and a phone. I walk at a very slow speed — 1.5 miles per hour — and write. I find that I can write more efficiently when I’m slowly walking than I can while sitting.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

50gms of fruit and nut muesli (yes, I weigh it) with milk, a banana, and a giant mug of strong black coffee.

What good books have you read recently?

Because I’m in writing vacation mode, I am reading for pleasure. I just finished Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. I think she’s channeling a Bronte sister. I’m on a kick of Scandinavian crime thrillers, so have read books by Jo Nesbo, Camilla Lackberg, Lars Keplar, Karin Fossum, and Karin Alvetegan. I like to alternate adult and YA, so I’ve also recently enjoyed Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, Stitches by David Small and The Quilt by Gary Paulsen.

When I am actively writing, I don’t read fiction because I am afraid of unconsciously being influenced by voice. I immerse myself in non-fiction, mostly books I need to read for better understanding of the era I’m writing about, and while it is enjoyable, it’s not what you’d call pleasure reading. I tend to use the library for pleasure reading, but I buy my research books. I have a vast collection on World War II, the Armenian genocide, World War I, anything to do with Ukrainians, folk tales, myths, symbols, plus other topics that I hope to write about one day.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

Lazanky z kapustooyoo — a Ukkie comfort food. Shredded cabbage and onion slowly baked golden, then seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mixed with small square egg pasta. Drizzled with a bit of butter, it’s heavenly. [It does sound heavenly. I want to eat this! – Ed.]

Writing rules you live by:

Plunge forward: Get the entire first draft down before you start fussing over the first page.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days:
Honey crisp apples.

Describe a scene or piece you’ve written that features food:

In my 2010 novel Stolen Child, about a girl brainwashed by the Nazis into thinking she is German, I use cues from the character’s everyday life to pivot into her repressed past. As an example, when Nadia places a spoonful of Campbell’s Tomato Soup on her tongue in 1950, she has a flash of clinging to flatcar in the black of night as it speeds out of the war zone. When she finally eats, it’s a soup of muddy water and rotten potatoes, passed among the escapees with the reverence of a sacrament.

Favorite restaurants:

In Brantford, Ontario, Quan 99 on King George Road. The freshest and most delectable Vietnamese and Thai food imaginable.

In Creemore, Ontario, Chez Michel, a tiny French bistro where everything is divine.

Three formative books from your youth:

I didn’t learn to read until I was 9. The book that I taught myself to read with was Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. I suppose you can say that the Dick and Jane readers inoculated me against reading. And so did The Cat in the Hat, which gave me nightmares. Once I did start reading, other books I enjoyed were Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and all of the Freddy the Pig books, which were written by Walter R. Brooks.

Three formative books from your adulthood:

The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch. I avoided picture books until I was doing my master’s degree in library science. This one made me realize that children’s writers were no longer talking down to children. The other book that made me want to write children’s literature was Tim Wynne-Jones’ Zoom At Sea — again a book that respects the intelligence of children.

As to adult fiction, John Fowles’ The Magus.

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:

Standard dessert, in rotation with honey crisp apples, is berries on plain Greek yoghurt, drizzled with maple syrup. Standard salad is spinach with homemade mustard and onion vinaigrette, rotated with shredded jicama and cabbage mixed with vinegar and salt.

I make a huge vat of pasta sauce from scratch every few weeks and with this as a base, rotate through spaghetti, chili, lasagna etc. I also make flour tortillas from scratch and stuff them with a bit of the sauce, Greek yoghurt, and sharp unpasteurized Jensen’s 5 year old cheddar cheese. Yum!

We eat a lot of fish. Whatever is fresh, preferably Canadian and preferably wild. Depending on what it is, I’ll broil it or lightly saute in olive oil. Served with salad and rice.

I visit the local farmers’ market every week to stock up on cheese, vegetables, honey crisp apples. The Brantford market is only open two days a week and the variety isn’t huge so I drive to the St. Lawrence Market every few months to stock up on meat for the freezer. We like ostrich and emu, and also vension, kangaraoo, buffalo — lean and flavourful meats.

Random bits of writing advice:

Write for ten minutes every day. Write about the things that fascinate you instead of things that you know. Do a back-up! Read what you’ve written out loud as part of the revision process.

What do you do when not writing, eating or reading?

In good weather, I go on long bike rides. I swim and walk. My husband flies a small airplane and we take short jaunts on weekends which is fun and relaxing, although it does involve eating and reading and sometimes writing.

Airplane cookies Marsha made for the launch of The Last Airlift

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading?

Peanut butter and banana on toasted rye bread. Mmmm.

Comfort reading? A novel written by a friend.

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Antanas Sileika is the author of three novels and a collection of linked short stories. He is also the Artistic Director of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto. He will be reading from his latest novel, Underground, at the Vancouver International Writers Festival, on Saturday October 22, 2011 at 8:00pm. He will also be reading, as part of the Lorenzo Reading Series, on October 24 at UNB Saint John, on October 25 at UNB Fredericton, and on October 26 at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. To complete his busy fall schedule, he will appear on November 5 at Bookfest Windsor.

Website: antanassileika.ca/
Blog: On website.
Twitter handle: @sileika

What’s going on in your writing life right now?

It’s hard to concentrate on my next novel with Underground just published this year, but I am nudging forward painfully slowly on a new novel while writing short essays for my own amusement.

What’s your writing routine?

A lot like my exercise routine. I put it off and put it off until I feel so lousy I need to start it again, and then I become very serious for some months before slacking off again.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Ever since I read that jam sales are falling because people find putting jam on toast too hard, I have begun to eat toast and jam. But I am not helping jam sales – I use my own jam. I like oatmeal occasionally, and love cream of wheat and adore soft-boiled eggs (which are supposed to be dangerously unhealthy now – this is how a writer lives dangerously). I would eat poached eggs often if I could get them without water dribbling onto the toast. [Editor’s note: blot poached eggs on and with paper towels after cooking and before eating them!]

A recent weekend breakfast for Antanas and family

What good books have you read recently?

Aleksander Hemon’s Lazarus Project, Esi Egudyan’s Half-Blood Blues, and Tadas Ivanauskas’s A Apsisprendiu, the latter obscure even in Lithuanian, but fantastically rich and detailed in its depiction of manor life in Eastern Europe before WW1.

What did you eat for dinner last night?

Beet borscht, butternut squash, and roast chicken

Writing rules you live by:

Not rules so much as questions: How can I say that more succinctly? How little can I interfere in the depiction of a scene in order to lead the reader to make his own interpretation? How can I punish real people I know by using their names or characters for people who end badly in my writing? [Ed: I do this too!] How can I make a reader fall into the work?

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days:

I begin to nest in the fall. I stew rough farm apples and preserve some of them in jars to cook with onions and pork tenderloin in the winter – I make homemade butter and farm cheese, Damson Plum liqueur and Mountain Ash liqueur – boil up rillettes to spread on bread and would do more except my wife, Snaige, is taking over cooking now.

Describe a scene or piece you’ve written that features food:

In my last novel an editor accused me of putting more care into the description of making a pot of borscht than into the descriptions of sex.

Favorite restaurants:

I’m old school on this issue – Le Select on Wellington for French comfort food and ease of access; Bairrada at 1000 College Street in the summer where on the back patio I have eaten suckling pig, salt cod, and Portuguese chickens to be followed by a walk down the street to the Sicilian Ice Cream store; any of the many, many decent Vietnamese Pho restaurants; the fish sandwich restaurant (two tables!) in Little Italy; Caplansky’s on College for old-fashioned Jewish deli food and many, many more: Italian sandwich, Jamaican jerk, and Indian curry holes in the wall.

Three formative books from your youth:

Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (a play I read as a novel over 100 times)
Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
Every single Joseph Conrad in print, but most repeatedly Nostromo

Three formative books from your adulthood:

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas
Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire
Barry Unsworth’s The Songs of Kings

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:

(with guests) Cassoulet, sour cherry duck, pepper steak, lamb shanks, Cuisinart chocolate cake, creme caramel, apple pie

(at home) roast chicken, chicken livers, leek and potato soup, Italian sausages, beef and barley soup, borscht, braised pork chops, lentil soup, cheese omelettes

Random bits of writing advice:

Don’t get out of the chair when you are stuck. Stay there.
If it looks horrible, look at it again another day.
Don’t give up at 25 pages. That’s the first hard part in the long process. Push on to 100 before you give up.

What do you do when not writing, eating or reading?

Cook, do rough construction, fish, walk.

What’s your idea of comfort food?

Very good cheese with bread or crackers and port; chicken stew; beef stew; sausage pasta; risotto; roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; mushrooms as a main course; custard, rice pudding.

And comfort reading?

Most Central or East European history books (Tony Judt, Norman Davies, Timothy Snyder etc) or novels with strong characters and plots – Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers; Joyce Carey’s The Horse’s Mouth; Peter Carey’s My Life as a Fake etc.

Also, the New Yorker, New York Review of Books, New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, Harper’s, Toronto Life, Cottage Life, Quill and Quire, Publishers’ Weekly, and even a Lithuanian journal, Kulturos Barai.

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Anthony De Sa is the author of the Giller-prize-nominated short story collection Barnacle Love and is also a high school English teacher in Toronto.

Website: www.anthonydesa.com
Blog: on website
On Twitter? Yes. My username is antiole

What’s going on in your writing life right now?
I’m working on the final edits (fingers crossed stressing final) of my new novel, Carnival of Desire.

What’s your writing routine?
I work full time, and I’m married with three young children. My routine is simply, I write when I can.

What do you usually eat for breakfast?
I don’t eat breakfast. I never have. Does a large cup of coffee count?

What good books have you read recently?
Over the summer I read a wonderful book, Life After Genius, by M. Ann Jacoby. I’m just about finished with Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table. But I must say I’m very excited about reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I’m fascinated with magic.

What did you eat for dinner last night?
My wife and I took the boys out to dinner at Korea House, on Dundas St West. I had seafood Bibimbap. The place wasn’t much to look at but the food was very good.

Writing rules you live by:
1. Write it down when it comes to mind.
2. Read, read, and read some more.
3. Borrow the truth, it’ll never let you down.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days:
A friend of ours is getting involved with raw food at Make it Raw. I’ve had raw spring rolls that were incredible. I’m also obsessed with Falafel World’s Janina sandwiches: lentils, carmelized onions, roasted eggplant, humus, tabouli and hot sauce, wrapped in a pita.

A scene or piece you’ve written that features food:
Food is an important part of my writing because I write about the Portuguese community. My first book, Barnacle Love, opened the door to what it was like to be in a Portuguese home. I don’t shy away from my cultural tradition of butchering pigs in our garages and in our laneways, and I write about the smells associated with food—the way the smell of sardines on the grill wafted through our chain link fences, or how the smell of pot roasts mixed with cabbage and sweet potatoes stuck to our clothes and got absorbed into our carpets and walls and stayed there for days. It’s part of what we remember as family.

Favorite restaurants:
Terroni – 720 Queen Street West, Toronto
Bairrada Churrasqueira – 1000 College St. West (Food is good but the atmosphere during the summer months is unbeatable)
Husk Restaurant – 76 Queen St. Charleston, SC

The patio at Bairrada

Three formative books from your youth:
The Magic Bed-Knob by Mary Norton
The Hardy Boys (only because I wanted a brother so desperately) various ghostwriters published under the collective pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon.
Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Anderson
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Three formative books from your adulthood:
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire:
Pasta with fresh tomato sauce (just finished canning four bushels)
Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (Cod and potato casserole)
Caldo verde (potato and Collard green soup)

Random bits of writing advice:
Listen to those you trust.
Stay away from as many writing events as possible. [I particularly like this bit of advice – HN]
The cliché . . . write what you know.

What do you do when not writing, eating or reading?
Are you kidding me, Kim? There isn’t enough time in the day to walk the dog, go to work, come home and fix up something to eat, get the kids ready for soccer practice after school or help (yell at) them do their homework, get them ready for bed, do a bit of editing and then plop myself into bed before I’ve got to do the whole thing all over again. (I might sneak in a bit of T.V: Mad Men, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation)

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading?
Thick soups or stews with lots of fresh crispy bread and butter to sop up the juices. Roast chicken and roast potatoes.
I like books that take me away to a place that is foreign and exotic and yet the human drama is familiar. Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies, comes to mind.

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Kristen den Hartog is a novelist and memoirist. Her latest (fourth) novel, And Me Among Them, was published last spring. She will be appearing at 4:30 pm this Sunday September 25th, 2011 in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival.

Currently residing in: Toronto

Website: http://kristendenhartog.com/

Blog: http://blogofgreengables.wordpress.com/

What’s going on in your writing life right now? My daughter is back in school, so I’m happily back at my desk, researching a second family memoir with my sister, Tracy Kasaboski, co-author of our earlier book, The Occupied Garden.

What’s your writing routine? As soon as the house is clear of husband and child, at about 8:30, I’m working, and I keep at it, breaking for lunch and dog walks, until they’re home around 4 o’clock.

What do you usually eat for breakfast? Cereal with yoghurt and fruit and nuts. Or sometimes toast. Always two essential cups of good strong coffee with a bit of cream.

What good books have you read recently? Lemon by Cordelia Strube. Also the Harry Potter series, which we’re working through as a family. We’re on book five, and all three of us are hooked.

What did you eat for dinner last night? Delicious salmon from the Osler Fish Market nearby, with new potatoes and rosemary from the garden, corn on the cob, and salad.

Writing rules you live by: I don’t sit and gaze out the window and wait for things to come anymore. I believe more in my own ability and determination as the years go on and less in any kind of muse or mysterious inspiration.

Foodstuffs you’re fiending these days: Fall is my favourite time of year, and fall food is my favourite too, so I’m happy when the hot weather is done and love to make soups and eat squashy rooty kinds of things. My husband, who loves steaks and especially pie, thinks I’m crazy.

A scene or piece you’ve written that features food:
In And Me Among Them, James eats his regular Thursday pressed ham sandwich and becomes aware that his future stretches out before him in an expanse of sameness he has neither chosen nor rejected. He bites again, and recalls the time his daughter bit into a hot dog and came upon a pig’s eyelid, the lashes like a fossil in the meat. Somehow the moment prompts him to make a life-changing decision and leave his wife … but will he?

Favorite restaurants: Kalendar on College Street in Toronto, where I first met my husband on a blind date. Zocalo, a great new little place in our neighbourhood, at Bloor and Symington.

Three formative books from your youth: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Three formative books from your adulthood: Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro; The Diary of Etty Hillesum; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Dishes/recipes in regular rotation in your cooking repertoire: Salads of all kinds, especially with arugula or fresh mint; soups of all kinds; rode kool, or red cabbage, a Dutch family recipe.

Random bits of writing advice: Don’t rush. Take time for each scene. Don’t worry about what the story will be when it’s finished, worry just about what it is as you’re creating it. Stay with the process; in the end (as with life!) it’s the most important part of all.
What do you do when not writing, eating or reading? I love good movies, walking the dog, hanging out with my family.

What’s your idea of comfort food and comfort reading? Comfort food is pasta with olive oil and parmesan cheese. And Strub’s Pickles are unbeatable. Comfort reading is what I do with my daughter – rediscovering the books I read as a kid, and finding new ones together.

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