New York Times!

Y’all, The Boat People was in THE NEW YORK TIMES!

“Just send me a couple of copies,” I said to my publicist. She sent 20.

“Just send me a couple of copies,” I said to my publicist. She sent 20.

THE NEW YORK TIMES! The Boat People was featured in the December 9th issue’s “new in paperback” section alongside Emily Wilson’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey and a non-fiction about the roots of the American asylum system. Appropriate, n’est-ce pas?

The American paperback hit shelves this month and along with it came a small resurgence in publicity stateside, including the NYT mention, a lovely review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and some blog love too.

And late last month, LitHub asked me to curate a list of “lesser known Canadian books.” So I wrote a short essay and threw together a book list, all the while cringing at the thought of the title LESSER KNOWN CANADIAN BOOKS AS CHOSEN BY TOTALLY UNKNOWN CANADIAN. But when the piece came out I laughed out loud (and totally approved) of the title they chose. The Great White North Isn’t So White.

And speaking of lists, it is end-of-the-year round up season and The Boat People was one of several books on the CBC’s Best Canadian Fiction of 2018 list, 49th Shelf’s best fiction of the year, and the best books of the year list on Pickle Me This.

Aspen Words Literary Prize

Aspen Words Literary Prize long-list (image via @aspenwords on Instagram)

Aspen Words Literary Prize long-list (image via @aspenwords on Instagram)

THE BOAT PEOPLE has been long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize! Awarded annually, it’s given to “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture). This is a pretty new prize, only in its second year. The inaugural winner was Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (a book I read back in January and adored).

I was on a plane to Toronto last Monday afternoon, blissfully unaware that the team at Doubleday US had even submitted my book for consideration, when the long-list was announced. I landed to the happy email from my publicist and then I looked up the competition and was even happier. Because look at those books! In particular, Brother by David Chariandy, one of my favourite reads from last year.

The short-list will be announced in February. Until then, fingers crossed!



Signal boost

Gentle reader, do you love a book and/or its author? Do you want to support said book/ author? There are so many ways! Author Amy Stuart blogged about this very thing on her own website and it inspired me to write a post script.

1. Obviously if you can afford it, buy copies for all your friends and family. Give the book out to random strangers at Christmas time while shouting "ho, ho, ho" in a jolly voice.

2. Borrow the book from your library. Writers get royalties for every copy the library buys. And there's also a system that tracks how often a book is borrowed and we get a bit of money for each of those loans as well.

3. If a book isn't available, ask your librarian to order it in. This year, I've taken to ordering books that have flown under the radar. Small press authors, writers who are trans, brown, black, queer, graphic novelists...these are the authors whose books are less likely to get attention. (Don't be fooled by the few of us who you see in the spotlight. We are the minority of the minority.)

4. And speaking of libraries! If you've bought a book and loved it but aren't a hoarder like me, donate it to your local library. You might even get a tax receipt.

5. As Amy said, good reviews on Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Nobel, and GoodReads are the gifts that keep on giving.

6. Do you have teacher/ professor friends? Maybe just slip a copy of the book into their hands and whisper: curriculum. You'll be doing the author and the students a favour.

7. Come to our events. We love meeting readers.

8. If you really love a book, don't be shy about telling the author.

And now a story. One evening in the spring, I was waiting to deplane in the St. John's airport, feeling emotionally and physically wrung out from book promotion and travel, missing home and my mathemagician something fierce, cross-eyed from a headache, and desperate for the loo. And I was feeling sorry for myself. It's only May, I thought. How am I ever going to keep up this pace until Christmas? Wah, wah, wah. A tiny violin played a sad song for me. And then a total stranger with the face of an angel stood up from her seat, looked me right in the eyes, and said (apropos of nothing): "I loved your book, by the way." In that moment it felt like the kindest words ever spoken. Before I became a writer, I was meek about reaching out to authors. I only did it twice. Don't be shy. You have no idea how much it means, those four magical words: "I loved your book."

The Agenda

In which I think about jumping for joy on the arm chair but decide on balance it's probably a career limiting move.

In which I think about jumping for joy on the arm chair but decide on balance it's probably a career limiting move.

The truth is that I'm mildly terrified of listening/ watching/ reading my interviews. So it took me a few days to get up the courage to watch this conversation that aired on TVO's The Agenda a couple of Thursdays ago. But there was nothing to fear. Nam Kiwanuka is a wonderful interviewer who asks astute questions and listens patiently while first-time authors (with stars in their eyes ...omg THE AGENDA!...total nerd girl dream come true!) give long and meandering answers.

You can watch the whole interview (26 minutes) here. Despite my complete inability to give brief answers, Nam kept us on track and we managed to cover a lot of ground. We talked about the three points of view, research, the political situation in Sri Lanka that led to war, and the novels I turned to for guidance. But we also went over some difficult and personal emotional terrain and you know... that's not a place I would have willingly gone to with just any interviewer. But I knew Nam's work and I trusted her completely and that is when you get an ace interview.

Photos screen grabbed from TVO's website.

Photos screen grabbed from TVO's website.

Reflecting on our conversation and her own experiences, Nam later wrote an opinion piece that is well worth a read. Stand out lines: What they’re running from is worse than what they’re running to....If you’ve never been in that situation — if you’re never experienced civil war, unrest, or persecution — you’re lucky." These truths bear repeating. They bear screaming from roof tops. Children and adults should be made to write these lines on endless chalkboards because for some reason too many people haven't grasped these lessons yet.

Nothing sets my teeth on edge like hysterical headlines and pundits who wring their hands about the so-called "migrant crisis." People coming here for safety? That is not a crisis. Watching your neighbour get doused in petrol and set on fire. THAT is a crisis.

If you think people fleeing rape and torture and death to come to the peaceful country where you are lucky to live is a crisis, you are a moron.

I've been talking a lot about empathy this year but the real problem is a lack of imagination. Too many people are unwilling to ask themselves the question: what if it was me? What if I was born into a country at war? What if I lived in daily fear for my life? What if I fled hell only to arrive in a country whose leaders decided that my life wasn't worth a few votes? It's laziness that prevents people from putting themselves in another person's shoes. Do yourself a favour. Don't be a lazy git.

Book Box Love

Subscription boxes are so trendy right now and with good reason. Who doesn't want to receive a themed box of surprise goodies in the mail every month? And now a new Canadian service, called Book Box Love, is offering a monthly subscription service for book worms.

Book Box Love's July box. Photo credit:  @pretty_little_library

Book Box Love's July box. Photo credit: @pretty_little_library

I was thrilled when they selected The Boat People for their inaugural box which went out to readers earlier this month along with: a cinnamon candle, a gorgeous passport case handmade by Knotted Nest (with fabric chosen especially to match the cover...how nice is that?!), and decadent coconut bites by  Golden Ticket Candy. Also: a handwritten postcard from yours truly. Because packages are incomplete without handwritten notes.

I got a kick out the curation for July's box. Cinnamon and coconut...they couldn't have paired the book with better items. Fun fact: Sri Lanka is the only country where cinnamon grows natively. That's what my great uncle, a world cinnamon expert, says anyway. (In fact we call him Cinnamon Uncle....mostly because when you are Lankan you have approximately 357 uncles and aunts and it's impossible to learn all their names) Anyway, Wikipedia has other opinions about cinnamon's ancestry which you may choose to believe or ignore (I joke. I joke. Don't @ me Indians, Bengalis, and Burmese!)

Pictured: postcard with my chicken scratch. Photo credit:  @pretty_little_library

Pictured: postcard with my chicken scratch. Photo credit: @pretty_little_library

And then of course coconuts are used for everything in Sri Lanka. Coconut oil - good for hair, skin, cooking, and medicine. Coconut water - good for cooling the body and upset stomachs. I've got serving spoons made from coconuts. Coconut. It's the uber fruit. 

Everything in the box is made in Canada by small artists or artisans. The July box with The Boat People went out to subscribers earlier this month but there are still a few left if you want in on the fun. Sales are now open for the August box and you can learn more and subscribe on their website. And finally, I did an interview with Book Box Love, which you can read here on their website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaginary friends

While signing books in Halifax last week, a reader asked me if I was still in touch with any of the people from the boat. I think she must have assumed I'd interviewed real people from the MV Sun Sea, which of course I hadn't. I have no idea who any of the real refugees were and Mahindan et. al are totally imaginary. But I also thought a lot about her question afterward because it's true that for years I was in communion with all of my characters. They were continually changing and growing and forming and re-forming in my mind as I researched and drafted and revised the novel. But then last April, when I submitted the final manuscript, I drew a line in the sand and put an end to the creation. And now, while I do talk about those characters a lot, I no longer engage with them. They are out in the world being re-imagined anew by every reader. They are no longer my characters to create. They feel like old friends, people I reminisce about but never hear from.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to chat with Anna Bowen at the Eden Mills podcast (30 mins). We talked a lot about characters, as well as the research that went into the novel, and the scenes that wouldn't have existed if not for my editors. We also talked about a bit of bonus content that you can find here.

I'll be taking part in the Eden Mills Writers' Festival in September and I'm really, really looking forward to it.

En français

Last week, The Boat People hit international shelves as part of Penguin Random House's One World, One Book campaign! So international readers, you can now buy the novel on line at your local book shop or maybe even at the airport.

In other deal news, French language rights have been SOLD to Quebec publisher Mémoire d’encrier. Through them, the French version of the book will be available around the world. As always, the credit goes entirely to Stephanie, agent extraordinaire.

 

 

Hey, Ladies!

DEAL NEWS first: We've sold Arabaic language rights for The Boat People to Fawasel Publishing! It's ironic that one of my first foreign language deals is for Arabic rights. When I was a kid in Dubai, Arabic was hands down my worst class. My parents even hired a tutor and one of my earliest memories was kicking up a massive tantrum when it was time to go for those lessons (I was a brat). In school, the language teacher was a terrifying woman who used to march up and down the aisles checking our progress. She had a ruler that she held with one hand and smacked against the palm of the other. And that ruler, more often than not, ended up across my knuckles because I wrote too slowly. I hated Arabic with a passion but now, as an adult, I think it's actually quite a beautiful language. I love that it's written right to left. I love the way it looks on the page, flowing like a river. But I digress...

This book deal, like all the others, would not have happened without my hard-working, whip-smart agent, Stephanie Sinclair. She is just one in an army of women who made my career possible and The Boat People a success. Other notables include my three editors: Anita, Melissa, and Margo, and my marketing/ publicity team: Erin, Charlotte, and Sarah. And then there were all the early readers and the other writers who gave me advice, a leg up, loaned their time and talents: Lisa (x2), Carrie, Susan, Melissa, Kristen, Elisabeth, Megan....there are too many to name.

In honour of International Women's Day the CBC complied a list of 18 women authors to read in 2018. The list includes my pal Eva Crocker, whose debut collection made a big splash last year. For those of us in St. John's, Eva's work has been our little secret for a few years and I'm always happy to see her get the wider praise she deserves. Also on the list: the wonderful Djamila Ibrahim, Canisia Lubrin, and S.K. Ali. Every time my name or my book makes one of these lists, I always feel so honoured by the company. 

For IWD2018, I also did an interview with Kobo about the importance of questioning authority, speaking up, and getting your elbows out. Other interviewees include literary heavyweights Eden Robinson, Zoey Lee Peterson, and Gurjinder Basran. (Parenthetically I just read Basran's Someone You Love Is Gone on the flight to Vancouver and was blown away. It's an arresting, gorgeous novel).

It's March 8th but when your social and family and work circles are filled with loud, brash, opinionated, clever, creative, hard-working ladies, every day is defined by women. I’m so fortunate in this regard, to have been raised by a mother who worked in finance and brought home the proverbial and literal bacon (although there was an unfortunate stretch where said bacon was of the turkey variety), who taught me how to expect good things and showed me by example how to make them happen. And I am surrounded by aunts and cousins who refuse to shut up. (Try. And. Make. Us.)

In the interview with Kobo I said that there's no substitute for sensible real life women. Surrounding yourself with the right people will undo and mitigate so much of the damage that is heaped on us by social media and advertising and sexual predators. I'm grateful for my girl friends who are rock stars who inspire me daily with their marathons and child-rearing and kick ass careers. They are teachers and doctors and mothers and executives and artists making this world a better place with their compassion, their humour, and most of all their persistence.

March 8th is just one day on the calendar. What is important, as women, is how we live our lives every day of the year. In closing, I'm going to quote Gurjinder Basran whose advice can be applied to writing as well: "I would tell them that confidence isn’t inate. It is something that builds with experience. So, to have confidence to speak up, they simply must start. Nothing magical ever happens in our comfort zones!"

Springtime in Vancouver

On Tuesday there was a snow day in St. John's and I escaped to Vancouver where it was spring. I was there, of course, for the Incite: New Voices of CanLit event at the Vancouver Public Library. Three cheers to the Vancouver Writers Fest for putting on such a stellar event. I was especially impressed with how well they curated the authors. I had never met Kim Fu, Guillaume Morissette or Djamila Ibrahim before but the four of us had a great chemistry on and off stage. That doesn't often happen. (And we spontaneously colour coordinated with the library's colour scheme...ha!) It was really special to be at the Vancouver Public Library too because in The Boat People's fictional Vancouver, 350 West Georgia is the site of the Immigration and Refugee Board Building. As my editor Anita said: reading in that space was like bringing the story home.

With the teacher at Westside (photo courtesy of  Westside's instagram )

With the teacher at Westside (photo courtesy of Westside's instagram)

My publicists took full advantage of my visit and packed the schedule with interviews and appearances. I began Wednesday with something better than coffee: a taping of Can't Lit with the hilarious, vivacious, sharp- tongued duo of Jen Sookfong Lee and Dina Del Bucchia. (I'll post an update when the episode is live.) I've been listening to Can't Lit for a while so being a guest was a real treat.

Then it was off to Westside School's Miniversity for a reading, Q&A, and another podcast interview. First, Westside doesn't look like any highschool you've ever seen. It's more like the open-plan offices of a start-up company. Second, the students are SMART. They were engaged and asked good, thought-provoking questions. It was my first school visit and Westside set the bar high. Plus, they gave me a mango as a parting gift. Someone clearly did their homework. (Please send mangoes, people)

After taping one of my favourite interviews. (Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Radio and Minelle)

After taping one of my favourite interviews. (Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Radio and Minelle)

While I was in town, The Tyee ran a review of The Boat People. It was a wonderful, hilarious piece by Crawford Kilian but BE WARNED: THERE ARE MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS. If you've already finished the book, you are safe to read the review here. I love the classification of The Boat People as 'political horror.' Yes. It is horrific. Parenthetically, I hadn't actually realized I'd written a political book until quite late in the game. One day, I was walking down the street listening to a podcast where some foolish (male...natch) person was opining: "women don't write political books." And I thought: "don't we? wait a second...I did!"

Saying women don't write political books is idiotic. Everything is political. Austen, Eliot, Gallant, Roy...we are all political authors writing about political things. Second, I suspect that most of us don't go into our projects thinking: "right. This is going to be political." We just write books and because we are thinking human beings, our books end up being about world events or personal traumas or relationships between people and guess what? All that stuff is political. Sex is political. Washing the dishes is political. Culture is political. Refugee law is political. Men don't have a monopoly on politics. /Rant

Back to Vancouver! While there, I also taped an episode of CBC's North by Northwest with Sheryl Mackay and an interview with Joe Planta at thecommentary.ca. Stay tuned for links when both those interviews go live.

And finally, my very last interview was a long chat with Minelle Mahtani for Roundhouse Radio's Sense of Place (available now so go have a listen). They have a segment called "Acknowledgements" where they bring in an author and someone they thanked in their acknowledgements page.

David, me, and Minelle. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Radio.

David, me, and Minelle. Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Radio.

On our way to Roundhouse, my publicist Laura promised this would be one of my favourite interviews. She wasn't overselling. Minelle is an incredible interviewer. She asks deep, thoughtful questions and knows how to get at the big stuff, the emotional stuff. Plus she listens. I mean really listens. Two thirds of the way through our interview we brought in Lisa Moore. The conversation was wide-ranging. We discussed dialogue, location, language, bigotry, bureaucracy, and found a similarity between my novel and Lisa's February. And bonus: David Chariandy dropped by, unexpectedly, to eavesdrop. Knowing that both Lisa and David were listening in to my chat with Minelle wasn't at all nerve-wracking....nope, not at all! In all seriousness: what a lovely way to cap off my time in Vancouver, speaking with Minelle and Lisa and David and listening to them discuss literature with each other.

And did I mention it was spring in Vancouver, my favourite Canadian city? So lovely. Please invite me back!

ps. The Boat People was #1 on the CBC's Bestseller list last week and #5 on the Globe & Mail's list.

 

"Where are the quotation marks?"

Why are there no quotation marks in your book? This is one of the most common questions I get from readers. It's a good one. It was one my editors challenged me to answer as well (because good editors hold you to account for every. single. thing.).

Quotation marks dictate. They tell the reader: "this is who is speaking and here are the exact words they used in this exact order." Sometimes as a writer this is exactly what I want to do: tell the reader something. In The Boat People I did not want to tell the reader very much. There are many places in the book where I purposely left room for ambiguity. After all, this is what the book is about: the slipperiness of truth. Are stories true? Who gets to tell them? Or as Meg and Brianne might ask: What is truth, even?

There are many points in the book too where I wanted to blur the lines between direct and indirect dialogue, between thoughts in a character's head and the words they say out loud. I wanted the reader to decide for themselves. Direct dialogue, like quotation marks, signal truth and accuracy. This is what the character said, these words in this order. But indirect dialogue is different. It is a kind of summation, the gist of what was said, as perceived by the listener.

In the scene Back to Hell, Grace listens to Hema give her testimony, mediated by the interpreter, and wonders: How much of this story is real? How much is hers? Is the interpreter doing his job faithfully? In this scene, and many others, I wanted the reader to be unsettled and uncertain, just as Grace is. Think about Mahindan, sitting there in hearings, not understanding a word of English, feeling bewildered by the legal proceedings in this strange new land. By making things uncertain, a little difficult even, I hope to put the reader in his shoes.

Date night in Turkey

DEAL NEWS: The Boat People will be translated into Turkish! My clever agent Stephanie has sold Turkish language rights to a publisher over there. It's our first translation deal and hopefully not the last one.

A few years ago my husband and I went to Turkey on holiday. On one of our last nights in Istanbul, we took the ferry across the Bosphorus, away from the touristy part of town to residential Kadıköy. It was, hands down, one of our funnest date nights and also one of my favourite holiday memories of all time.

We wandered through the market, treated ourselves to the best coffee in town, got enmeshed in a hyper competitive game of tavla (we got so into it, in fact, that the waiter serving us tea forgot we were tourists and addressed us in Turkish). There was nothing particularly special about the evening except this feeling of complete immersion in a place and the wonderful familiarity of this easy-going corner of the city. People more or less ignored us and so we could forget we were outsiders and just imagine for a few hours that we were locals on a stroll through our neighbourhood. And what do we do when we're at home? Visit a book shop, of course. There was a lovely little one in Kadıköy, somewhat shabby and dusty and bursting with books. What a thrill to think of The Boat People IN TURKISH in that store.

We had a time

Here are some shots from last Thursday's book launch. The party was held at the Eastern Edge Gallery and coincided with the members exhibition so we were surrounded by paintings and photographs and mixed media installations by artists who are also members of the gallery. We were also fortunate to have a string duo - my friend Lauren Smee and her partner Sarah Jane Johnson - on hand. So it was the intersection of all my favourite things - music, art, literature. And of course cake, food, and wine!

The team at Eastern Edge were just lovely to work with and FYI, the gallery is one of the few accessible spaces in the city. I would highly, highly recommend them for all your event needs. Probably the nicest and most surreal moment was standing at the lectern, about to give my reading, and looking out over the crowd of all my favourite townies. It was standing room only. The place was on wheels!

ps. In case you are wondering, "we had a time" is a Newfoundland expression loosely meaning "we had a great time/ a time to remember." And "the place was on wheels" means "the place was jam packed and the crowd was boisterous." Don't you just love language?

Toronto Star

The Boat People got a rave review in this Saturday's Toronto Star. And check out this prime top-of-the-fold real estate! Reviews are hard to come by, especially in major dailies and to score this kind of space is even more extraordinary. A) My publicist Erin is a genius and B) I am NOT taking any of this for granted.

Elsewhere on Saturday, I spent a couple of hours signing novels at Broken Books. If you are in St. John's, swing by their new and larger digs at 245 Duckworth Street (former home of Afterwords Bookshop) where there are still tons of copies for sale.

Saturday Star (January 20, 2018)

Saturday Star (January 20, 2018)

Reviews, interviews, and the Magic 8

The amazing, incredible, hard-working team at McCelland & Stewart.

I'm home after four days on the road promoting my book! Eight interviews, three days, two cities. Here are a few of the highlights:

My favourite interview of the week was the one we recorded for The Sunday Edition. Michael Enright, in addition to being a thoughtful and incisive interviewer, is an old friend of my in-laws so we'd met a couple of times before. As a result, I was totally at ease in the recording studio and I think that comes through in the interview.

Live television interviews are daunting, particularly if they are first thing in the morning and you've tossed and turned more than you've slept the night before. But the team at CTV's Your Morning are such pros they made my interview with Lindsey Deluce easy, like chatting with a new friend.

Sue Carter wrote a really nice piece for The Toronto Star and Metro on the book. And author Marissa Stapley gave the novel a glowing review in Saturday's Globe & Mail. It's behind a paywall but here are a couple of lines from the review that I appreciate: "Bala has vividly conjured worlds, both on Canadian soil and back in Sri Lanka, that show the dualities of living in any country – and that show how powerful the need for safety, the need for home, is in all of us...The characters Bala brings together in The Boat People are different and the same. What we also get from a novel like this is a new way of seeing." YES! This is exactly what I want people to take away from the book. There is no "other." At heart we are all want the same things even if our skin colours and accents are different.

This is my job now: defacing books.

There is little I love more than a good literary quiz. The CBC asked me to complete the Magic 8 Q&A. You can read more about my hatred of jargon and my love of podcasts.

This past Tuesday was also publication day in the US. I was in Toronto and celebrated in my very favourite way - dinner and champagne at home with a group of my oldest friends.

Mari Carlson wrote a very favourable review in BookPage. My favourite line was the last one: "The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth." The truth, and its imprecise nature, is something I was consciously working through as I wrote and I'm glad that resonated.

And here's an essay I penned for Signature over the holidays on writing about dark subjects.

But it wasn't all interviews and media appearances last week, I also spent some time signing books. If you are in Toronto and would like a signed copy, I scribbled my name in the books at the Indigo at Bay and Bloor and the flagship store in the Eaton's Centre.

Book promotion is a thrilling and exhausting (I didn't sleep for three days straight) and as fortunate as I felt to have such an amazing publicity team who scored the book all kinds of coverage (I've only scratched the surface in this post), I was absolutely overjoyed to flop into my own bed on Friday night. I've spent the weekend sleeping in and reading (Mira T. Lee's "Everything here is beautiful" - which is just as advertised in the title) and going to yoga and spending time with friends. Bliss!

More interviews next week and on Thursday we're having a launch. It's free and open to the public so please join us at the Eastern Edge Gallery from 7:30-9:00pm. There will be food and drinks and live music and books for sale and a short reading too.

 

Lists

The Globe & Mail loves these books!

The Globe & Mail loves these books!

There is nothing I love more than a good list. To do lists. Grocery lists. List stories. The other day while putting books on hold at the library, the librarian asked where I got my reading list. "Is this from Goodreads or a prize longlist?" she asked. I explained that it was DIY, a curated set of titles that are coming soon or very recently out.

But at the moment my favourite kind of lists are the ones that mention The Boat People. My book is first on the Globe & Mail's list of most anticipated reads. (The list is probably ordered by publication date) Travelling Book Junkie included my novel in their round up of January reads. I'm in excellent company on Signature's Best Books of January list. And Amazon.com named The Boat People one of their Best Books of the month.

Bonus content!

Good news for fans of The Boat People: the Newfoundland Quarterly online has published some exclusive bonus content, a scene called "More Folly Than Sense" that is not in the book. It's accompanied by a brilliant illustration by Megan McNeill who is a talented artist as well as my friend and neighbour.

This is a flashback that takes place 22 years before the novel begins. I love this scene and it was one I wrote for the very first draft. But it's set so far in the past that it really didn't have a place in the novel. I'm glad it's available though because it shows a side of northern Sri Lanka that you don't get to see in the book - the carefree, idyllic days that people of a certain age still remember. And I think it's important to think about this, in the context of Sri Lanka and Syria and Libya and every single other place that's been ripped apart by war. Once upon a time there was peace.

 

Birthday

The big day is HERE. The Boat People is on shelves and e-readers and nightstands across Canada TODAY.

IMG_5497.JPG

For the past couple of weeks I've been getting notes from friends who pre-ordered online and received their books early and it's been such a thrill to see photos of them holding their very own copies. I am so excited about sightings of my book IN THE WILD.

It's been such a thrill too to randomly stumble on mentions of the book in articles. Last week I was reading Jen Sookfong Lee's year in review article on Open Book and was pleasantly surprised to find my name in the same paragraph as the words "new Canlit." Y'all...I'm a card carrying member of CANLIT now.

Toronto Life.JPG

On Boxing Day my friend Erin texted me the photo on the right. There she was, minding her own business, catching up on the new Toronto Life and BAM...there's my book in its own red column.

Four and a half years ago, The Boat People was a vague idea I had for a novel. Twenty two months ago it was a publication deal. Last April it was a final manuscript. In July, there was an Advance Reader Copy. And today it's a real book on shelves.

The Boat People isn't mine anymore. Not really. When a book is released it becomes its own entity, a thing in the world, something that belongs as much to the readers as to the writer. I hope you love it.

Politics and the prize

There's been a lot of talk about literary prizes and prize culture of late, including this thought-provoking article in Maclean's about the intersection between awards and political literature. In it, Brian Bethune gives an interesting take on the difference between the Giller and the Writers' Trust Awards: "The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize is the most sensitive to change of Canada’s three major literary awards, and its juries are more likely to be staffed by writers still early in their careers. It’s always been the most predictive in the sense that authors are more likely to win the WT and then go on to the Giller than the reverse."

macleans.JPG

The Boat People gets a passing mention as one to watch for in 2018, with Bethune wondering how, in the tumultuous present moment, readers and authors will respond to new fiction that is politically charged. The truth is that I never set out to write about politics. To me, The Boat People is about a man who is trying, against all odds, to survive, to secure salvation for his son. At its heart, I think every novel is like this - a coming-of-age tale, a survival narrative, a love story. We are all writing variations on Hamlet and Cinderella and the Odyssey. The politics is incidental.