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#WOTSTalks: Toronto Book Award Nominee Carrianne Leung

September 7, 2018

It’s finally September! We’re so excited about WOTS that we couldn’t wait to talk to some of the authors that will be joining us on September 23! We sat down with Carrianne Leung to talk about her book That Time I Loved You, Scarborough, and her writing process.

 

WOTS: That Time I Loved You is a collection of short stories that take place in the same Scarborough subdivision. What made you want to tell these intertwining stories?

Carrianne Leung: I wrote a version of the first story, “Grass,” many years ago. It stayed with me, and I wanted to return to it because it always felt like it was something more. At first, I thought it may turn into a novel, but then I realized that the place of this neighbourhood was such an important part. I started developing the different characters that appeared in “Grass.” They were all so fascinating that I felt some of them deserved their own stories. It grew from there.

 

WOTS: What are your favourite places to write? Any quirky must-haves when it comes to sitting down and building out a story?

CL: It depends on how much time I have. My life was pretty busy when writing That Time I Loved You. I worked full time and have a child. I wrote whenever I could, and that sometimes meant jotting down notes on the bus. When I could, I would book several days in a row and rent a cheap hotel room and do nothing but write. But even when I didn’t have time, the stories were always with me. I thought about them all the time so that when I would get those precious moments to sit and write, they came pouring out.

 

WOTS: In That Time I Loved You, the stories are told by different narrators. How did you find working with so many different voices and perspectives? Did inspiration strike all at once, or did the characters and stories come to you gradually?

CL: The characters came one by one. I had to devote all my attention to each story before moving on to the next. Short fiction is challenging. They require the same depth of devotion as a novel, but they are so precise and tiny in comparison. I didn’t have an outline or sketch of the stories before I began. I just allowed each character and story to come as I wrote. It was a fun experience to “meet” them one by one, and to discover their connections to each other.

 

WOTS: Your stories take place close to home—in Scarborough, and, specifically, Scarborough suburbs. What role does place and setting have in your book, and in the stories you’re telling?

CL: Both of my books, The Wondrous Woo and That Time I Loved You are set in Scarborough. I grew up there, and this is where I began to write. I can take you on a tour of my old neighbourhood and tell you stories about every inch of it. I wanted to describe the place that shaped me, where I came of age, and so Scarborough as a setting was critical to me.

 

WOTS: Tell us a bit more about your process. How did you start writing? Do you have any favourite stories about when you were just starting out?

CL: My first novel was about a chick who got lost on a farm. She searched everywhere for her people and ended up meeting cows, goats, horses, cats and dogs, discovering that they were ALL her people. I was 8.

I wrote a lot as a child, but I put fiction aside for many years. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write stories, but being a writer was not something that I thought was an option. I finished an undergrad, began working, went back to graduate school and completed a Masters and a Ph.D. Afterwards, I really missed having a writing project and came back to my first love—writing fiction.

That was how I began writing The Wondrous Woo. It was such a joy to write that novel, and everything that came after. I enjoyed hearing from readers and meeting other writers. It all felt right. So I continued with That Time I Loved You. I love being immersed in bringing characters and worlds into being.

 

WOTS: What would you say to a writer who’s just starting out? What one thing do you think it’s crucial to know?

CL:

  1. Read! Every writer reads! Reading is a joy AND it makes us better writers. Win, win.
  2. Persist! Write because you are compelled to write. Write because you can’t live without it. Not everybody will love your work, and that is ok. Write anyway.
  3. Learn! Learn about the craft of writing. Share your work with engaged readers. Listen to feedback.
  4. Protect your writing time. Life is busy, and it’s a constant struggle to find the time to devote to writing. You need to give yourself permission that you deserve it and make it a priority.  

 

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