Interview: Padma Viswanathan, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao

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“I remember that kid blankness,” she says, reached by phone in Toronto. “The information comes, and you have no emotional template into which to fit it. It was as though the bombing made me so aware of the vast realms of human psychology that I had no access to.”

At school, Viswanathan had been intrigued by uprisings such as the Communist Revolution in Russia. “But this seemed so random. So vicious. I couldn’t understand it as a political act, at the time.”

This week’s column is a profile of Padma Viswanathan, whose new novel, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, takes a hard fictional look at the Air India bombing and the unlikely connections that we make in the wake of tragedy.

I liked talking with her a lot. For one thing, she confirmed the legitimacy of this photo—her parents used to rent paintings from the EPL back when she was a kid. For another, she currently lives not in Toronto or Brooklyn, but Arkansas. Which means she automatically jumps five notches in my books.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Fiona Staples, Saga

The first paperback volume of Saga (Image Comics), made up of issues one through six of the monthly comic series, was released in October 2012—approximately 74 weeks ago.

It has spent 53 of those weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

This week’s column is a profile of one of my very favourite comics artists, and who just happens to live a three-hour drive away from Edmonton. Fiona Staples is in town tomorrow to sign copies of volume three of Saga.

Read the whole story—including the excellent moment where she asked her co-creator whether the cast was going to be “automatically white”—here.

Lisa Martin-DeMoor and Jessica Hiemstra, How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting

What strikes her most, though, are the new stories she hears. “One of my aunts lost a baby shortly after birth, the other experienced multiple miscarriages,” Stonehouse writes. “The sister-in-law offering the baby clothes was once a twin but her sister died at birth. Yet my parents-in-law never talked about this, even to her. Such stories surface only when strictly necessary, after the fact, and never before.”

In last week’s column, I interviewed one of the editors of How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting, a new anthology of essays about pregnancy, parenthood, and loss. I learned a lot from this book.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Kadrush Radogoshi

For the next two months, Radogoshi was held in isolation in a tiny, windowless cell. There was nothing to do. He didn’t even have anything to sit on, as his bed was folded up into the wall each morning. The only thing he had to look at was a series of 32 optical illusions on one wall of the cell. “They were to make us crazy,” Radogoshi says. “I studied psychology. I know. These were hallucinations.”

By the time he was released from jail, Radogoshi was 30 kilograms lighter than when he’d arrived. “After that,” he says, “I was active in political life.”

This week’s column is about a celebrated Kosovo writer who’s been quietly living in Edmonton for the past three years, trying to escape his past and start over writing in English.

Read the whole thing here.

Interview: Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler, “When Did You See Her Last?”

“It occurred to me that the voyage of a detective in noir fiction is very close to the voyage of childhood,” Handler says. “You are increasingly lured into a sinister world, and it turns out everyone who has assigned you your case is unreliable. You slowly have to find your own moral path in a world gone, more or less, wrong. That reminded me of being a child.”

Big column this week. Huge column. I got to interview Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket himself—and he was exactly as erudite and delightful as I’d dared hope. (He’s in Edmonton on Sunday.)

Read the whole thing here.

Interview: Ross King, Leonardo and the Last Supper

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“Had Leonardo died in 1494, he would be virtually unknown today,” King says. “Because most of the things that he is known for today—The Last Supper, the Mona Lisa, the anatomical drawings—all of those things come after the age of 42. We think of him as a genius who could succeed at anything he turned his hand to. But until he was in his 40s he had not really fulfilled all his wants.”

This week’s column is a profile of Ross King, whose new book about Leonardo da Vinci I adore. (The imagine of Da Vinci obsessing—for years—about the perfect painting of a toddler holding a cat will be with me forever.) He’s in town for approximately 40 Last Supper-related events this weekend.

Read the whole thing here.

Interview: Todd Babiak, Come Barbarians

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“When you’re writing a thriller, you have to ask yourself some pretty hard questions,” Babiak says. “How does this add to the character, or advance the story? Is this beauty for the sake of beauty? Am I being cute? My mom would be annoyed by it, and she’d want to skip that part.”

As far as guiding principles go, you could do a lot worse.

“Yeah!” he agrees. “Don’t bore your mom!”

This week’s column is a profile of arguably Edmonton’s best-known writer, Todd Babiak, whose new novel walks the line between literary fiction and an out-and-out thriller.

The book is called Come Barbarians, and I liked it a whole bunch.

Read the whole story here.

Interview: Diana Davidson, Pilgrimage

“I wanted to write about everyday people—the people who don’t necessarily make it into textbooks,” Davidson says. “Women, generally, didn’t have a lot of agency (in the 1890s). They didn’t have access to things like birth control, and they weren’t even recognized as people under the law yet. They didn’t have a lot of avenues to see justice done.”

This week’s column is a profile of Edmonton’s Diana Davidson, whose debut novel Pilgrimage is a look at the early days of the mission at Lac Ste. Anne. With a special appearance by a 100-year-old body in a well.

Read the whole thing here.