Cheltenham Q & A - Sarah Liepciger
Eleventh in the series: Sarah Liepciger.
Sarah Leipciger was born and raised in Canada and now lives in London where she teaches creative writing to prisoners. Her debut novel, The Mountain Can Wait, was released this year. Sarah is appearing at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Fri 9 Oct 2015 at 3:30pm - 4:30pm in Thinking Inside The Box: Books Behind Bars, alongside journalist Ann Walmsley (The Prison Book Club) and ex-prisoner Noel ‘Razor’ Smith(The Criminal Alphabet) and literary historian John Sutherland; and at 7:00pm - 8:15pm to discuss Creating An Atmosphere alongside Claire Fuller (Our Endless Numbered Days) and Carys Bray.
What book do you wish that you had written?
I wish I had written The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Just as your books inspire readers, what authors inspired you to write?
As a young person I was inspired by Shel Silverstein, Dennis Lee, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, S.E. Hinton. As I grew older, it was Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence, Alden Nolan. As I grew even older it was Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Junot Diaz, Lorrie Moore, Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, Anne Michaels.
Once you've had the initial idea for a book, do you create the plot first or do you begin writing straight away, looking to discover the story and characters along the way?
Once I had the idea for the main character of my first novel, and I knew what was going to happen to him (and what was going to drive him), I delved right in without planning a thing. For the novel I’m writing now, the narrative takes place over three separate eras, in three different countries. I know exactly what’s going to happen in the story, but I have to be a little more cunning in the planning — the weaving together of the three connected storylines. As they develop, the characters are going to inevitably mess with my carefully crafted plot, but I think that’s the nature and the beauty of the beast.
Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to them, good or bad? Any advice on how to deal with the bad?
This is my first go round so yes, I do read the reviews. I don’t pay any mind to the good ones (surely they’re only being polite!), and find the bad ones, which have luckily been few, interesting. Sending your book out into the big bad world is like sending your child out. Not everyone is going to be nice to your kid, but you’re not going to keep her at home to protect her. Bad reviews (as much as the good) mean the book is out there and it’s alive and growing and having an impact on people.
If you were trapped on a desert island, which two books would you want to have with you and why?
This question is mean and nasty. Only two? I would take The Diviners by Margaret Laurence. I think I was probably twelve or thirteen the first time I read it, and have read it four or five times since. I’ve grown up with Morag Gunn, the protagonist, and every time I read the book I am a different creature, as is the book. I would also take Cormac McCarthy’s The Border Trilogy (it’s three books but you can get it in one volume so I’m taking it). It’s several hundred pages of the most astonishing beauty and poetry, dust, blood and horses. When I die I want to be buried with this book.
Who else do you wish to see while at the Cheltenham festival?
I would like to see James Rhodes, and Julia Rochester with Cathy Rentzenbrink. I’d also like to see Tom Rob Smith and would love to check out the talk about Angela Merkel because I think she’s an interesting figure on the European and world stage.
What was the last book you read?
The Hunters, by James Salter.