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Alan Weisman

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

The most unusual would be the 2011 Rome Science Festival, the theme of which—I hadn't known until I arrived and a translator explained—was "The End of the World: A User's Guide."  After that, I wondered, what's left to write about?  I appeared on a panel with three I-told-you-so-type authors, each who seemed smugly pleased to greet the Apocalypse. All were disappointed, even disapproving, when I explained that while, yes, I'd written a book called The World Without Us, my motive was really because actually I want one with us.  Moreover, I believed—and still do—that it's possible. Otherwise, I said, why bother writing at all?  Writing's hard. Why not just drink?  Passing by the bar later, and then still later, I noticed that they'd all apparently taken my last remark to heart.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

People who love my latest book, Countdown, generally ascribe to it adjectives like powerful, vivid, provocative (finally, thank God, some add: hopeful). All deeply appreciated, but after the high dose of reality I dredged up in 21 countries, I recommend they next read what I did when I finished writing it: fiction.  Or poetry.  In these crucial times, faced with potential destruction by our own heavy hand, it's absolutely indispensable to remind ourselves how beautiful, and beautifully creative, our species can be—and to realize, as with the rest of nature, that we're worth saving, too.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Again, all the fiction.  People, I've learned, will read any hard truth as long as you can weave it into a good story, so as a non-fiction writer I read novels and short stories constantly, to absorb their narrative vitamins. Growing up in Minnesota, I read every word F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, and my prose is better for it.  This past year I've read George Eliot, Adam Johnson, Howard Norman, Penelope Lively, Herman Wouk, Chad Harbach, Bruno Schulz, and Tom Perrotta. Louise Erdrich is next in the queue.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Too many fine writers are appearing to single out, so I'll just mention an obligatory Vancouver pilgrimage I hope to make: a long bike ride through Stanley Park—and, with luck, timing it right for wine and Pacific sockeye at the lovely Fish House.

Janie Chang

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Since my novel is set in 1930’s China, I am always happy when people come up and say “I didn’t know much about that era of Chinese history and now I want to learn more”—because prior to writing this novel, I didn’t know that much either!

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Peony in Love by Lisa See or The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo all feature a Chinese afterlife. If the reader is more interested in Chinese family dynamics, they should read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. And if they enjoy total immersion in a historical world, The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier, set in 18th century Japan, is one of my favourites.   

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Science fiction and fantasy. A lot of it: Iain M. Banks, Asimov, Bradbury, Sherry S. Tepper, Ursula K. LeGuin. I will buy anything about Eleanor of Aquitaine. And I have a big book about Cistercian monasteries, which I’ll use someday to plan a vacation to see them all.    

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I missed From the Rock last year, and refuse to miss it this time. The line-up of authors is just too good and I’m in total fan-girl mode already at the thought of getting Wayne Johnston to autograph my copy of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

Scott Turow

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

A few years ago, when my non-fiction book about capital punishment came out, I was somehow paired with my pal Dave Barry, the great American humorist, at the Miami book fair.  Speaking after Dave is hard no matter what, but talking about sentencing people to death after Dave had them rolling in the aisles was pretty much impossible. And just to be sure I looked like a complete idiot before I started, Dave brought his guitar to the podium and made me join him in a chorus of "wild thing," my "signature" number in the Rock Bottom Remainders, the writers’ rock band in which Dave plays guitar and I play the fool.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Evon Miller, one of the protagonists from Identical, appeared earlier as a major character—in her former life as an FBI agent—in Personal Injuries.  That would be a good place to go next, as the events of Personal Injuries are often referred to in passing within Identical.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Probably the books about phenomenology I read in college and graduate school by authors like Heidegger.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

That's easy—Vancouver itself, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I was there most recently in 2011 when my last book, Innocent, was filmed in the city—the Vancouver Art Gallery was turned into a courthouse.  And if the opportunity presents itself, it would be great to cross paths with George Packer, whom I’ve not seen recently, but first met when he was sixteen, and I was a writing fellow at Stanford.

David MacFarlane

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Reading with and getting to spend some time with Sebastian Faulk in Eastport, Newfoundland a few years ago

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Gee, that's a hard one. I suppose my favourite novel, To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Actually, you'd be surprised to discover I don't have a bookshelf. All my books are in boxes.  Still, you might have been surprised by the anatomy textbooks.  But they were my father's, from medical school.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Well, of course, Vancouver.  What a wonderful city.  But I particularly enjoy the opportunity to spend time with my friend, John Robinson, Dean of Sustainability at UBC.  I don't know anyone with a livelier mind.

Charlotte Grimshaw

What has been your favourite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

I very much enjoyed reading with Australian writer Tim Winton, who is hilarious and original as well as being a terrific writer. Lionel Shriver once seemed about to fly into a rage with me when I interviewed her on stage about her latest novel, and I had to alter my line of questioning. I believe she forgave me afterwards. I also enjoyed appearing with David Malouf, who has such a precise, nuanced way of reading his stories, it’s great to listen to.

If someone loves your latest book what would you recommend they read next?

Someone who enjoyed my latest novel Soon, about a right wing New Zealand Prime Minister, might like to try my books The Night Book,Opportunity and Singularity, which feature some of the characters who appear in Soon

What books might we be surprised to find on your book shelf?

I’ve always been fascinated by the Nazis (it’s a horrified fascination) so I own a lot of books about Hitler and the Third Reich, and about Albert Speer, in whom I’m particularly interested. When I wrote Soon, I had partly in mind the strange relationship between Hitler and Albert Speer. I’ve just written an essay about writing fiction that manages to range from Albert Speer to Chekhov to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I’m looking forward to meeting other writers, and also to exploring Vancouver. I’ve only been to the city once, very briefly. I was really impressed and would like to see more of it. I think Aucklanders could learn a lot from Vancouver—for example the art of growing trees on top of buildings. 

Dale Mayer

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

I was attending a Writer's conference several years ago. On the second day, I was honored to spend time with Jack Whyte, Diane Galbadon and Anne Perry in the same morning! The different perspectives that these writers who all wrote such different genres was inspiring and heart warming.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If they haven't read the earlier books in the same series, I'd recommend that they start there. However if they have read the earlier books, I'd suggest they hop over and try a whole new series! I have five different series on the go.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I love an eclectic variety of subjects and pick up any and all books that catch my interest. That can include self help topics, forensic science, criminal mind psychology, English grammar, poetry books, and novels, of course. I read across the genres from horror, medical, christian, historical and of course, paranormal—of all kinds!

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

This is my first time attending the Vancouver Writers Festival and am looking forward to immersing myself in everything that is available to attend. That includes meeting readers and writers, as well as sharing my experiences with Wattpad on a panel. It all sounds like fun!

Nancy Jo Cullen

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

I'm pretty much a festival newbie but, as an audience member, my favourite reading was listening to Lynda Barry at IFOA. She was unpretentious and had me crying with laughter.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Anything my Miriam Toews who balances tragedy and humour to great effect. A short story collection I've loved is Ali Smith's First Person and Other Stories.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I don't know that I have anything surprising on my bookshelf. I have a King James Bible.  Perhaps that would be surprising to some people.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I'm pretty pumped about the events I've been invited to take part in—the writers I'll be reading with! Very exciting. Also, smelling the Pacific, walking the seawall, seeing some old friends and family.

Andrew Pyper

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Oh, many favourites, and none too shy on the unusual either.  But I think, over the last couple years, I've most appreciated the way the audiences who come to my readings have changed, from people who were dipping their toes in the water, to people who have read all my work and can offer enlightening insights about it.  They aren't overwhelmingly great in number, mind you, but to meet and talk with an actual, dedicated readership is an enormous pleasure.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

As far as thrillers go, if you haven't read Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl yet, you really should.  And as far as the demonological goes, there's a short novel by Sara Gran called Come Closer that's very, very good.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

First, one might be taken by the number of cookbooks, and then wonder "Does this guy actually make any of this stuff?"  (The answer would be yes, the guy tries).  And then one might be taken by the weird pockets of non-fiction focused on specific, seemingly unrelated topics—grizzly bears, the Kennedys, abandoned towns in northern Ontario, witchcraft.  That's research.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I'm most looking forward to seeing so many colleagues—both ones I've met already and ones I hope to meet—all in one place.  Writers are an odd lot, and observing them in the wild is always amusing.

Lisa Moore

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

I recently read with Anne Enright on Fogo Island, an island that has been designated as one of the four corners of the earth. Afterwards we sat out in plastic lawn chairs and watched a meteor shower, drinking red wine, the ocean nearby. Her reading was spectacular.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

The books I read that thrilled me while I was writing my novel, Caught, were: The Wild Palms by William Faulkner, everything by Elizabeth Bowen,  Norwood by Charles Portis, and the short stories of Lorrie Moore and Mavis Gallant. The books I read and loved after I wrote Caught were Claire Wilkshire's Maxine, Michael Winter's Minister Without Portfolio, and Michael Crummey's Under the Keel

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Pilates for Dummies. I think the dummies referred to in the title are more advanced than me.  

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Readings, readings, partying, readings, partying, readings, readings, readings.

Elizabeth Ruth

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Hands down, the prize for the most unusual thing to happen at one of my readings took place during an audience Q & A back in 2001 when I was touring my first novel, Ten Good Seconds of Silence. This was a book about mental health and mother/daughter relationships. It featured a psychic single mother who found missing children for the police. The discussion veered from the book's central themes and characters when a man in the audience took the microphone and complimented me on the writing of the birthing scene in my novel. He went on to share with the rest of us that he watched birthing videos and experienced them as highly erotic, much in the same way, he said, that other men watched porn. He took time to graphically detail what he found most exciting, as mothers in the audience cringed and squirmed in their seats. When I focussed him on his question the man finally asked whether I thought men experienced womb envy the way women (according to Freud) experienced penis envy? Needless to say, I was at a loss for words.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If readers enjoyed Matadora I'm guessing they would also enjoy other novels featuring strong female protagonists. A Canadian choice would be In Calamity's Wake, by Natalee Caple. Our styles are very different, and Natalee's book has more of an academic influence to its research, but both novels feature women who buck convention. Similarly, Robert Hough's first novel, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark might appeal. Finally, UK writer, Jeanette Winterson's novel, Lighthousekeeping.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Normal Doidge. I am fascinated by neuroplasticity and what it might mean for human creativity. And Perhaps Vladimir Nabakov, Alphabet in Colour.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

This will be my first time attending the Festival. I am very much looking forward to spending time surrounded by writers and stunning scenery. I lived in Vancouver for one year, in the early 1990's, and have been back only twice since then. The city and I have both changed, I'm sure, but I'm eager to see how we fit now. I will be making a special effort to attend events headlined by writers from New Zealand, China and the UK. Wonderful to have the opportunity to hear these international voices. Oh, and if it's still there, having a slice of chocolate banana cream pie at that place on Denman!

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