The Three Rs: Grace O’Connell
July 13, 2012 § 1 Comment
Grace O’Connell is the author of Magnified World, which was published in 2012 as part of Random House Canada’s New Face of Fiction Program. Her writing has appeared in various publications including The Walrus, Taddle Creek and Quill & Quire and is forthcoming in the Journey Prize Stories Anthology. Grace works as a freelance writer and editor in Toronto and writes a books column for This Magazine.
When did you first know you wanted to write?
There wasn’t a time when I didn’t know. Other wants would be layered on top, over the years, but they were shifting and temporary, whereas writing was simply bedrock. As a kid, I wrote all the time and forced everyone around me to read it all. Then in high school I got very shy about it. It took some years to work up the courage to inflict my work on the people around me again.
What does your day look like while you’re writing a book?
My day usually looks like a night when I’m writing. I usually reserve the day for paid-work tasks and household chores and errands, and the non-writing parts of writing life, like meetings and interviews and research. I’ve always preferred to write at night. The nice thing about night is that you can keep going, if you get into a really good groove – sleep is optional, whereas if you’re writing during the day, you will bump up against lots of non-optional interruptions.
That being said, I’m a champion sleeper. I like to sleep a lot, and I can sleep through anything.
Do you type or write?
I almost always type, although I never learned to type properly (I weaseled out of typing class and took an extra art course in ninth grade – probably a bad idea, in retrospect). Sometimes my pinky fingers stick out when I type.
I keep a journal in longhand though, and sometimes my best notes and scenes come out of that. I’m a bit vain about handwriting – I like it to look pretty – so when I get excited and my handwriting deteriorates in order to keep up with my brain, that’s when I know something good is happening.
What do you read while you’re writing?
Sometimes I re-read old favourites, for comfort and encouragement. If I’m having trouble with structure, I’ll read the same thing I’m writing (a novel, short stories, etc) and look for the strings, look for good examples of how to transition, to open chapters, to write an ending, whatever I’m having trouble with. If I need to just decompress, I read great YA (like my partner Evan’s work, or stuff I loved as a kid), which is something I can always enjoy without my writer-brain horning in, since it’s not something I write myself.
And then sometimes I won’t read anything at all for a while, as a sort of palate cleanser. That’s usually followed by a multi-book binge.
What have you read recently that you really loved?
Pastoralia by George Saunders and The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey (who I had never read before – I’m now going back through his books and devouring them). Very different but both fantastic. Also Disgrace by Coetzee, though that was more of a nauseated awe than love.
What are your all-time favourites?
It’s an ever-shifting list, but on any given day I would gladly sit down and read the Fifth Business trilogy, Lisa Moore’s short stories, Findlay’s The Last of the Crazy People, Atwood’s Robber Bride, Lady Oracle or Cat’s Eye, Munro’s stories (any of them) or the Chronicles of Narnia.
You can either write or read for the rest of your life – but not both. Which do you choose?
Read. And then torment my friends and family by telling stories all the time.
What’s your third R, and why?
Residence: Being at home with the few people in the world I feel completely comfortable around – my partner Evan, my family, dear friends. Oh, and refreshments!