Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spotlight on Sunburst: Emily Schultz

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a juried award to recognize stellar writing in two categories: adult and young adult. The awards are presented annually to Canadian writers with a speculative fiction novel or book-length collection of speculative fiction published any time during the previous calendar year. Past winners include Guy Gavriel Kay. Cory Doctorow, Geoff Ryman, Nalo Hopkinson and Margaret Sweatman.
I asked each of my fellow short-listed authors for the 2013 Sunburst Award if they would be kind enough to write a piece for my blog. Here’s this week’s piece, an interview with Emily Schultz.

Sunburst nominee Emily Schultz
Emily Schultz  is the co-founder of the literary journal Joyland and the host of the podcast Truth & Fiction. Her novel, Heaven Is Small, released from House of Anansi Press in May 2009 in Canada, and in the U.S. in October 2010. Heaven Is Small was named a finalist for the 2010 Trillium Book Award alongside books by Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Schultz’s newest novel, The Blondes, was released from Doubleday Canada in August 2012 and became a national bestseller. It is forthcoming in the U.S. for spring 2014 from St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne.

Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Elle, Today’s Parent, Eye Weekly, the Walrus, the Black Warrior Review, Prism, Geist, Event, Descant, New Quarterly, CellStories, the Fanzine, At Length, and several anthologies. She has worked as an editor and as a creative writing instructor.

Emily lives in Brooklyn with her husband Brian Joseph Davis. Together, they write scripts.

Click here to reach Emily Schultz's agent: Shaun Bradley at the Transatlantic Literary Agency


Follow Emily Schultz on Twitter: @manualofstyle

The Sunburst Award jury says: "Alone in New York, Hazel Hayes is desperately trying to get her life together. Her thesis isn’t going well, she’s running low on cash, and she’s just discovered she’s pregnant after an affair with her married tutor. To complicate matters even further, random acts of violence and savagery are breaking out everywhere, acts perpetrated exclusively by light-haired women, and no one can explain why—or knows how to stop it. At once a gripping page-turner and a wryly satirical takedown of the omnipresent apocalypse-meme, The Blondes is a perceptive look at a world where certain women are to be feared and controlled—with brutality, if necessary—and where beauty is not only skin deep, but can kill you."

Interview with Emily Schultz:

1. How do most people react when you tell them you're a writer? How long did it take for you to lay claim to that title of "writer”? Was there a defining moment when you knew you actually were a writer?

ES: I always wanted to write, so I think I’ve never had any qualms about thinking of myself as a writer. I also began publishing quite young—I was 28 when my first book, a collection of stories, came out, and by the age of 35 I’d published a book of poetry and two novels. This is my third novel, and definitely my favourite. In that regard, I’d say it’s a defining moment: I feel like I’m just beginning to become the kind of writer I want to be.

2. Most people think of New York City as a busy place - how does that busyness figure into your writing, or does it? What are your favourite spots for writing?


ES: The Blondes is set in both New York and rural Ontario. It’s always head-spinning for me to go from my little hideaway hometown of 10,000 to this metropolis of over 8 million. In this book, the plague hits when the character, Hazel, is in Manhattan, so there is definitely a sense of chaos and busyness as she tries to flee the city and make it back to what she views as the safety of Canada.

As to favourite spots for writing, I seldom write outside my apartment. I carry a notebook and get a lot of ideas while on the subway or at the Laundromat, but I want to be in private to do something as intense as sketching out scenes. While I was writing The Blondes, I did rent a cabin in the Mohave Desert not far from Joshua Tree. That was a wonderful place to write because it was so quiet. With the exception of the sound of the military doing drills on a base several miles away, there were no distractions. I had to drive 35 miles if I wanted to have an internet connection. I did about half of the first draft there in a short period—it was a bit surprising to me how much I was able to write out there.


3. What's been the highlight of your writing career so far?
Probably being onstage last year at the Vancouver Writers Festival with Margaret Atwood.

4. What does this particular nomination mean to you, the Sunburst Awards being for "excellence in Canadian literature of the fantastic"?
It’s very exciting! An amazing panel of judges and “Literature of the fantastic” is such a great phrase. I feel very fortunate to be placed in such company.

5. The Blondes is a fantasy of sorts - do you mind when people read metaphors into your work, or is that metaphorical quality quite intentional on your part? Do you think metaphor first, or story and/or character first? This is essentially a genesis question: where does the story begin, for you? And how does it evolve?
Everything comes at once for me, in what seems at the time a huge mess. For the first half I’m always wracked with self-doubt, asking myself if it’s a satire, a comedy, a horror story, a suspense, a drama? It’s only after I’m a good way into it that I realize it isn’t messy at all, and all of those elements are falling into place. It’s funny that Tony Burgess was one of the judges for this award, because Pontypool was definitely an inspiration.

6. I assume you visit schools or university classes now and then to discuss your work. What have you learned from such moments?
I used to teach short story writing at George Brown College, but I was more of an editor or mentor in that environment. I haven’t actually done a lot of class visits as an author. One visit I did do was to some eighth graders at the grammar school I attended growing up. Even though my work is not meant for young people they asked me some of the most interesting questions I’ve ever gotten and really made me think. It was a good reminder to me to never to pre-judge an audience.

7. What's the next writing project for you?
My husband and I have been working on scripts lately, one for a TV pilot, one for a feature film. It’s teaching me a lot about plot and form, and how I approach projects. I can definitely feel it informing my fiction writing.

For more information on the Sunburst Awards:




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