I got a chance to meet up with newly published author, Eliza Robertson while she was in Victoria taking a break from studies in England.
How is your summer going?
Oh, fine… I have returned to Victoria for blackberry season. My augusts are typically bear-like.
What is the last book you read?
Right now, I am reading A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam. Half the book is written from the perspective of chimps. It’s remarkable. I catch myself offering my hand to others in friendship.
I recently finished Break it Down by Lydia Davis. When it comes to story writers, she’s a classic.
I’d like to say “excitement,” but it felt more like relief. Story collections have always been difficult to sell. I was nervous no one would take it.
When studying in England, what do you miss most about Victoria?
The ocean. In Norwich, I live 30 minutes from the coast, but I never see it. In Victoria, my house is bordered by at least three beaches with tsunami hazard signs. Nothing says “home” like fear of the big one.
I miss wild animals that stand taller than me knee.
I miss Mexican food.
Not that we have loads of Mexican food, but there are a few, if you include food vans. And shops in which I can buy masa flour.
I miss hole-in-the-wall sushi.
I miss each of our 7 species of salmon.
How long did it take you to complete your first book?
Well, I wrote it during my undergraduate degree and MA. So: five years. In which time I was also working on other projects and a novel.
What are you afraid of? (from the INSTA-GRIT project)
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the past few years? What did you learn?
I have been trying to decide how honestly I should answer this question, as it isn’t something I’ve talked about publicly. But: last summer I lost my father to cancer. I’m still figuring out what I’ve learned.
Flannery O’Connor. She was a salty, blunt woman I could learn a lot from. She died from lupus at the age of 39 but continued to write through her illness. She described herself as a: “pigeon-toed child with a receding chin and a you-leave-me-alone-or-I’ll-bite-you complex.”
She also said: “When I was six I had a chicken that walked backward and was in the Pathé News. I was in it too with the chicken. I was just there to assist the chicken but it was the high point in my life. Everything since has been an anticlimax.”
What causes you the most worry/anxiety when thinking about your career in the next five years? How do you press through anxiety and fears?
I am afraid of second-book syndrome. Like most industries, publishing glorifies the young. Or at least the new. I have gotten a lot of buzz this year as a “debut” author. You can only debut once, so naturally I feel uneasy when I look to the future. With the next book, I may still get away as a debut “novelist,” but after that? It’s very easy for authors to drop into obscurity.
How do I press through? I don’t have a choice.
Other writing. Often poetry, which I should read more of. Anne Carson has been inspiring me lately.
Film and photography. Shameless plug: I curate an online art space for Hamish Hamilton.
Music inspires me in a less direct way. I can’t write without it. To get through a scene, I sometimes play one song over and over.
Can you write me a short obituary based on how you would like to be remembered? Are you that person today?
Oy. That’s a hard one. (Though as it happens, I took a class on obituary writing…)
How about “story writer and dancer who swivelled like Jewel McGowan.”
And no I am not that person. I wish I were Jewel McGowan.
What is a motto you live by?
I always make a point to smell the roses. And pet cats. Even if I’m late, I’ll pet a cat.
Last song you danced to?
Oh god. I can tell you I danced two fridays ago, but I forget the songs. I’ll come back to this question.
OK: I’ve done some light swaying to “Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues” by Skip James.
Last question, can you tell me a secret?
I’m vegetarian, but last summer I tried caribou hunted by my cousin.
I have, on occasion, sampled meat off another person’s plate.
(I asked them first.)
(My housemates call this “birding.”)
(Not the meat-eating, but the sampling in general.)
I never buy it, though. The meat.
THANK YOU, ELIZA!!! XOXO