Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview with Catherine McKenzie

I had the chance to talk with Catherine McKenzie about her debut novel Spin. Which you can read a bit of on the sidebar, just click the "Browse this Book" link.

Don't forget about the giveaway that is going on and the review

Me :- The first question I am sure everyone has asked, but is the story fiction or semi-autobiographical?

Catherine McKenzie : Yes, I have been asked that question before and the answer is: no. I have not gone to rehab, undercover or otherwise. The story is fiction, with the exception being of course I was inspired by some real-life celebrities who were going in and out of rehab as the premise for the story. That being said, those guys on the roof – The King and his acolyte – are inspired by two guys I actually met. Oh, yeah.

Me-You made direct reference to two Jane Austen stories, were you reading/watching those two during the writing of this book or are they just some of your personal favourites?

CM :The two references you refer to are Mansfield Park, my least favourite Jane Austen novel, and Persuasion. I wasn’t reading either during the writing of this book, though I have read them both multiple times, but I did see the BBC production Persuasion I refer to while I was writing the book. It was one of those kismet elements that happen when writing sometimes – I had already decided to poke fun at the running that happens in romantic comedies when I saw this production. I screamed in disgust, and then I smiled with glee. I had the perfect place to express my feelings!

Me: I felt the undertone of both stories at different points in the novel (when Henry and Katie are together in the woods while Amber and Connor were covering in the game room, I thought about the scene in Northanger Abby when Morland and Mr. Tilney are chatting while Miss Tilney is courted by her lover)

CM :Interesting. That was really not intentional, but you don’t always know what you’re influenced by.

Me - Katie is in denial for most of the book about her own addiction, what was the deciding factor that prompted you to let her realize she might have a problem after all and that working the program was her best bet?

CM: In my mind Katie isn’t a full-blown alcoholic, just someone who is starting to let alcohol interfere in their life. Others might feel differently (some reviewers for instance), but I thought it was realistic for her to be in denial for a long time, but not for the whole time. Main characters in novels have to arc and learn and change a little (generally) and so this became part of Katie’s arc.

Me -The playlist that you have Katie listening to throughout, was that on purpose (deep emotional response for the characters and readers) or was that what you were listening to when you wrote it? It seemed to me, as if you were trying to express the surrounding characters and environment just that much deeper?

CM: Absolutely, thank you for getting that. Soundtracks are used so often in movies to help express the feel and tone of a scene, but more rarely in books. I wanted to fold in that extra dimension if I could. Really, I was kind of trying to write a musical, if that makes any sense.

Me - You have half your characters without real names, was that to show the level of personal interest Katie had with the other patients, or were you commenting on how many of us go through society? (and the way we communicate through gossip)

CM: I think I was trying to do several things. First, I admit I found it kind of funny and reflective of Katie – she doesn’t take things seriously, even when she should. More practically, in a book with that many characters, it’s really hard to make them all stand out individually – but calling them by their profession automatically gives them some personality.

Me- You used all the elements in modern culture -fashion/music/movies/tv/internet/magazines - as both a backdrop and for a form of communication, were you trying to show simply how obsessed we as a whole have become with escapism or where you expressing (mirroring back to us) how easily we as a whole can be led?

CM: Yes, yes, yes. I was trying to root this in the now, now, now but also to comment (gently) on our fanaticism with celebrity. There are large groups of people who look to and believe celebrities’ opinions on things as serious as autism instead of doctors. Why? How did we get this way? And isn’t it funny?

Me: What inspired you to make Katie a music writer?

CM: I honestly don’t know where that came from. Sometimes details just appear on the page. But I knew I didn’t want Katie to be a girly girl and to me a music obsessive is sort of the opposite of a girly girl.

Me - Hamlet. What I picked up from the use of Hamlet in your story was the underlining idea that things are not always how they seem. Comparing the madness of Hamlet and Ophelia to the drug addictions of both Connor and Amber. And the way their relationship is doomed to the way the lovers in Hamlet's relationship is doomed, was that your intention?

CM: You are smarter than me. Seriously. I wish I had thought of that.

Me-There is a scene where Katie realizes after she returns home, that her roommate is dating one of her friends. The fact she does not think of it as it is unfolding in front of her, was that to express how quickly things can change/grow or was that to express how self absorbed Katie was before rehab?

CM: Again. You are smarter than me. No, seriously, I was trying to soften Joanne a little and show a transition from her old life to her new.

Me -The character of Candice, I thought was a brilliant move. The idea of a person who could not accept that they had their time in the spotlight and needed to move on, was she based on anyone particular ? What was the underlining reason for having her almost disappear after her "performance"?

CM: She was not based on anyone in particular. She disappears after that because she had served her purpose. It’s just not possible to pursue each and every story line to its conclusions. Unless you’re Stephen King. He can do the 1000 page book. And John Irving.

Me: Thank you so much for your time Catherine.

CM: Thanks for the very thoughtful questions!

Her next book is set to be released early 2011

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Give away -Spin by Catherine McKenzie

I am doing my first giveaway. It's for SPIN by Catherine McKenzie.

By now you have all read my review and had a chance to browse the book by the sidebar link and now you have a chance to win a copy.
All you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address saying why you might like this book.

This is for CANADIAN readers only.

You have until March 1st 2010 then one person will be picked by random.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spin by Catherine McKenzie -Review

Plot: Katie is a music writer about to turn 30. On the eve of her biggest job interview for her dream job, she parties a little too long with her friends. The morning of the interview then becomes the morning of hangover hell.
But all is not lost, as Katie is offered a job in the company for their gossip magazine. The one catch, she needs to go to rehab to get the story.
Katie's life is about to change in more ways then one when she meets her fate in the form of Amber and Conner, the two biggest movie stars in rehab.

I read this book in 2 days. It clocks in at just over 400 pages but breezes through. It's witty, fun and just what the doctor ordered.

I found myself nodding to a lot of the situations Katie was finding herself in. Not knowing how to handle herself around men, feeling different from her family, reaching for her dream no matter how low she had gotten. All things I could identify with myself.
Growing up is never easy, and it seems to hit women harder then men.

The social commentary of how we treat people was a main theme throughout. The lead character seems to have a nice balance between seasoned journalist and fan, (something I personally still don't have a handle on) which makes her befriending the very people she is suppose to be spying on very believable. Even the "playlist" she carries around in her iTouch throughout the story lends itself to the building blocks of the personalities around her.

Catherine McKenzie has the Austen touch in this novel, (it helps that there is a direct mention of Northanger Abby and Persuasion) making you able to view the society the lead character finds herself in from the same quiet nobility that Anne Elliot does, or Catherine Morland's dreamy view of reality (in Northanger Abby Morland reads about fantastic lives where as in Spin Katie watches on television celebrities)

This is one story that makes you sit up and take notice of not just the characters but of yourself. Having the subplot being rooted in rehab (finding one's core truth) had me walking away from it and thinking about my own life and goals.
Can you dig into the dirt of your own vices and not come away clean?

I will be having an interview with the author Cathreine McKenzie later in the month on Jan 27th. Please come back then for more on Spin.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just a Note

I just want to drop a reminder that I will be having a Q&A with the author of "Spin" soon.

Stay tuned here for more details. I will be updating everything later this weekend.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jolted Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade

The Starker family are cursed to die by lightening. Newton is the youngest member of the family and might well be the last of the bloodline. He has decided to do the only thing he can think of, he joins the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival. This means moving from his home to the middle of Moose Jaw in Canada and having to learn how to live in the wilderness. In the meantime, he's recovering from his mother's death and the death of his great grandmother. Both were hit by lightening.
The last gift his great grandmother had given him was a diary having belonged to Andrew Starker. Newton hopes to find a clue in the diary as to why this is happening to them.

This was a delightful 203 page book. I found this story to be touching and very funny. Laced with a passion for cooking truffles in any recipe that he can, Newton is a character that makes you look at your own life with a little more humour.
He's has this strange disability that has kept him sheltered for his whole life, unable to have any close friends because of the fact the lightening can kill anyone around him. The fact the main characters are in their early teens is not missed. The metaphor of going off to school away from home for the first time, experiencing that freedom is a perfect way to show how facing your fears is the first step to growing up. He's given a pig to help find the truffles he's addicted to, which turns out to be the compass he needs to find his own footing in life.
The character of Jacob, the teenaged writer, adds a second layer of sweetness; almost like a mix of a comedy duo and the voice of reason.
As the title suggests, there are rules for survival within the story. Some of these are a little cringe worthy but I found myself laughing too. One scene in particular describes having to use the eyes of a camel for water.
I warn anyone who is a vegetarian to tackle this novel with a light heart. The book is well worth the few moments of queasiness that you might get from the "mystery meat" scene.

I look forward to another round of the Jerry Potts Academy of Higher Learning and Survival.

1 Year ago (Jan 6th)

One year ago I decided since I was spending so much time over on Chapters online community doing reviews that I would start a book blog.

I was seeing a growing trend of people who were doing this on a weekly and daily basis. I had been doing the odd review on my main blog and on my vampire blog already so I thought it seemed natural.

I think it was easier before when I was just reading for the sake of reading and just throwing up a few posts about what I was reading at the time. There's a lot of pressure when you get a set of books in the mail just for this.

As some of you know,(if you have been following my main blog) I've been having some health issues the last few months and have been back and forth with doctors and x-rays. So I haven't been keeping things updated as much. I've also been focusing on finishing my own novel while I wait for results.

Having said that, the Jane Austen Challenge that I got to be part of was one of the highlights of my year this past year. You don't realize how much someone influences your own style of work till you do a challenge like this and study them. Once things get settled a bit with my personal life, I think I'll do another mini Austen challenge. Just to clear the cobwebs.