Alix Hawley – My Name is a Knife

(This is first of #LitFest2019 interviews with writers attending the Galiano Literary Festival February 22-24 on Galiano Island. Tickets are on sale now (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com.)

Alix Hawley lives in Kelowna, British Columbia and studied English Literature and Creative Writing at Oxford University, the University of East Anglia, and the University of British Columbia.

In 2008, Alix published a story collection, The Old Familiar (Thistledown Press), which was longlisted for the ReLit Award. Several pieces have won accolades from the CBC “Witching” won the 2017 Literary Awards Short Story Prize, while “Tentcity” and  “Jumbo” were runners-up  in 2012 and 2014, and “Pig (For Oma)” won the 2014 Bloodlines Contest.

Several pieces have won accolades from the CBC:  “Witching” won the 2017 Literary Awards Short Story Prize, while “Tentcity” and  “Jumbo” were runners-up  in 2012 and 2014, and “Pig (For Oma)” won the 2014 Bloodlines Contest.

Her first novel, All True Not a Lie in It, was published by Knopf as its New Face of Fiction pick for 2015, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and won the  Amazon Walrus First Novel Award and BC Book Prize for Fiction.

About her newest novel My Name is a Knife Canadian Living writes, “She follows up her award-winning first Daniel Boone chronicle, with this compelling sequel that details the legendary pioneer’s escape from a Shawnee tribe and the subsequent search for his settler wife, Rebecca, and their children. In doing so, the amazing, formidable Rebecca deservedly gets a story of her own. Hawley’s skilful prose makes this character come alive and, for me, outshine the iconic American fron­tiersman. Intriguing, uncompromis­ing, bold and brave, this book is as intense and interesting as the Boones themselves.”

KK – What were you like at school?

AH – I was pretty quiet and not all that sure of myself, yet overachieving. I loved English classes. Even if I didn’t always enjoy the books assigned, I liked being able to think and write about them. It took me quite a while to figure out that I didn’t have to agree with the teacher, which was a great revelation. I was always lucky to have brilliant teachers and profs, though. I stuck with English all the way through grad school. 

KK – What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

AH – When I was studying in the UK, I went to all the Woolf-related sites I could find. 22 Hyde Park Gate in London, where she grew up (it’s a private house, so I lurked outside the windows). Her parents’ graves in Highgate Cemetery. Charleston, her sister’s wildly decorated farmhouse. Monk’s House in Sussex, her last home. Also, more than one trip to the Bronte parsonage in Haworth.

KK – What is the first book that made you cry?

AH – Like a lot of us, I can remember weeping over Charlotte’s Web, although my mum says Peter Rabbit upset me thoroughly too.

KK – Does writing energize or exhaust you?

AH – Writing the first draft is painful and exhausting. I find the later stages exhilarating, though going through editorial notes can be hard on the brain. I’m always tired when I stop working. I like when it’s the pleasant kind of tired, the feeling of having accomplished something I wanted to. 

KK – Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

AH – I think we’re all monsters to some extent. We have to believe people will want to read what we’re writing, for one. And we have to jealously protect our work time, even though some of it looks like lying around doing nothing. 

KK – What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

AH – D.H. Lawrence. Classic ego monster! But he’s so urgent and upfront about that fact in his novels. I grew to appreciate that honesty, even though I have all kinds of problems with him. Sons and Lovers is my favourite.More recently, I’ve become a crime fiction fan. I’d just never read much, and assumed it was likely to be poorly written. Tana French, the Irish writer, has completely converted me. Her plots just rip along, and they’re so brilliantly constructed *and* written. 

KK – What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

I tried to keep dates and chronology accurate, and to stick to filling in the psychological holes in the record–how might these people have felt to lose their children, what was it like to be married and furious at each other during those times, and so on.

KK – How do you select the names of your characters?

AH – I don’t like coming up with names! I was lucky to have historical people already named for me, although that gets confusing when half of them are named Rebecca, etc. I think I’ll just get my daughter to do the naming from now on. She wrote me some books for Christmas (she’s eight), which featured a Mrs Rackster and a Ms Clashentine.

KK – If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?  

AH – I teach and edit as well as write. But I’d love to do design or advertising. Probably I’ve just been watching too many Mad Men episodes. 

LINKS & FURTHER READING

Galiano Literary 2019 is February 22-24. Buy your tickets today by contacting (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com

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