Interview with Sigrid Macdonald

Jen: Readers, please help me welcome Sigrid Macdonald to Book Talk this weekend. Sigrid, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sigrid: Originally from New Jersey, I’ve spent the last 20 years in Ottawa, Ontario. I’m a book coach, a manuscript editor, the author of two books and numerous articles, and a public speaker. My work has appeared in Justice Denied, Toastmasters International and the Globe and Mail. My first book, Getting Hip: Recovery From A Total Hip Replacement, was published in 2004, and my novel, D’Amour Road, followed shortly afterwards in 2005. I’ve been featured in the Citizen newspaper, CJ0H Nightly News, the New RO, and on CFRA radio.

I’m also a social activist, a member of MADD, Ottawa Skeptics, The Humanist Association, and have been very involved with wrongful convictions. And I’m a consummate blogger, an avid reader and a big fan of Spanish movies, especially those by Pedro Almodovar.

Jen: Tell us about D’Amour Road and where it’s available.
Sigrid: Tara Richards is about to turn 40. The thought fills her with dread. She’s unhappy with her job as a rehabilitation nurse and disenchanted with her marriage, but lacks the courage to make a major life change. When her best friend Lisa disappears, Tara’s life is thrown into turmoil. Has Lisa jeopardized her sobriety by going on a drinking binge, or has she been harmed by her partner, who has a history of battering? Tara joins a massive search for her friend along with the police, her colorful women’s collective, and a 24-year-old man whom she finds particularly captivating.

D’Amour Road explores themes like female friendship, violence against women, wrongful convictions, fear of aging, addiction, and unrequited love. Although the subject matter is serious, I hope to have infused the dialogue with some levity and a bit of my own neurosis.

D’Amour Road is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.uk, Barnes & Noble.com, Buy.com, or personally from me on my website at http://damourroad.blogspot.com.

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sigrid: I devoured books in grammar school and was often caught lingering in the school library. When I was eight years old, I read a book called The Trouble with Jenny’s Ear and I was so entranced with it that I wrote to the author, and he wrote back! I kept a journal for years and finally started writing for the public when I was about 16 with an article published in an Icelandic newspaper about the Icelandic sagas.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sigrid: Nope. I’m the first but my sister is an aspiring author.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Sigrid: I usually have a skeletal outline of the book or article in my head, but on occasion, I’ve changed my plot line entirely because as I develop characters, they take on a life or personality of their own. Then I may decide that what I’d planned for them to do initially would be out of character, so I modify the original plan. It’s almost as though my characters start writing themselves, and I respect them so much that I have to let them have their way!

Jen: Do you have a specific time or place that you write?
Sigrid: I’ve always been nocturnal, and I prefer writing after dinner or into the night.

Jen: How many hours a day do you write?
Sigrid: It depends. Right now I’m doing more editing than writing, but I can never go very long without the latter. I run seven blogs and contribute articles, and book and movie reviews to various websites, so whenever I’m in the mood, I’ll just bang out an article.

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sigrid: For me, the hardest part of writing is filling in all the background information when I’m doing fiction — the small and important details that relate to the setting. The most challenging when I’m writing nonfiction is to do those pesky footnotes and endnotes! All of the rest is easy. I’d rather write than do anything else that can be mentioned on a family forum.

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sigrid: The most satisfying part is when somebody writes to me to say that my book or blog touched them or helped them in some way – maybe it made them think differently about missing women, abusive relationships or the fear of entering midlife. And I’m always really happy when somebody tells me that my books made them laugh. What could be more precious than a few minutes of hearty laughter in an otherwise hectic day?

Jen: Where do you draw your inspiration?
Sigrid: From real life. My academic background is in psychology and social work, and I’ve always been interested in social issues. This is apparent in my novel, which is dedicated to a local friend of mine who went missing in 1995.

Jen: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
Sigrid: My all-time favorite author is Joyce Carol Oates; I’ve been reading her since 1979, and I’d love to ask her how she can be so incredibly prolific and keep pumping out quality stuff. I’d like to meet Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full, and ask why he allowed Bonfire, a fantastic book, to be made into such a slapstick, stupid movie. Charles Dickens had a great heart and I’d like to commend him for making us all aware of the horrors of poverty and class disparity. John Knowles is an amazing writer, best known for A Separate Peace; I’d like to know how he conceived such perfect and plausible Catch-22 situations for his characters. And finally, Jodi Picoult is an absolutely fabulous author (My Sister’s Keeper; Nineteen Minutes), who addresses one fascinating social issue after another. I’d ask her how she manages to capture family life and teen angst so beautifully and to really bring important issues such as school shooting, and breeding children as organ donors, to the foreground by making people care about her fictional characters.

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Sigrid: Lisa Xing, of the Carlton University newspaper, reviewed D’Amour Road and said that it was a welcome break from her studies. She called Tara “the perfect 21st century crisis-wreaked heroine” because of her “bleak worries about her age, sarcasm” and “hilarious” lust for a younger guy. I loved that!

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Sigrid: Do you have three days? I have so many favorites! It’ll be hard to choose. When I was younger, I really loved Hermann Hesse, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Harper Lee, Norman Mailer, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millet, Henry Miller, Salinger and sci-fi by Ray Bradbury and Aldous Huxley. I’m a HUGE fan of Anne Rice’s vampire series, and of Stephenie Meyer, Wally Lamb, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), and I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books. I also love nonfiction – people like Christopher Hitchens, Malcolm Gladwell, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher (he’s so funny!) and various political biographies. I just finished the last book in the series about Dexter, and would highly recommend all three books, and am currently plowing through all 1800 pages of Reclaiming History about the JFK assassination. After I finish, if anyone so much as mentions the words “grassy knoll” to me, I’ll probably start screaming!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Sigrid: I’m doing a joint project with my sister about a young woman who’s losing her eyesight and is looking for a mate. Little does she know that down the road, she will be the ultimate blind date. The book will be something like Sex and the City meets The White Cane.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Sigrid: I’m everywhere! But you can read more about my novel at http://damourroad.blogspot.com. Please leave a comment. I try to reply to all my mail.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sigrid: What holds their interest? What makes them decide to pick up a book or put it down? I know that I’m very impatient and make my decision about books based on the cover jacket and the first two or three pages.

Jen: Thank you Sigrid for joining us this weekend. Readers, Sigrid is giving away an autographed copy of D’Amour Road to one lucky reader. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, May 31 around 5 pm PST.