June 9, 2011

Author Interview: Sheree Fitch

Sheree Fitch is a Canadian author, and grandmother. She's written books for young adults, children, and adults.
I've only read one of her books, but I fell in love with it. Pluto's Ghost has one of my favourite narrators. Jake Upshore even has his own dictionary, which he titles his Frictionary.
I'm grateful that I could speak with Sheree about Pluto's Ghost. I hope you're as interested with Sheree's answers as I was.

Read & Riot:  Favourite book?
SHEREE:  I'm such a reader it's hard to pick  -- but for now --- a book that made a big impact on me:  The Diary Of Ann Frank. As an adult The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell. It is an allegory about finding voice as a writer/ poet.  I also love short stories ---- Alice Munro is a favourite.
R&R:  Favourite author?
SHEREE:  These days--- Lorrie Moore, Meg Wolitzer,  Elizabeth Strout,  Alice Munro.  
R&R:  Favourite songs?
SHEREE:  Somewhere over the Rainbow, Money for Nothing.
R&R:  Favourite fictional character?
SHEREE:  Gulley Jimson in The Horse's Mouth and okay, here my silly side is showing--- Pippi Longstocking.
R&R:  What fictional world would you love to live in?
SHEREE:  GREAT QUESTION!  Mary Poppins or the one I'm currently writing.
R&R:  What’s one item that you should throw away, but probably never will?
SHEREE:  Hmm. Good one. Knick knacks that clutter but were gifts so have a sentimental value..
R&R:  If you had a time machine where would you go?
SHEREE:  Spain during the Napoleonic wars and be a nurse.
R&R:  Vampires or werewolves?
SHEREE:  Neither.  Fairies and elves.
R&R:  How did it feel writing Jake Upshore?  I feel like he’d be difficult, and a hard character to get right.
SHEREE:  IT was excrutiatingly challenging, intense, sad but sometimes joyful.
R&R:  Were there any complications with him?  Writing him?  Editing him?
SHEREE:  YES. I needed to get out of the way and let him tell the story. I kept wanting to make him nicer or smoother or what I considered less rough around the edges and he kept saying you're okay in your Shep kind of way but I'm me and a guy and 18 and in a bind. So please get outta my way … let me talk!  Sometimes things popped up and I went what- wha??? There is a kind of truth when writers claim sometimes a character takes over.
R&R:  I can’t imagine how you wrote him.  He’s such an incredible and complex character.
SHEREE:  Aren't we all? I mean if we stop and think about it --every human being is complex. I know I'm biased-- but I love Jake too. You are an excellent, sensitive reader, the kind I hoped/dreamed would find their way to this book and Jake's story. You've picked up the nuances and layers in the novel and his character. Jake's  narrative asks we do that--- that we look beyond appearances to see the humanity or inhumanity --- in others and of course, ourselves. So thank you for doing that! For ---well, "getting" it !
R&R sidenote: Jake is one of my favourite characters, so I'm also biased, but I truly loved reading him. He was a great narrator, and deserved to be noticed.
R&R:  What genre do you prefer to write, because you’re all over the map.
SHEREE:  My job, (I think), is to explore and create with words.  I don't want to keep playing safe or repeat myself and I dislike being put in a box. So yes, all over the map because, in a way, I'm making the map as I go --  exploring and risking as a storyteller. You can do that by sticking to one genre of course because there is always something to learn, but experimenting with form and genre is important to me.
Right now, I'm half thinking of theatre again -- a one woman show and maybe a children's opera.
R&R:  Did you always want to write or did you just stumble upon it?
SHEREE:  Yes. But the path was not clear ---I started out as a nurse and had ten years of rejection.

R&R:  What was your inspiration for Pluto’s Ghost?
SHEREE:  A lot of boys I've known and met as an educator working in the field of literacy. Also, I was a 17 year old pregnant girl. I'm 54. I think I was travelling backwards perhaps--maybe trying to see what the situation of unplanned pregnancy might be like -- in a whole other fictional  world -- from  a boy's point of view. I'm not really sure. Jake appeared on my page!  Also there were two things in the news I borrowed:  a murder in a grave yard in Halifax years back and a story of a police officer that inspired Derucci's character.
R&R:  Did the story change while you wrote it?  Jake wanting to go one way and you going another?
SHEREE:  YES!!! At one time I put him in some sort of crack house. HE didn't believe it and if I did not and he did not, I figured my readers would not.
R&R:  Did you enjoy making up Jake’s Frictionary?
SHEREE:  SOOOO FUN!  Gave me a chance to do what I love best --wordplay and poems!
R&R:  Has there been any resistance to Pluto’s Ghost?  (eg:  trouble getting it published)  Pluto’s Ghost isn’t exactly PG13.
SHEREE:  I had a publisher from the get go.  I think some folks were shocked that I could go so dark. But I live in this world and come from a police family, so I think this story was my way of bearing witness to certain things... and it was quite an emotional journey to write PG. Not everyone approves for sure or understands why we write the stories we do. Again, you have to be true to yourself. That means accepting the work will not always be "understood" or liked by "everyone" who reads it. (Not even your friends and family.)  
R&R:  Was it difficult to get published?
SHEREE:  YES -- ten years .....of no! And, I am still not in the USA. Do I wish there was more readership for Pluto's Ghost?  It just came out in the fall and is doing well in Canada.   My agent cannot sell the novel in the States so far. I think PG would have readers there (the US), I really do. (Read & Riot agrees).  When it gets rejected, I sometimes question my self and the book and wonder why. Still, it is a very competitive marketplace and I've never "broken into" the US market so I try not to let that undermine me. Of course, I'd like it if one book some day could be  --- more global. In the end, I do not worry about that. I will go on writing no matter where or if published.
R&R:  I think Pluto’s Ghost is perfect, but would you ever write those characters again?
SHEREE:  No --leave them right where they are ---poised toward hopeful.
R&R:  Who does Jake idolize?
SHEREE:  Hard word that word...in this case, I think maybe Skye! Maybe Ideal-ize is more like it.
R&R:  Who do you idolize?
SHEREE:  Well, I loved my dear old Dad a lot.  HE was a gentle man and mentor.
R&R:  What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Judge not your friends by outward show
The feather floats high
But the pearl lies low.

You can contact Sheree by her website, or on twitter!

Thank you Sheree for answering all my questions.

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