Q&A with M-E
Here's where I do a little FAQ, interviewing myself about things I think people might be interested in knowing about me. I guess I can't call it an FAQ since no one's asked me these questions frequently, or at all. It would be more of an FYI. I'll probably add questions to my interview in the future (and do email me if there's something you'd like to know!).
How long have you been writing?
For real—like really trying to be a writer—I guess that would be 2009. I started by deciding on a YA story that I thought would make an OK novel. I wrote the entire thing (probably around 70 thousand words), then I immediately started writing a sequel to that (which took place in college). I finished that too. Then I’d hear, “When are you going to publish it?” Somehow, I knew it didn’t work that way, and I also had this very strong suspicion that what I wrote sucked absolute butt and I’d be a fool to think all those writers out there became popular published authors by just sitting down and dumping out a perfect story right from the get-go. Writing those two manuscripts was a super important learning experience, though, because I got to create characters and follow them for an entire novel-length journey, then pick them up again for a sequel story. In fact, although the writing was not good, the characters and premise were pretty decent, and as I write this, I’m halfway through a first draft of a rewrite of it.
So once I took 5 months-ish to play around with writing a novel manuscript, I enrolled in some creative writing classes. Then novel writing classes. Then I joined some writing organizations, and started reading TONS of stuff about how to write fiction. I entered contests whenever I could, won a couple little things. I landed literary representation a couple years into my journey. All things considered, I think things happened rather quickly for me, and I swear people, I don’t believe being a serious, successful writer has everything to do with talent. It starts with an affinity for expressing oneself through the written word, then it’s all about putting in the work required to practice, learn, practice, learn some more, meet people, pull on your resources, practice, put yourself out there, and repeat. Of course the talent part is important, because that's where a great story comes from.
Who are your favorite authors?
These are the authors whose books I will continually buy no matter what:
What are your favorite books?
Keeping You a Secret, by Julie Anne Peters: I decided to try my hand at writing because of this book. I found it while randomly picking out YA titles at Chapters (the big Canadian book retailer), and it was like the book was placed into my hands by magic. It had everything I never knew I wanted and needed out of a novel. Since then, I’ve been one of JAP’s biggest fans.
Banana Rose, by Natalie Goldberg: This one came recommended to me by a fellow author friend. I thought there was no way I could’ve fallen hard for a novel when it had been built up so much by another reader. Well I fell insanely hard, and I read it twice in a year. I wish I could take a vacation inside the novel’s world. I don’t know how this novel was created, but there had to be magic involved.
The Witch's Handbook, by Malcolm Bird: This is a picture book I used to borrow from the library over and over when I was young. I was obsessed with it. The art was so freaking mesmerizing in its amazingness. It went out of print years ago (it's a book from the early '80s), so I went years without seeing it. Finally, just when eBay started getting more popular, I found a copy in decent shape and I got the book back. Being a writer, I realized this was the first book I've ever read that contained magic within its pages. I ended up writing Mr. Bird an email a few years ago and he responded! Anyway, it's a shame the book is out of print because it would kick ass even today if kids had access to it.
**Just realized I used the word "magic" in all three descriptions. Maybe that's the key to what makes a novel supremely kick ass.
Do you speak French?
Yes, I do. People are tempted to write my name as “M.E. Girard,” like I’m doing the cool initial thing (maybe even trying to fool people into thinking I’m a man so as to not be dismissed as a female writer…who knows), but the reason the initials are hyphenated is because I have a hyphenated first name, something that’s pretty popular in Quebec. Though I’ve been living in Ontario most of my life, I was born in Quebec, and I still speak French fluently.
Are you ever going to write a novel in French?
I would love to. I think about it often. I’d really love to publish something specifically for the Quebec market. Perhaps one day I will. I’m just not as good in French as I am in English. Although I speak it no problem, and I’m told I don’t have an accent, I just don’t have the same vocabulary. I feel pretty secure in my writing style now that I’ve written English prose for a number of years, and I don’t know how it would feel to sit down and try to write prose in French when I don’t have any style there. Maybe it would be like completely starting from scratch, which would suck.
Are your stories always going to be set in Canada?
As long as I have a say in it, yes. I’ve always felt strongly about that as a writer. We Canadian kids grow up saturated in American culture. Books, TV—the majority of what I was exposed to hailed from the US. I remember watching Saved by the Bell and 90210 and hearing things like “pep rallies” and “freshman” and I understood it all, even though so much of it wasn’t reflected in my own environment. If I was able to read/watch stories about the life of American teenagers and have it be totally relevant to me, then I believe Americans can read my stories about teens in Canada and have it be relevant to them. I don’t go out of my way to insert all of this Canadian stuff into my stories (I don’t believe I write CanLit), but I don’t think I should pick some American suburb to set my stories in when I’m the master of my stories and I decided they happen in Canada. The stories are essentially the same, whether they’re set in Canada or the US—that’s the point I’m trying to make.
Why do you write about teenagers?
Because adults are old and they suck! But for real, because I swear, I don’t remember getting this old. It’s like one minute, my friends and I were meeting up every day after school to hang out and talk about life, and the next minute, I was starting to put money into my retirement fund. I don’t feel any different inside—which is such an old-person thing to say. I know I’m not that old, but I’m over 30 and that’s crazy.
All right, let me reel it back in here and answer the question. I never made the decision to write YA stuff. That’s just what happened, like it wasn’t even a question. I love that everything is new and super important when you’re a teen. I love that everything can suck majorly as well. I had a pretty tame teen experience, but I watched what was going on around me. I saw what it was like for young people who were not me, and I found it all super fascinating. So I take nuggets of my own teen experience, and I mix them with other people’s nuggets, and then I make a whole bunch of stuff up as I think about life and what statements/observations I want to make about it through my stories.
What do you like doing when you’re not writing?
I watch horror movies with my girlfriend. I watch reruns of all the shows and movies I love (because I really like rewatching things). I play video games, too, sort of moving between Xbox 360, WiiU, retro gaming (consoles and emulators), and 3DS. Actually, what I like best is offline co-op gaming with my girlfriend. We yell at each other way too much while it’s going down, but it’s so much fun. Some of my favorite games are: The Last of Us, The Legend of Zelda (all of them), Borderlands, Far Cry, Left4Dead, Halo (all of them), Super Mario (all of them, all systems), Guitar Hero (yeah, for real). I Instagram about that stuff.