The KevinfromCanada blog was delighted to sponsor the Read, Write, Review! program at Calgary’s Lord Beaverbrook High School as part of this year’s WordFest program. Five authors were involved in presentations to students there — as part of KfC’s involvement, I asked students to conduct an interview with each author for posting here. This is the first, conducted and written by Teodora Jokic. Thank you, Teodora!
On October 13, 2011, Lord Beaverbrook High School students were treated to a special presentation by Emma Ruby-Sachs. This presentation was brought to our high school by the Calgary International Wordfest, which profiles some amazing and talented authors. Emma Ruby-Sachs, the author of the novel The Water Man’s Daughter was a joy to watch on stage. The Water Man’s Daughter is about people who are misunderstood, underappreciated, and yet they have a strong social conscious. It shows South Africa at its very best and its very worst.
It was an honor to watch her while she spoke to students. Students were able to connect with Sachs’ open presence and interesting history. I had the opportunity to sit down with Emma Ruby-Sachs to discuss her writing career and her novel.
Teodora: Is there any way your previous career helps you with writing?
Emma: Yes, as a lawyer and a campaign director I feel that it is easier to write when you have a lot going on. As long as you’re careful to actually carve out the hours you need, to actually put it on paper. Having more careers allows you to have more ideas and diversification for your portfolio. I make income from being a writer, campaign director and lawyer. I get sole satisfaction from all three jobs. Having a lot going makes life not only more sustainable, but also more invigorating.
Teodora: How has your life changed after writing this novel?
Emma: I’m not as haunted by the stuff I saw in South Africa. Personally, I felt better after writing this book. People are starting to call me names such as artist, which is a little weird. Being called an artist is totally crazy. The more your stuff comes out the more awkward you become. Writers are awkward; readings are kind of awkward as you noticed. You kind of yak on not sure if anyone’s paying attention.
Teodora: How has the public been responding to your novel?
Emma: It’s been good. I’ve gotten some good reviews, which is what everyone wants to do. The book has been selling well. The thing that I was scared of was that either South African or gay people would get mad at me about the way I created the characters. The one criticism I did have was that I had a reviewer get mad at me, because the women in the novel don’t have sex. I feel like that would have been really fun. However, it didn’t quite work with the book, but it would have been great. She had a good analysis; she thought I was being to chicken to write a sex scene in the book. Which I totally wasn’t, it just didn’t fit in, and the characters would end up looking like bad people.
Teodora: How was your high school experience?
Emma: I went to a totally weird high school. I skipped two grades so I was really young. My school was all girls, and had ten kids in the graduating class. It was really artsy. They did this event called: A Week Without Walls. People would go on trips everywhere. Some people went to Trinidad or lived in a homeless shelter, and other crazy things. Some classes even just had two kids and a teacher. It was really fun, and I made excellent friends. Most of all I had really great teachers. There were five or six teachers that really inspired me. We had a lot of writing workshops and did really cool writing assignments to help us in our writing. I remember we had this one assignment: we had to describe something mundane and make it as sexy as possible. Mine was cleaning a bathroom. It was a hilarious assignment to do, especially in high school. It got us all thinking outside the box.
Teodora: What is the life of a writer like? Describe your typical day.
Emma: My day is not typical for a writer. I have a full time job. During my typical day I wake up and work until ten, and then write until about one. Then I work from one to seven or eight. On the weekends I get the bulk of my writing done. I like to write early in the morning. Writing more than three hours at a time is exhausting for me.
Teodora: Do you have a favorite author who influenced you?
Emma: Yes. The novel Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, was a great influence on my writing. The writing is like poetry, but the characters are so ugly and crazy that it kept you engaged. He showed you the worst part of humanity, and made you love the characters anyways. As he tells the story, he uses such beautiful language, which makes you care about and be sympathetic towards the characters in the novel.
Teodora: Do other art forms have any influence on your writing?
Emma: I always listen to music while I’m writing. I actually wish I could upload a soundtrack to add with the book. There are so many songs that I listened to while writing the novel. Listening to music while writing helps inspire me to create scenes and feelings. Writing and music for me go hand in hand. I can’t really do one without the other.
Teodora: Tell me about your next writing project.
Emma: My next writing project is a novel that involves famous American figures. That’s all I can say for now. There is this weird thing, that when you talk about something before you write it, sometimes it will lose its power.
Teodora: Do you have any advice for young writers?
Emma: Make sure you finish and don’t give up. Actually keep working on the project, it is easy to start something and not finish. Research is also important. Really meticulous research gives you the boundaries you need to become really creative. Go out and have experience, as a young writer the best thing you can do is go out and live an amazing life.
Teodora: What inspired your book?
Emma: Going to South Africa, and seeing people suffering under this pay for water system.
Teodora: How has your experience been at Wordfest so far?
Emma: It has been really fun. Wordfest is a really great writer’s festival. They put you in a fancy hotel; they pay you to come here. They give you money for food. You are treated incredibly well. Calgary has been a pleasant experience. It’s fun to meet people who know what they are doing.
It was great to sit down and discuss the novel The Water Man’s Daughter with the author. Emma Ruby-Sachs was extremely easy to talk to. All the interview questions were answered by her with such passion and feeling. Hearing the stories that inspired the novel was uplifting. The novel The Water Man’s Daughter is certainly worth reading.