All stories relating to Joyland
In the July/August issue of Q&Q, Vit Wagner speaks to author Emily Schultz about her third novel, The Blondes.
Emily Schultz has been a steadily rising star in the Canadian literary firmament since the publication a decade ago of her debut, Black Coffee Night, a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for a first book of short fiction.
Since then, Schultz has published a poetry collection and two novels, all to positive notice. Upon the release of her first novel, 2005’s Joyland, she was hailed in The Globe and Mail as “one of tomorrow’s Ondaatjes and Munros,” a forecast that seemed prescient when, in 2010, Schultz’s second novel, Heaven Is Small, was a Trillium Book Award finalist on a list that included fiction by Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, and Anne Michaels.
It’s no surprise, then, that expectations are ramping up in advance of Schultz’s forthcoming third novel, The Blondes, which shoulders the added freight of being the author’s first for a major multinational publisher, Doubleday Canada (a division of Random House of Canada).
“I felt more pressure to try to get it right this time,” Schultz allows. “I felt I needed to be less self-indulgent. There are things we like to do as writers that are sometimes bad habits. With this book I tried to weed out more of my bad habits.”
Tonight, David Balzer launches his short fiction ebook Contrivances (Joyland) with “MELODRAMZ: A Night of Contrivances,” featuring an art show, drag performers, and dancing at the White House Studio Project in Toronto. (Admission is $8 and includes a copy of the ebook, downloadable through a QR-coded postcard.)
Q&Q spoke to Balzer, a well-known visual art critic, about his fiction debut, which he says is inspired by “Old Hollywood, Gothic novels, art-world gossip, and maybe a Lifetime movie or two.”
What is the connection between the paintings that appear in your book and your stories?
I’ve always been really interested in painting and portraiture. When I started writing stories they seemed like exercises to me. I wasn’t sure where they were going, but then it became clear to me that there was a strong element of whatever I was seeing in historical portraiture happening somehow within the psychology of the characters I was writing about. Around the time my confidence in fiction writing began to solidify, about six or seven years ago, I saw a show by the painter Janet Werner, whose painting is now on the front of the book. I wouldn’t say it inspired the book, but it confirmed a bunch of things for me, like the literary sensibility around portraiture.
It also dawned on me that a lot of the literature that I was into from the 19th century was illustrated in that Victorian tradition. Adding illustrations was a way to ground the collection within the art world because that’s where my audience is.
Did you always know who you wanted to get to illustrate the book?
A lot of the artists I had in mind, like Janet Werner. Many of the artists are my friends, like Marcel Dzama and Alison Fleming. In some cases, I worked with the artist to find a match for the story. It was a fun process.
How has your work as an art critic impacted your fiction?
I’m interested in characters who look at life the way I would look at a work of art: always asking questions around significance, and analyzing surfaces and aesthetics in terms of their philosophical and moral implications. I like the rigour of working your mind through strange situations like you would when you see a work of art and you don’t know what it means.
Why did you decide to publish Contrivances as an ebook?
Short fiction is incredibly hard to publish, and the illustrations didn’t seem to be a selling point – after about two years of queries I didn’t have any bites. You always dream that your first book is going to be a physical entity, but what Joyland is doing is so interesting. There’s so much momentum around their imprint as a champion of new short fiction.
What do you have planned for the launch party?
I thought it was really important to have a counterpoint to the fact that the book is virtual and to make it come alive. The obvious way to do that was to have an art show of the works in the book. My friend Rea McNamara has curated a bunch of projected .gif art – it’s a way to bring weird online culture into an event space.
In terms of the readings, it struck me that because there are so many women in the book – I’m gay but there are no gay characters, but I feel like the book has a strong queer sensibility, anyway – it would be good to have a cast of drag performers doing short readings. And because I’ve been working on this book for five years, the DJ part is just me wanting to dance.
In a similar fashion to its short fiction and prose site, Joyland founders Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis are working with regional editors to publish poetry from across North America. The hub features work by John K. Samson, Thom Donovan, Johnny Thunders, Mott Hoople, and Harold Abramowitz.
In January, the duo also published the first edition of Joyland Retro, a print anthology of stories from the magazine’s website.
Editor’s note: While we think that Johnny Thunders and Mott Hoople are the best poet names ever, they’re actually placeholders during the site’s soft launch.
- Today’s Slave Lake daily book auction features a signed copy of Angie Abdou’s The Bone Cage
- Plan your summer reading with Joyland’s list of 250 books by women all men should read
- U.K. plans its largest-ever poetry festival around the 2012 Olympics
- Comics artist David Collier pays tribute to Al Purdy
- While music fans mourn the death of Gil Scott-Heron, don’t forget he was a poet and novelist, too
Today’s book news:
- Costa Book Award nominees announced
- Joyland Books, the e-book only imprint of ECW Press, releases its first Canadian-authored title: Chris Eaton’s Letters to Thomas Pynchon
- Lonely Planet names world’s 10 best bookstores
- Grand Central to publish Dan Rather memoir
- George Murray pesters Margaret Atwood (and demonstrates why interviews require questions)
- NPR on writing in exile
Your mid-week round-up:
Toronto-based authors Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis have come together and launched a new website for short fiction, called Joyland. In a mass e-mail sent to Q&Q, they explain the impetus for the site:
Current literary publishing wisdom has it that the short story is dead. We think otherwise. We think the form is at its stylistic peak. It’s just that the traditional venues for short stories – commercial print magazines – have changed dramatically and jettisoned the once prominent short story.
Joyland is dedicated to finding a new way to publish short fiction, and rather than just start a web magazine we’ve wedded a strict mandate (only short fiction) to some principles of social networking sites.
The message goes on to list the initial contributors, and it looks like a pretty respectable line-up: Canadian authors Lynn Coady and Nathan Sellyn, and U.S. authors Ed Park and Harold Abramowitz. (Another aim of the site, apparently, is to get readers from both sides of the border reading authors they may never have encountered before.) They’ve also got an international assortment of contributing editors, including Schultz herself, Vancouver author Kevin Chong, and U.S. authors Janine Armin (New York) and Matthew Timmons (Los Angeles).
You can check it out for yourself here.